Legend of the Five Rings – Kasumi Neko, Cat Clan Samurai

English: Kyudo, Archery, Yumi, Bow. Main metho...

Yes, this is how...

The Cat Clan plays a very minor role in Rokugan; it’s tiny, obscure, has no major school of its own, and mostly operates under cover. Their general role is to appear as the mysterious shadowy figure who passes on some important information to the more active and combative types – such as most PC’s. They are, however, a favorite clan for one of our players (who, I suspect, has some anime prototype in mind) – so here’s another dual-knife-wielding slightly magical young woman of the cat clan – although this one is pursuing a seriously exotic archery school rather than the usual clan minor schools (found in the handouts or at the end of this character sheet.

Personally, Kasumi was a problem; talented enough for any five normal children, with more than a trace of magic, and a fascination with archery – and inclined to rely on those (admittedly remarkable) talents rather than on developing her skills properly. She wanted (and clearly needed) an Archery School – and the Cat Clan simply didn’t have one on tap.

Still, her father Togai Neko was owed a few favors from some VERY exotic folks… Gaijin contacts and schools were no longer quite so off-limits as they had been either – and it wasn’t as if the Cat Clan normally operated in full view in any case. When his daughter returned, she brought with her the basics of one of the powerful Yodatai Divine Bushi schools.

Currently Kasumi is out gaining some experience – attempting to expand trade, undercutting the Mantis, and supporting the Imperial families. She’s aware that the bow she made upon completing the basics of her training is hardly the best, but she’s still pleased to be able to say that it’s her own handiwork.

Obviously enough, this build relies very heavily indeed on special advantages – especially bonus dice. That’s less effective to start with, since advantages cost more than skills – but skills are easier to build up later.

Rings: Earth 2 (Stamina 2, Willpower 2), Water 2 (Strength 2, Perception 2), Fire 2 (Agility 2, Intelligence 2), Air 3 (Reflexes 4 (5), Awareness 3), Void 3.

Cat Clan Upbringing/+1 Reflexes

Disadvantages:

  • Bad luck with Wagers (Every Few Sessions, Great Aggravation, 3)
  • Owes occasional favors due to bad wagers (Every Few Sessions, Serious Trouble (4)
  • Likes to Gamble (Every other Session, Minor Difficulties, 3)

Well, that combination is pretty well guaranteed to get her into plenty of trouble.

Initial Experience Points: 60 (Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) = 70

  • 03) Access to an Exotic School
  • 15) School Package Deal / Hosfera Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

Benefits: +1 Reflexes, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 1, Honor 3.0.

School Skills: Animal Handling, Athletics, Archery, Defense, Horsemanship, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Stealth, Swords, and two of choice (Etiquette and Courtier).

First Technique Summary: Add air ring to school skills, +1 attack with Bow, double effect of void spent to buy off damage, Get Hosfera as a patron spirit (Hosfera lets his devotees produce an average-quality bow and arrows whenever they need them and allows them to spend a void point to make one of the arrows they fire turn into an animal after it hits something. The user may then make an immediate target-15 meditation check to recover the void point. At the moment, Kasumi is limited to things like monkeys, bobcats, and wolves; this will improve with her void ring).

Second Technique Summary: The user may trade in one or more bow attacks during a round for +5 free raises per attack traded in on one of the remaining bow attacks and – when the character spends a void point on reducing damage – it will continue to reduce damage from each attack for a full minute.

  • 06) Additional Skills: Archery to 2 (2), Commerce (1), Deceit 1 (1), Knives 1 (1), and Lore/Underworld 1 (1).
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Low Skills.
  • 08) Bonus Dice/+1K0 and a free raise with all Weapons.
  • 06) Bonus Dice/+1K1 with Knives.
  • 06) Gift/+10 AC when being attacked while unarmored.
  • 09) Inherent Supernatural Powers/Three level one self-powered Inner Gifts.

Catfoot: Reduces damage from falls by ten points, the user places less stress on supports, such as thin ice or nightingale floors.

Sensitive: The user vaguely senses magical disturbances.

Suggestion: The user may make a thought occur to a nearby target – although this carries no more compulsion than a whisper in their ear.

  • 08) Natural Mastery: Magical Dabbler. May use first level air spells and starts off with the Sense, Commune, Summon, and Counterspell spells.
  • 03: Allies/Harumui Neko, Cat Clan Ancestor Spirit. Influence: 4 (provides 20 points worth of techniques), Devotion: Minor (0), Eccentricity: Ancestor Spirit (0), Inconvenience: Minor (asks for weekly prayers and small offerings, -1), for a net cost of (3). This is a modest slice of cheese of course – but a character who brings knives to a katana fight is going to need a bit of cheese to work well in the game.

Harumi Neko grants Immunity to Honor Losses due to using or raising Low Skills (5), and to the usual penalties for fighting with two knives (talent, 2), adds (2x Reflexes) to a limited set of skills from the Neko Schools when not wearing armor (Athletics, Courtier, Commerce, Deceit, Defense, Forgery, Hunting, Investigation, Knives, Lore/Underworld, Stealth, and Swords, 5), a +1 magical boost to any one trait (Reflexes, 3), and grants +10 AC when using two knives (5).

Heritage/Combating the Shadowlands: a century ago, Koin Neko – Kasumi’s Great-Great-Great grandfather – was tracing a smuggler who was importing Maho supplies and scrolls into the Empire. He’d traced the man to a small Crab Clan village near the Wall when his target caught on – and summoned a powerful oni and a few lesser creatures. Koin was a master archer, and eliminated the smuggler, and the great oni, before they could reach him – but the best he could do when the swarm of lesser oni closed in was to delay them while the villagers escaped. The local Crab Samurai did not reach the village in time to rescue Koin, but he’d left them with very little to do before he’d fallen. His descendants Gain +1 Rank of Archery, +10 on rolls to resist Fear effects from Shadowlands Creatures, and a free lunch whenever they stop by a certain Crab village.

Earned Experience: 30 Points

  • Boost Awareness and Void from 2 to 3 (24 Points).

-This takes her to Rank-2 and gets the second school technique.

  • Learned Spells: Elemental Weapon (1 Point) and Cloud of Mist (1 Point).
  • Skill Purchases: Knives to 2 (2 Points), Courtier to 2 (2).

Major Skills:

  • Animal Handling 1 (3K2+3)
  • Archery 3 (9K5+18) (Includes Free Raise Style Bonus). Usually 2K3 base damage.
  • Athletics 1 (Varies +13)
  • Commerce 1 (4K3+10)
  • Courtier 2 (5K3+13)
  • Deceit 1 (5K3+15)
  • Defense 1 (3K2+18)
  • Etiquette 1 (4K3+3)
  • Forgery 0 (3K2+15)
  • Horsemanship (3K2+3)
  • Hunting 1 (3K2+13)
  • Investigation 1 (3K2+13)
  • Knives 2 (6K3+15). Usually 3K1 damage, +1 free raise when used to disarm, two if used against a light or medium sword.
  • Lore/Shadowlands 0 (3K2+5)
  • Lore/Underworld 1 (4K2+15)
  • Meditation 1 (4K3+3)
  • Stealth 1 (4K2+18)
  • Swords 1 (4K2+18)

Armor Class: 25 Base, +10 when Unarmored, +10 when using two knives.

Initiative: 7K5

Equipment:

  • Basic Gear: sandals, samurai clothing, chopsticks, basic grooming supplies, coin purse, whetstone, bit of string or thread, tanto/knife, soap, washcloth.
  • Bushi Gear: Dai-sho (katana and wakizashi), bow, 100 arrows, two parrying daggers, two regular daggers, horse and tack.
  • Magical Gear: small scroll satchel, scrolls for all known spells, brushes, inks, and paper.
  • Cash: 11 Gold Koku.
  • Traveling Kit / 12 Items: Pillow Book (1), Hand Mirror (1), Set of Dice and a Dice Cup (1), Packet of Sweets (1), Personal Shrine and Incense (2), Small Statue (1), Decorative Fan (1), Small Tent (1), Messkit (1), Bedroll (1), and a Weeks Rations (1).
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RPG Design – The Common Humanity

   This question was directed towards the Village Heroes series – but it deserves a more general answer.

“Why are all of these characters human?”

   Well…

   The vast majority of RPG’s focus on humans – and most of the ones that don’t actually focus on humans focus on almost-humans with a few quirks or on humans with some common bit of fantasy layered on. There are very, very, few that focus on creatures that actually behave in inhuman ways and have genuinely alien cultures or technologies.

   Why is that?

   For the most part, it’s simple pragmatism. At least so far, the game designers and players are all human, and the vast majority come from industrialized, westernized, cultures. Humans are easy to relate to, their cultures don’t require a lot of explanation, and you can describe their reactions without tripping yourself up too often. If you need to check on their reaction time, average family size or some other detail, pick out some deities or cultural features, produce an old myth of theirs, or need some other odd factoid, there are entire libraries of information available.

   Ergo, even if a game features other races, they almost always wind being portrayed as funny-looking humans with a few game-mechanical modifiers. They may be labeled elves, dwarves, or vulcans, or they may look like anthropomorphic deer – but as soon as you note that the locals are honorable, get thus-and-such a package of modifiers, and describe a vaguely samurai-styled culture, the players will all be on familiar ground, and the katanas will be flashing soon enough. For game purposes, that’s a good thing. Spending three sessions explaining your world simply doesn’t go over well.

   Trying to create a genuinely non-human race and culture is a tremendous amount of work – and it’s awfully easy to trip yourself up. Even if you manage to get it all right on the fly when you’re called on for details on the spur of the moment, the player’s will never be able to remember all the details and keep it consistent. Even if they all start out as brilliant logicians with photographic memories, eventually the caffeine, sugar, and energy run down, people get fuzzy, and mistakes happen.

   It’s easy to gloss it over when someone forgets their manners, or there’s an anachronism, or some such. It is, after all, a fictional universe and player characters are almost always eccentric – and usually enough to drive anyone a little crazy. The players are used to being human, and will rarely really foul up a human or near-human role.

   Forgetting that your alien species dissolves in water and having a fight scene in a raging storm by the sea is going to be harder to cover up – especially when no one remembers that detail until after twenty minutes of action in that setting and they’ve used the water to short out the enemies electrical equipment. Suspension of disbelief goes right out the window when you abruptly find that the centaur archer has spent the last half an hour of the battle sniping at the pirates from the crows nest. All that takes is a few moments of distraction and a player who isn’t too familiar with the details of ships.

“What’s the highest place I can reach?”

“The Crow’s Nest.”

“All right, I’ll start sniping from there.”

   Creating non-human races and exotic cultures can be great fun. For a deep-immersion game it can be immensely rewarding. For most other games, even if it isn’t at all what you intended, most of the exotic races are going to wind up being played as humans in funny hats.

   But wait! There are entire, popular, games that revolve around non-human character types! Just look at most of the White Wolf lines!

   Well… no, they don’t. Those characters are all pretty throughly human. That werewolf is tough, strong, and regenerative. He or she can shapeshift, probably commands a few magical tricks, and may even have a few exotic motivations – if, and only if, the players are paying any attention to such notions.

   A mid-level 3.5 “human” Druid does all that and more, has experienced many different sets of animal instincts, and will often act a lot LESS like a normal human. When Werewolves get set on fire they try to put it out; they don’t calmly decide whether or not they have something better to do this round, or go for a casual stroll through a burning house because it’s “only normal fire” and only does 1d6 damage per round. Ignore six threatening opponents? Your druid very well may. Werewolves hardly ever do. Fly into an insane berserker rage? Pretty common with some players – while others will stay cool and calculating while a demon lord of hell is tossing their children into the depths of the abyss child by screaming and pleading child. Exotic motivations? Have you ever listened to players explaining why they had their characters do various things? Now THERE we have exotic motivations.

   If you want a solid basis for your fantasy world, don’t go for your idea for a centipede-octopus race with bizarre lifestyle. Don’t even go with turtles and elephants. When it comes to a solid base for fantasy, it’s humans all the way down.

Latest Material Index

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

   Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.

   Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business World

Cumulative General Index.

   d20 Material:

   RPG Design:

   General Material:

   Rolemaster Material:

  • Arcane Healing: A spell list  designed to let you get along WITHOUT a healing specialist.

   Tales From The Floating Vagabond Material:

   Champions Material:

   Star Wars Material:

   Call of Cthulhu Material:

   Legend of the Five Rings Material:

   Assorted Crosslinks:

  •    The Letters from Rudra are an in-character account of the Twilight Isles campaign. While the player wasn’t able to make it to the first few sessions, so far we have Letter One, Letter Two, Letter Three, and Letter Four.
  •    Fredronon’s Notes are a similar production – the somewhat biased notes on his adventures that Fredronon is willing to share. Currently we have parts Three and Four.
  •    The Ability Spotlight series is player notes on how he’s designing and developing Fredronon. Here’s Part II
  •    For the Federation-Apocalypse Campaign we have a writeup of Fern, a Sentient BlackBerry of Battling Business World.
  •    Over at Abalux’s weblog we have another sample character for Eclipse – Isaac Gelman, a level-one equivalent cartoon child (level zero with +1 ECL race) with a knack with magical medicine and the otter-fey powers he’s recently acquired.

Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – Legion Edition

   Here we have a special excerpt from Ninsei’s Secret Diaries – complicated by the fact that now there are not only the Lunar and Solar-oriented versions of Ninsei, but also a set of dream-duplicates with differing elemental orientations and Solar Ninsei has recombined with what was left of a badly damaged version of Lunar Ninsei from an alternate timeline and didn’t exactly win the battle of identities. Ergo, we have multiple entries…

   Arasai (Air Ninsei)

   There are days when I am convinced that I must be the smart one. The “original” continually runs around from one problem to the next with only the vaguest outline of a plan at times. And now he has managed to get himself caught in a situation where he cannot escape without further repercussions beyond what we already face. Good thing I have a plan to get his rear out of the oven.

   A little thought, divination, and weaving can reveal a great deal about what you can expect to face. Using such information effectively and applying the minimal force in the right place can accomplish far more than the biggest fireball spell. Like today, I was able to stake out an important beachhead within the capitol without resorting to overwhelming firepower. All it took was some bait, some smokepowder, and pretending to be a firemage to make powerful opponents step back and negotiate. Now granted there was a great deal of luck involved but I can’t say I have had much time.

   So we still have Gems of the Designer, the Yodatai, the Yobanjin, Asuras, weird eldritch abominations from beyond, Shin and Fu Leng to worry about. Never mind the fact that we still have the possibility of one of us going rogue. We were barely able to stop it the last time, and even then, our side lost the battle of wills. We need to make plans, stash away resources, make contingencies and prepare for the worst should it happen.

   Sigh, it is going to be difficult to keep track of all of this. I am really going to need to work on the ability to process information better. Those people from the universe Ninsei and Kochige created had learned something of this, as had the people of the “Central Worlds” universe where that lunatic embedded in a crystal came from. It may well be worth studying all that material we have brought back from all these realms on advanced magic and such. There may be insights into how to better handle more information and multiple tasks going on at once. Worst case, I could visit our friends from the dying universe in the realm of dreams and ask for advice or instruction.

   Speaking of the Realm of Dreams, I must really find out how the Nightmares were constructed and by who. Not only could whoever it is still pose a threat – the Nightmare of the Mantis is new after all – but that knowledge could also lead to greater insight into how to better anchor my own existence. The tangled webs of fate and knowledge gleaned from the Void say this might be important.

   Lanwei (Water Ninsei):

   Yet again, more people I/we/he care about are getting hurt or nearly killed. Of course, when your answer to everything is fireballs or sunbeams, I guess that’s to be expected. Unless I figure out a better way to respond to this sort of situation, someone is going to get killed. Tying Ninsei to a chair, while amusing, is going to be impractical. Ergo, best option is to find a way to protect them from the damage Ninsei is so bent on exposing them to.

   Okari seems to be really good at this sort of thing, but as best as I can tell, his method relies on some quality unique to himself that no one else can duplicate. That’s probably not surprising in this group… On the other hand, it does suggest a line of approach.

   I can tie threads to people just as well as the others can. These people can then be monitored over these threads. Spells can also be cast over these threads. Is it possible to sense through the threads when someone is in danger and ward them with a protective spell? To be honest, I haven’t the faintest. On the other hand, it may be worth experimenting. If I can even develop the sense to know who is in danger and get to them sooner, it would be beneficial (and less hassle).

   I wonder if I can package a healing spell in such a way so as to be reflexive or nearly instantaneous? Also worth experimenting on. If the pyromaniac can chain cast six sunbeams, then surely I can get a heal spell off quickly. Of course it may be better to try and prevent the damage in the first place with some kind of warding spell.

   Hmm, now there is an interesting question: what measure of power can be inherited? If some of these future family members can be given some modicum of power, then the need to intervene on every little thing can be reduced. Too bad I don’t have supernatural mice to try ideas with. Although it does occur to me that the Unicorn priests had something working for them. Something about coupling power sources together.

   Nevertheless, I am going to have to do something about making these people more durable.

   Yindae (Earth Ninsei)

   My detailed review of the plans for the Power Grid has definitely been a learning experience. While it is certainly a marvel of design and something to be proud of, a few shortcomings do make themselves apparent.

   First off, the system’s greatest strength is also the greatest weakness. The ability to control power flow from a central location makes the system a great tool for social manipulation. On the other hand, should something happen to the controls, then the entire system goes down. Lunar Ninsei combated this issue by burying the control system in a location difficult to find without either knowing what you were looking for or by knowing a great deal about our family. It was then manned only by people he could trust to the utmost.

   Is this the best solution? I am not sure, although I will have to give it more thought. Although I shall have to look into the idea of multiple Control Cores or distributing the control functions.

   It is also becoming apparent that one of the limiting factors of the system will be availability of power. The system looks like it did fine under the load it was designed for. On the other hand, Ninsei with his Obsidian Magistrate system is going to be pushing the limits of the system by a good margin. So we are going to need more power to feed the system.

   It looks like the future Lunar Ninsei pretty thoroughly tapped all the energy sources in the Empire. So not much improvement to be had there. On the other hand, it looks like we might be able to incorporate the Shadowlands and parts of the new lands between the Empire, the City of Jewels, and the Yodatai Empire. That should add to the reserves.

   Another dangerous option would be to look into the Void-Shadow thing the Naga and that Deva use. Seems to be plenty of power there, just a great difficulty in control. Having reviewed the books and other materials from the other realms, I have learned much about concepts like fuses, circuit breakers, switches, and programs. While this electricity thing seems to have no relation to anything in our realm, it does look like magic and gemstones can mimic at least some of the functionality. It may be worthwhile to find a secluded island (or a pocket dimension) and run some very small scale experiments.

   And even if that does not work, and the energies are found to be too uncontrollable, it is not a complete failure. It will still be a learning experience on adapting this information on computers to Rokugani magical laws. This knowledge can then to applied to improve the Control Core of the Grid and even in making automata similar to the Designer for use in bolstering the ranks of the Obsidian Order. Hey, while the Designer was a horribly evil monstrosity, it did have some great ideas. Like that one with imprinting a consciousness into obsidian. I am sure something useful can come of that tidbit.

   Regardless, I have plenty of books and other materials to shift through for useful ideas. Some of them may prove useful to me and the others, some may not. It is not like I am in any hurry, I will have plenty of time on my hands.

   Lunar Ninsei

   All right, what in the name of the Kami is going on?! First Solar Ninsei is here, then he falls off the face of Rokugan, then he’s back again. That time he came back with three copies of us. Then he disappears again and comes back with copies of all our siblings and the princesses. Is the goofball actually trying to make backups of everyone important to him? And now he sends me a message “Congratulations, you won the battle of wills.” Which last I recall, since I am still here, is friggin impossible. I mean, the only way that could even work would require either alternate dimensions or time travel…. oh god damn it.

   I am going to have to send Kochige and Alex a fireball equal in power to the migraine I am now getting. I think I may have to find one of the copies and ask if there even is a plan or if Solar Ninsei is just winging it. I might even get an account of what happened that he ended up fusing.

   And if he has managed to fuse with another version of me, then I may have to step things up to keep pace.

   Solar Ninsei

   It seems like nothing is ever quite as simple as it initially seems. This latest development with Shin illustrates this perfectly. One of the reasons I haven’t tried to escape this escort of mine is simply because I do not know what to do with the boy. Simply running isn’t going to look good in front of someone who takes his oaths as seriously as he does, and it doesn’t help my case that I believe we are the good guys in this dispute.

   Did Fu Leng recruit him because he knows Shin can kill otherwise intractable opponents? Or is he simply looking to put Kochige in a bind by forcing him to fight his own son? Or perhaps the Gem of the Designer has had a hand in suggesting this idea? Regardless, this is one of the most troubling developments since learning the Emperor was likely possessed.

   The pragmatic side of me says to simply knock out Shin, erase his memory of the summons entirely, and then stuff him somewhere safe until this is all over. I think I could probably get the jump on him enough to pull that off. The idealist in me tells me that Shin has had enough with people messing with him magically and that he needs to face up to this himself. I just do not look forward to the idea of Shin fighting against us.

   Of course, thinking about that alternate future timeline, maybe Shin is destined to live a long, unhappy life. That is not a pleasant thought.

   I am also pondering the fact that shortly I will be leading an army to attack the Imperial capitol. I am putting a lot of trust into the Lost commander I put in charge of the combined army. Should she perform anywhere near as well as I hope, she will likely serve as one of my generals for a long time. Hopefully with Shigure’s advisement, she can keep casualties to a minimum.

   There is also the fact that Fu Leng is trying to drive a wedge in the Empire so that no one has the strength to oppose him. I really need to counter his efforts there while at the same time preparing for the assault on the capitol. Not going to be much point in saving the Empire from Fu Leng if the Empire is already destroyed. Frankly though, whatever political capitol I had was lost when I was declared a traitor to the Empire. And as evidenced from the battle at my parent’s house, trying to declare the Emperor false or possessed will only lead to further strife.

   Now only if we had access to someone with Najite’s skills. We could make a serious effort at discrediting Fu Leng’s position on the throne through embarrassment, get annoying people out of the way, and collect the “information” that could be useful in getting everyone to drop their support of Fu Leng. Thereby creating a serious effort to rally around our Emperor. It is too bad that Najite has disappeared and I know of no one that has similar abilities to him.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 86b – Binding Words

   Behind them, Gelman had given up the pursuit for long enough to call Mr Leland and let him know what Marty had dragged his company into…

   However ironic it was that – out of all the things Marty had actually done – it was something that had happened behind his back that was finally catching up to him.

   Another notification had arrived for Marty while he’d been at his party; a legal notice forwarded from Battling Business World through Abigail’s Thralls. One custody agreement amendment, as authorized by the New York City family court and subject to review in six months. An injunction against unsupervised contact with Julia and all such contact at the option of Abigail Saunders-Tabard, justified by a failure to appear to answer allegations of moral turpitude.

   Marty couldn’t say he was surprised. He knew he was no moral paragon, and he’d never been one! But damn! Plus, while he was having that party… Did karma normally work that fast? And now this business with Gelman… Still, that was only partially his fault at best! He was pretty sure that he could still do something about the slaving-mess, but the custody order was another matter entirely.

   Still, at least Kevin seemed to be upset too, if not quite so outraged. That was people from core though; always too damned reasonable.

   Well, if he couldn’t fix it, and got fired over it, he had a whole multiverse to work in! Talk about ultimate job flexibility! But damn, Julia… He should have been there more.

   Ikeran was currently reviewing reports from the Linear Realms. He popped up to attention and bowed when Kevin and Marty came storming in…

(Ikeran) “My lords! I am honored!”

(Marty) “Yeah? What’s this I hear about you outright KIDNAPPING kids?”

(Ikeran) “Sir? I just arranged for them to be purchased once they were captured!”

(Marty) “Oh, captured! That makes it better!”

(Ikeran) “I think it’s better than being used as toys and organ donors Sir!”

(Marty) “Well yeah, but like they had any choice in being captured! It’s not like giving them the offer!”

(Kevin) “Yes it’s better than being killed! But that would have been what, a hundred or so a day? You’ve made direct arrangements to pay people to kidnap more kids and to buy all they can catch! That’s not a rescue operation, or even purchasing kids who are already enslaved! Did you ever consider trying to do something about the syndicates rather than turning them into employees!?! And why did you assign six Neodog Thralls to a mass murderer of children? You know what kind of power that will give him!”

   Kevin had to pause there… He had to admit that buying slaves was actually pretty gray, since it did encourage the slavers – but dammit, it wasn’t like he was a big part of the market, and buying kids that had already been enslaved by the local system, and were usually legally up for sale on the market, was (somehow) a lot different from hiring people to snatch kids from worlds with no legal slavery! Setting up your own slave trade was a lot worse than just picking up some kids who would be slaves ANYWAY.

   Marty had been getting a better look at the entry on the “good doctor” while Kevin was on a tear – but the silence let him get a word in.

(Marty) “Wait a minute… What a bastard! He thinks he’s HELPING these kids? I’ll gut him myself!”

(Ikeran) “There would be others! I thought it would be best to try and get them to stop and sell kids to us rather than murdering them Sir!”

(Marty) “How about I gut you instead? My most experienced home colleague is pissed, my wife isn’t letting me see my kid, and I missed my chance to bed women today!”

(Ikeran) “If I was wrong, it is only right that I should be punished Sir!”

(Marty) “Yeah, I would do that… but you’re still a kid.”

(Ikeran) “I came of age almost three years ago Sir!”

(Marty slumped into a chair) “Well, we’re going to have to get those dogs back, or at least stop the flow of kids.”

(Kevin) “Hm. You don’t think much of the Neodogs do you?”

(Ikeran) “Rameraz acted very foolishly Sir! He risked the security of the entire operation for four children, when that would increase the risk to many thousands! In addition, after a known security breach, he hesitated to take the necessary actions to escape and that led to the capture of another five – although they were equally foolish to allow it!”

(Marty) “And you gave him to a murdering butcher.”

(Ikeran) “Yes Sir! Operatives and liaisons needed to be assigned to put an end to the organ transplant industry in the Linear Realms and they had already proved their incompetence elsewhere!”

(Marty) “What do you think he’s going to do with exotic animals from an advanced society?”

(Ikeran) “Probably use them to help cover his criminal organization and the capture and transport of children Sir! He probably won’t try to breed them though, since they can tell him how long they take to mature and twenty-odd years is almost certainly too long to be useful. He might fix them to prevent the distraction I suppose, but it’s not like they’ve proven effective anyway!”

(Marty) “Listen, kid, you haven’t seen as many bad sci-fi flicks as I have. Mad scientists don’t think about practical things. He’s going to breed them. That’s what they DO.”

(Ikeran) “Well, they’re only talking dogs without the Thrall-powers Sir!”

(Marty) “He’ll find SOME use for them. And guess who management will blame?”

(Kevin, considering Ikeran) “You act like Rameraz had a real choice about whether or not to try and rescue those four kids. He didn’t. Property-class Neodogs are COMPELLED to protect and obey humans. That’s one reason they’re property; it’s because it means that a human is always responsible for their care! They NEVER had a choice, which is why I’d feel guilty about mistreating them – unlike you. YOU had a choice and opted to serve in exchange for your powers!”

   Ikeran was looking a bit confused… He was from Baelaria – a far more ruthless world than Core – and the Neodogs were just DOGS. So they talked. Familiars talked, and that didn’t make them PEOPLE.

(Marty, to Kevin) “Are talking dogs so common there that he DOESN’T think they’re worth respecting?”

(Kevin) “What? You remember Baelaria. That Victorian steampunk place with the mages guild. Only normal dogs there.”

(Marty) “Ugh, my brain… What ARE we going to do?”

(Kevin) “Urgh… He’s 10% right. This does keep the organleggers from killing more kids – but it puts us so far in the wrong doing it that it’s hard to measure the distance to the surface!”

(Ikeran) “Then I should be severely punished Masters!”

   Marty STILL had trouble hurting kids – but he was inclined to have the kid explain himself to Gelman and let the good Lord sort it out. He could at least let Gelman know that he’d done this with neither Kevin nor Marty’s permission.

   Kevin could see his point – but that would put Gelman in the position of brutalizing a kid… That wasn’t fair either. Hmm… First up; a learning experience.

(Kevin) Ikeran.. You obviously don’t appreciate what the Neodogs have to deal with in the way of mental compulsions or how well they do despite those limitations. I’m changing your base species and damping your shapeshifting.

   Kevin pointed – and a crackling sphere of energy left behind one Neodog. He’d never paid much attention to dog breeds, so he left that up to Marty’s input – and Marty suggested the smallest practical (given the need to support the brain) hairless. It might be a bit petty, but he thought that Ikeran SHOULD look a little stupid.

(Kevin) Now, you’ll need a smartcollar, and appropriate shots and such – and a new assignment.

(Marty) “Here, have a chew toy. You jerk.”

   Ikeran judged it wiser not to say anything at the moment – and had a lot of new instincts to deal with – so he simply took the chew toy.

(Kevin) We’ll have to limit your responsibilities to where you can’t do any damage for awhile, but I’m sure there’s some job you’re up to out there. I’d put you on child-rescue in the Linear Realms, but I suspect that you wouldn’t actually be much use there. Anything else come to mind Marty?

(Marty) “Could have him do computer work. Neodogs do that. And it’s TEDIOUS.”

(Kevin) “True – but something where humans order him around a lot and he has to keep coming to the rescue would fit… How about to the staff who’re working the madness-meme treatment projects?

(Marty) “Great idea! He can learn some empathy!”

(Kevin) “Empathy… Ikeran? What did you think that this “Doctor Brenner” was likely to do to Rameraz?”

(Ikeran) “Er… He’d gotten the man into trouble, forced him to expend his resources, defied, and attacked him. Severely disciplined at the least. Probably fixed Sir!”

(Marty) “So you were more worried about the mad doctor than the dog? Whose side are you on?”

(Ikeran) “No sir! But I thought that the dog had severely fumbled an operation, and if he was punished for it, it would be no more than he deserved – and if it soothed the murderous doctor without him hurting any more children, that would be a bonus Sir!”

(Marty sighed) “Yeah, the kid’s right. But boy, that solution is troublesome!”

(Kevin) “I don’t really think Rameraz fumbled it… He didn’t really have a choice about the initial intervention and managed to pull it off. If he’d known how corrupt the local authorities were – which SHOULD have been a part of his briefing – he could have turned in some news films and such and made it impossible for Doctor Brenner to get off the hook so easily! It’s not like his Smartcollar didn’t have pictures, and we could have provided any amount of video from that with the processing capacity going to waste on Kadia! As for the murderous doctor… I don’t think it’s necessary to cool down an ice cube!”

(Marty) “Yeah, we can handle an intervention to save a bunch of Neodogs… You REALLY should have told us about this.”

(Ikeran) “You weren’t in touch Sir! You were in the Crusader Kingdoms!”

(Kevin) “For THIS you should have made an emergency call!”

(Marty – with heavy sarcasm) “Yeah, he could have done it, but Rameraz was a bad dog.”

(Kevin) “Damn… He’s made a bargain on our behalf, and left Rameraz and five other Neodogs in the lurch. At least the Doctor apparently doesn’t know about the immortality – and I’ll tell them not to let him know.”

(Marty) “What else are we going to do?”

(Kevin) “Well, first… Ikeran… I’ve heard what you thought you were sending Rameraz into, and you really ARE a bad dog and a failure now. When you get to medical, tell them to give you the same treatment you thought you were sending Rameraz into. Get over there now.”

(Kevin, to the computers) Remind me to see how he’s getting along in about twenty years. Damn it, it may not be one either of us would have made, but we have a contract! Any ideas here Marty?”

   Marty was a bit startled. He’d known that Kevin always kept his bargains and contracts – but it wasn’t like HE was exactly fond of breaking contracts either. He’d read up a bit on supernatural pacters and the fey, but it had been kind of hard to take it seriously… was Kevin really supernaturally bound by his oaths and promises? That HAD to be a pain in the ass!

   Kevin was busy placing some general orders; from now on, any deals of this – or even remotely similar – magnitude had to be approved by Marty or himself in advance!

(Marty) “Dammit, we can’t break it. How am I going to explain this to my people?”

(Kevin) “My parents are going to kill me!”

   Marty had to give him a look at that one. Was he really listening to himself? Even if he hadn’t been legally an adult, he wasn’t really within reach of his parents discipline any longer on any level beyond the social… Oh well. Arrested aging obviously had it’s downsides, and there was no arguing with what went through people’s heads under stress. Personally, he needed a drink.

   Fast-chugging a few quarts of high-proof helped for a few minutes – but he recovered too quickly for that to work for long. Fortunately, the system could provide it very quickly.

(Kevin) “Did I overdo it with Ikeran there?”

   Marty thought about that for a moment… Ikeran was going to spend quite some time as a dog, on the bottom of even the dog social ladder. On the other hand, he’d made a horrible mess – and all by not looking into doing his job properly. Too much blind belief and not enough understanding.

(Marty) “No, you didn’t.”

(Kevin) “I could put some regular thralls into Neodog form and try and trade them for Rameraz and the others. They knew they might be rented out to use as familiars and such when they signed up, so at least they had a choice about it… He’d still try to breed them for pups though, wouldn’t he? And the shapeshift is complete enough for that.”

(Marty) “Send the ones who can control their fertility. That should work.”

(Kevin) “Well, they can all do that. We can probably bribe the evil doctor into it with a few more Thralls; the Neodog maturation rate really is too slow for his kind of operation… That still leaves us responsible for mass kidnaping and enslavement-turned-indenture though!”

(Marty) “Yeah, and Gelman is not going to be amused by ‘he’s bound by his oaths.’ Dammit, I should have sided with him! If he hadn’t lost his department, he would have stayed back home!”

   Well, really, that probably wouldn’t have been the case; a man as smart as your typical sentient computer would have put two and two together eventually – but Marty was kind of depressed at the moment; things had never caught up with him all at once this way before!

(Kevin) “Blast it… Can’t do much about the payment scheme – that’s already agreed on – and it does save some kids lives, even if it means kidnaping a lot more. Not much alternative to shipping them to Kadia… Charging people purchased as slaves their purchase price is also standard procedure.”

(Marty) “So you’re saying we can’t do a damn thing, or close to it.”

(Kevin) “Well…. There’s dry up the sources – but that’s long range. There’s eliminate the syndicates. We could probably get enough information shortly to do that, but it would be being pretty treacherous… Wait… How much is the purchase price on them?”

(Marty) “Thinking of buying them up?”

(Kevin) “No, there was something in that contract… they were being paid for with supplies of smartfibers, either as smartclothes or collars…”

   Fortunately, Doctor Brenner had had a very exaggerated idea of the monetary value of smartclothes, hadn’t wanted to disrupt civilization too much, and hadn’t wanted to flood the market – and Ikeran hadn’t been wholly incompetent. The “good doctor” had agreed to provide three kids in exchange for each set of Smartclothes.

(Kevin) “Ha! It’s not ideal, but there is something we can do here!”

(Marty) “What?”

(Kevin) “Indenture them until they’ve paid for one-third of a suit of Smartclothes!”

(Marty) “How much is that?”

(Kevin) “About eight credits! The “welcome basket” credit for arriving in Kadia is ten!”

   Marty had to grin at that one. That was true… Core tended to give away Smartclothes. Ikeran had been ethically challenged, and blindly fanatic, but he hadn’t been stupid enough to miss an opening that broad.

(Marty) “Yeah, that should work.”

(Kevin) “Lets see… I’ll call it a 2 2/3’rd credit bonus for the first time someone listens to the recruiting spiel… We’ll still be responsible for kidnaping them, and for paying off the thugs who are doing it – but I think I can live with trading “a few kids get snatched and killed” for “twenty times as many kids get snatched and have to listen to a speech before going on vacation”!

(Marty) “I can hear it now, though: ‘Well, Tabard, you solved the problem . . . in the laziest way possible.’ But what the hell, it’s better than just keeping them enslaved.”

(Kevin) “I suppose it is unfair to indenture youngsters who were snatched by pirates and such – but somehow the second-hand snatch is a lot easier to live with than ‘we’re funding a mass kidnaping operation’. I ought to reduce their indentures a good deal too. It’s not really like ‘money’ means much when you have the resources of the Manifold available to pay with.”

(Marty) “Hey, watch it, pal! You say that where I’m from, and you’ll get pummeled!”

(Kevin) “Sorry… It’s just that… well… I built a universe! That’s a pretty big financial base!”

(Marty) “Heh. Maybe I should look into this ‘god’ business.”

(Kevin) “I really ought to find out more about how it works myself!”

   Kevin went off to make some arrangements – and Marty headed back to his penthouse, and another drink. He wasn’t so sure about these deals any longer… The wrath of his more moral and ethical colleague had made him a bit leery of them Of course, since Kevin couldn’t back out of the deal, and he was Kevin’s partner, he was stuck!

   About that time Gelman managed to get through on the network.

(Gelman). THERE YOU ARE! It took a little sweet-talking, but this system finally put me through to you! What are you and that satanic “Lord Sanwell” character up to! What have you done to FIX THIS MESS!”

   Marty explained to him, emphasizing that “Lord Sanwell” couldn’t break his contracts…

(Gelman) “Then he should be a lot more careful of what contracts he makes shouldn’t he!”

   The boy literally COULDN’T break his contracts? Could this really be Satan in person?

   Marty had to agree there.

(Marty) “Yeah, he should!”

   Gelman wasn’t exactly happy with the situation – but at least something was being done about the worst of the abuses. Besides… Perhaps there was hope for both Marty AND “Lord Sanwell”. They’d recognized when they’d gotten involved in a genuinely grotesque abuse, and had promptly done something about it. Not what he would have done – but it was better than he’d really expected.

   They evidently weren’t entirely lost to morality. That meant that there was something there to work with.

Latest Material Index

   It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE, and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

   Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.

   Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business World

Cumulative General Index.

   d20 Material:

   Shadowrun Material:

  • New Technologies: Why you should always carefully examine new gadgets before turning them loose in your games.

   General RPG Material:

  • Uncontrolled Substances: Precious compounds and drugs for use in any world, M’ram (a stimulant), Denila (metabolic stabalizer).

Legend of the Five Rings – The Timeless Wanderer Bushi School

   Next up we have a player-submitted school for Legend of the Five Rings – albeit with the usual selection of mechanical tweaks and a bit more description.

   The Path of the Timeless Wanderer is long – and perhaps truly without end. Once one has set forth upon the way, only in death will a single location truly claim the bones of the wayfarer again, and his or her spirit shall not be bound to them.

   The Timeless Wanderer school is a school for a wandering warrior-sage – focusing primarily on the “sage” part, secondarily on the “wandering”, and only in passing on the “warrior” part. While the school does include one or two offensive, and several defensive, talents, it primarily focuses on universal expertise. A Timeless Wanderer may – quite truthfully – claim on a moments notice to be an expert on “Lore/fourth century unicorn clan cake recipes”, or on any other specific lore skill that he or she cares to name.

   And any player character who takes this school will usually name a lot of them.

   The Timeless Wanderer (Bushi) School:

  • Basic Modifiers: Agility + 1, Glory 1, Status 1, Wealth 3, Honor 1.
  • School Skills: Athletics, Bow, Defense, Engineering, Etiquette, Hunting; Lore/Other Worlds, Meditation, Stealth, and any one weapon skill.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique/At the Threshold of Reality:

   One cannot travel the way of the Timeless Wanderer without becoming more aware. As the practitioner learns to sense the flow of the cosmos and the interconnections of all things, he or she begins to know without knowing. As might be expected, personal dangers along the user’s way are the easiest to learn to sense, but such things are merely a subset of the infinite knowledge of the multiverse and of the paths between worlds. The practitioner gains the ability to sense whether a path is dangerous and how dangerous it is (Sense Dangerous Paths, a second-level inherent, self-powered mystic sense, 6), +1KO on all Lore skills which counts as being skilled (8), the ability to step partially out of reality, adding the results of the user’s stealth checks to the TN of attempts to detect him or her via magic (the Undetection reflexive spell, level one, self-powered, inherent, 3), a pool of (Rank) free raises daily, usable with any one school skill (chosen when this technique is acquired), and the ability to fire missiles through the spaces between worlds – given a few moments to prepare (Innate L1 Darts of Unmaking spell, usable Void times per day; the user’s next three ranged attacks will ignore carapace, invulnerability, and abilities or techniques which would ignore or reduce damage, 3). Sadly, the nascent Timeless Wanderer will also begin experiencing the curse of this school as he or she learns the first technique; he or she will begin having difficulty finding familiar locations – such as his or her place of work and favorite teahouse as his or her studies progress (-5).

   Second Technique/The Opening of the Gate:

   The budding Timeless Wanderer increases his or her awareness of, and connections to, unfamiliar regions. He or she gains the Perception psychic power (an inherent, self-powered, second-level effect, 6), a further +2KO to all Lore skills (total +3K0, considered skilled, +8), the ability to use his or her free raise pool with all of his or her school skills, rather than only one of them (+5), and a translation psychic power that enables him or her to speak and read any language, although this takes an hour of trying to kick in (6 -5 for restriction = 1). Furthermore, being toughened by travel, the Timeless Wanderer may now add +2 wounds to each of his or her wound levels (5). Of course, at this point, the Curse of the Timeless Wanderer now extends to his or her very home (-5).

    Third Technique/Outside the Walls of Reality:

   The Timeless Wanderer is starting to come into his or her own, and will find that his or her body has begun to shed it’s mortal limitations. Continued travel continues to fortify the body; the Timeless Wanderer replaces the +2 bonus to each wound level with doubling the base wounds in each of his or her wound ranks (+10). More obviously, he or she will find that shifting between realms rejuvenates his or her body and equipment, making the Timeless Wanderer Immune to aging (5). He or she becomes Immune to the restrictions of terrain, able to run up walls, across water, and even onto clouds (5). By expending a Void point, he or she can even step briefly outside of time, gaining an extra action, completing some simple task (such as writing a long report), or avoiding the effects of a change in the past, in a mere instant (Immunity/Time, 10 – 5 = 5). Unfortunately, his or her curse also strengthens, making it impossible for him to find his home region (-5).

   Fourth Technique/Exploring the Realms Beyond:

   Having left ordinary life a long time ago, the Timeless Wanderer begins attuning himself or herself to other realities. He or she becomes immune to the ill-effects and control of malign extradimensional energies (including the ill effects of Taint, 10), and to the general hazards of realms hostile to human life (Immunity/Environmental Effects, 10, -5 for applying only to large-scale effects; the user may be protected from a forest fire or storm, but a small fire will still burn his or her hand and a lightning spell will still harm him or her – provided that he or she isn’t currently on a plane of storms). He or she also gains a final + 2KO to Lore skills, for a total of +5KO (8). Finally, as a figure rapidly becoming lost to his or her home dimension, the Timeless Wanderer adopts a certain slipperiness of identity; those trying to remember him or her suffer from a +5 TN modifier. Sadly, his or her curse will now prevent the Wanderer from returning to his or her native nation (-5).

   Fifth Technique/The Open and Barred Gate Koan:

   Dimensional boundaries, social and otherwise, are nearly negligible to the master of the Timeless Wanderer school. He or she is immune to physical dimensional boundaries, always being able to seek out a path that will allow him or her to travel between the worlds given time (10-point Immunity, -5 for time requirement = 5). By opening small gates, the Timeless Wanderer may call forth blasts of elemental material up to (school rank) times per day, using the relevant elemental ring to hit and rolling (Ring)K(Ring) damage (10). Finally, he or she has become supremely adaptable to the multiverse, doubling his or her pool of free raises on school skills (10). Ironically, however, his or her home dimension is forever closed to the Timeless Wanderer – hence the technique name (-5).

   OK, the Timeless Warrior is a superficially weak school; it’s got a few handy tricks and makes it easy to travel, but it’s biggest overt abilities are knowing a lot of obscure facts and being able to run around on blatantly insufficient surfaces. It does, however, pull at least one fast one there; it allows the user to take advantage of whatever benefits a realm may offer – say the combat boosts bestowed by the Realm of Slaughter – while remaining unaffected by it’s deleterious effects. That’s not bad, although the effective forced retirement at rank five definitely puts a damper on things. Still, if you don’t quite finish the fifth technique, the curse need never entirely take effect.