Industrial Wrights and Magic VI – Settlement Foundations

Now that we’re coming up on larger settlements… it’s time to take a look at the foundations of cities, so we know how to tinker with the basic values given below.

Just as importantly, unlike the situation in 3.5 or Pathfinder, Eclipse-style settlements are NOT general purpose markets and magic item shops. There are millions of possible magical items, many of them (and almost anything of interest to an adventurer) highly specialized. If you want full plate armor (always personally fitted) you either go to a city large enough to support a master armorer and find one or you spend a few points to develop an adventurer’s usual superhuman skill in the field and make it yourself. The same applies to magic items. If you want a Cloak of the Four Winds, and the only person who makes that sort of thing at the moment lives in a city two hundred miles away… it’s time for sending messages (and expecting a long wait) or for a trip. Similarly, most people are very, VERY, poor by the standards of adventurer’s who raid dragon hordes. There is no ready market for magic items at the prices adventurers want to charge outside of the largest cities.

Standard Settlement Values:

Settlement Type   

Population                   

Guards / Militia

Town Budget

GP Limit

Total Cash Assets

Settlement Modifiers Foundations

Settlement Level

Near-Ghost Town          1-40                                   No Guards/Militia No Town Budget        1d8 GP or GMO       2d20 GP or GMO -5. Wild 10% / +5         Nothing much is sold here. None                     Level Zero
Thorp                        40-160                            Guards/Militia 1d4+1 Budget 1d3 GP            GP Limit 1d20 GP       2d4 x 10 GP -3. Wild: 10% / +7             Sells basic foods, tools, and
handicrafts only.
25% One Foundation        Level One
Hamlet                    161-800            Guards/Militia 4d4 2d4 x 10 GP               1d4 x 10 GP                 2d4 x 100 GP -2. Wild 5% /+5           Cloth, Sells rope, tools, leather
armor, and simple weapons
50% One        Level Two
Village                      801-1800           Guards/Militia 3d8+8 2d8 x 10 GP               3d8 x 10 GP               4d6 x 100 GP -1                                           No specialists, but stuff
can be sent for given time.
1 Foundation Level Three
Small Town             1801-4000         Guards/Militia 3d20+20 3d20 x 10 GP              2d4 x 100 GP              3d4 x 1000 GP +0                                Resource refinement – iron, fine cloth, etc. 2 Foundations Level Four
Large Town            4001-10,000               Guards: 5d10 x 10 5d10 50 GP                5d6 x 100 GP           5×10 x 1000 GP +3                               Mundane specialists and
scholars are available.
2 Foundations Level Five
Small City          10,001-24,000             Guards 4d4 x 50 2d8 x 600 GP             3d6 x 1000 GP            4d6 x 10,000 GP +6 (2 Rolls)                         20% Garrison of 2d6x20 Traders and exotic goods. 3 Foundations Level Six
Large City        24,001-50,000             Guards 4d6 x 50 2d12 x 800 GP            4d4 x 3000 GP          4d12 x 12,000 GP +9 (3 Rolls)                 Garrison 3d6 x 10 x 1d6 Universities and Magic 3 Foundations Level Seven
Metropolis       50,001-100,000           Guards (3d6 + 6) x 100 2d4 x 2500 GP           2d6 x 10,000 GP        10d4 x 25,000 GP +12 (4 Rolls)               Garrison (2d4+1) x 100   Foreign enclaves abound. 4 Foundations Level Eight
Megapolis  100,001-500,000         Guards (2d6+3) x 1000
2d8 x 5000 GP          GM Discretion.          8d8 x 100,000 GP +12 (8 Rolls)                         The Garrison is no longer
separate.
5 Foundations Level Nine
Imperial City         500,001+                     Guards 4d12 x 1000 2d8 x 5000 GP          GM Discretion.          5d4 x 1,000,000 GP +15 (12 Rolls)                Guards ARE the Garrison Anonymity is normal 6 Foundations Level Ten

Guards/Militia: The able-bodied who can assist at first, They start going professional (even if often part time) around the small town level.

  • Town Budget: How much cash the town, as a group, can scrape up to pay for public works and jobs in any given month.
  • GP Limit: How much cash is available to buy things with. Note that this is a TOTAL, and that characters are unlikely to be able to extract more than a fraction of it with any single sale.
  • Total Cash Assets: How much money you could find if you grabbed all the readily-portable valuables in the settlement. X10 if you’re valuing buildings and such, x100 if your valuing the land, structures, and inhabitants as a whole. (Say you want to buy your own Thorp full of serfs).
  • Settlement Modifiers are used to determine the level of important NPC’s – mostly because, like it or not, the higher level characters ARE the settlements major power centers, authorities, military resources, and major industries. Add the settlement modifier to the die rolls given below to determine the highest level character(s) in that category in the settlement. If the total is two or higher, roll 1d6 for the number of subordinates of about half that level. That pattern continues, but – as a rule – it doesn’t much matter; the player characters usually aren’t interested in dealing with anyone who isn’t important and influential (EG; of reasonable level) in one way or another.
  • Dice marked with an “*” may be “wild” types in small settlements. Check the indicated chance to use the alternative modifier on those dice. Such individuals usually live near, but not in, their host settlement and are wilderness-oriented. Wild Arcanists are commonly plant-mages, herbalists, shamen, or elementalists. Wild Entities tend to be treents, awakened animals, dryads, and similar creatures of the wilds. Wild Priests tend to be druids, anchorites, shamen, and so on – and Wild Warriors are commonly rangers, beastmasters, shapeshifters, and lycanthropes,.
    • Administrator (Aristocrat, Politician, Noble, Organizer): d4.
    • Arcanist (Artificer, Astrologer, Mage, Pacter, Spirit Binder, Summoner, Illusionist) d6*, d4.
    • Commoner (Farmer, Miner, Weaver, Cook): d6+2, d4+2.
    • Entertainer (Thespian, Jester, Courtesan, Barkeep/Psychologist): d8-4.
    • Entity (Dragon, Fey, Giant, or similar): d20-14*. Many settlements will have no associated “monsters” at all.
    • Hedge Mage/Priest (Adepts, Witches, Pastors, Herbalists, Ritualists, etc): d6, d4.
    • Priest (Cleric, Druid,Shaman, Enlightened Soul, etc): d6*, d4
    • Professional (Expert, Inventor, Sailor, Sage): d6+4.
    • Scoundrel (Rogue, Bard, Factotum, Ninja, etc): d8, d6.
    • Warrior, NPC Basic (Militiamen, Guards, Hunters, Frontiersman): d8, d6
    • Warrior, Exotic (Martial Artists, Paladin, Cavalier, Shapeshifter): d4*, d4.
    • Warrior, Combat Focused (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, Scout): d8, d6*, d4

Foundations are reasons for their to be a settlement there – and the bigger the settlement, the better the reasons tend to be . Unlike the similar concepts of “Tags” in Dungeon World or “Qualities” in Pathfinder, Foundations generally are not transient. Governments, alliances, and nations change – but the great cities continue, even if they wax and wane.

You don’t really have to bother with foundations. If the characters are just picking up supplies before going back to a dungeon or something just send them to the nearest sizeable town, maybe introduce a few sources for healing, or speciality items, or alchemical supplies, and let them get on with what they want to do.

City Foundations:

  • A Good Place: The most basic, and common, reason for a Settlement; the spot is not obviously prone to natural disasters, is not overly infested with monsters, and offers access to reasonable amounts of basic resources – water and food (whether by hunting, fishing, agriculture, or magic) most obviously, but a truly good place will also offer access to clay and/or stone, hides and/or fiber, and wood and/or some substitute for fuel and structural materials. If something is especially abundant, it will be traded with other settlements.
    • Being in A Good Place makes it a great deal easier for a settlement to grow and flourish. Non-adventurers living in it are treated as one level higher when determining their wealth-by-level. Attempts to make money with Craft or Profession checks gain a +4 Bonus.
  • Beasts:: This town breeds exotic animals, crafts peculiar constructs, programs eccentric AI’s, or builds amazing androids, robots, or golems. This may range from an old woman who breeds exotically-colored Budgerigar in her cottage in a Thorp on up to a major research center that creates mass-cloned lots of “normal” or anthropomorphic intelligent talking animals for anonymous buyers in an Imperial City – but the general principle remains the same; you can easily purchase creatures here that would be difficult or impossible to obtain anywhere else.
    • Whatever-it-is is available at only 75% of the base price, but used items of that type sell for a mere 40% of their base price. Add 1d4+1 special facilities dealing with whatever-it-is suited to the scale of the settlement.
  • Capital: Whether through location, tradition, or decree, the Settlement is a nexus of political power – THE place for the local VIP’s, government offices and archives, and (since political power controls monopolies, taxes, and business conditions) people of groups with lots of money to hang out. It will be full of powerful people, rich in infrastructure, and filled with fine buildings and monuments.
    • Add Administrators (d8, d6), Arcanist (d8), Entertainer (d8, d6), Priest d8, d6), Professional (d12, d10), Scoundrel (d10), Warrior/Basic (d12, d10), and Warrior/Combat Focused (d12, d10). Double the Budget, including the (x12) allowance for magical infrastructure. Add (2 x Level) major administrative buildings, palaces, arenas, monuments, or other major works.
  • Crime: For whatever reason, the Settlement is a tolerated hotbed of subversive and criminal elements and cults – whether that means that it is full of slavers, assassins for hire, poison shops, and mad necromancers and demonologists or whether it supports hidden groups of paladins and clerics of righteous gods in the midst of an chaotic evil empire. Goods and services that are generally considered unethical or blatantly illegal elsewhere are sold here openly, and very often legally. There may still be things that you’ll have a hard time finding, but they are few and far between.
    • Double the GP limit, major non-adventurer figures calculate Wealth By Level as if they had two extra levels, allows the sale and purchase of normally-restricted goods and services. Add various secret hideouts as needed, ranging from gang hangouts to secret underground training facilities for the local assassins. Note that the streets are dirty and maintenance is often neglected.
  • Culture: This Settlement may be a great center of fashion or literature, premiere all the great plays, produce the most popular music, or just throw fabulous festivals and parties – but once the feedback loop starts it tends to become self-sustaining (the place becomes famous, which draws anyone trying to break into the business it’s famous for, some succeed, the place becomes even more famous from their efforts, and so on). No matter what the attraction, it will draw many visitors and a good deal of cash in exchange for intangible ideas – about the cheapest of all possible exports.
    • Decide what the place is a center for. Double any reputation modifiers collected while living here. Add Professionals (d8+4, d4+4) and Entertainers (d12-4, d10-4). Increase the DC of earning money through Perform by +5 but double the resulting monetary rewards.
  • Egotism: The Settlement was the personal project of someone powerful. It will be littered with statues, monuments, shrines, and similar items devoted to glorifying that individual and/or his patrons and will have various useful public works meant to support it.
    • Add one major civic structure (arena, racetrack, mansion/palace, great square, fortress) per settlement level and 10,000 GP worth of (blatant) public works and magic per settlement level.
  • Enchanted: The Settlement is a focus of powerful ambient magic, some of which is available to every resident. There will be strange weather, an abundance of fey creatures, minor magical phenomena in the streets, and plenty of minor magical mischief.
    • Each resident gains access to one to three (one automatically, one if level 6+, and one if any one of Int, Wis, or Cha is 16+) bonus magical feats (commonly Grant of Aid, Luck, Mindspeech, Occult Talent, Shaping, or (very commonly) the use of Charms and Talismans, but others are possible). Sadly, these bonuses will fade if a character is away for more than a week or doesn’t spend at least two-thirds of his or her time in Settlement. Add Entity (d6, d4) and Hedge Mage / Priest (d8). Increase the budget for settlement magic by 50%.
  • Enclave: This settlement is a stronghold of a particular race, ethnicity, or culture – and will draw more members of that group, people who need things that group does (or are believed to do) particularly well, and visitors who wish to visit an exotic town, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Appropriate racial, ethnic, or cultural speciality items will be easily available. Merchants and businesses targeting outsiders will shamelessly pander to relevant stereotypes.
    • Add Administrators (d8, d6) representing the group in question and everyone else in relation to said group. Add (d8, d4) Specialists in group-related fields. Group-related items are available at 75% of the normal cost, but sell for only 40%. Add 1d4+1 businesses, small districts, or similar showcasing the various stereotypes for visitors and tourists.
  • Established: This Settlement is OLD, with a history that goes back many generations. Some of its reasons for existing may have passed, but tradition and accumulated infrastructure has become a reason of it’s own. This is a common status for Settlements that were once entryways to new lands.
    • Double the budget for magical and mundane infrastructure. Add (City Level) facilities – libraries, schools, art studios, tourist attractions,historical or haunted locations, or similar – with centuries-old reputations (which the locals will gladly fill you in on in excruciating detail).
  • Guilds (Large Town and up only): This Settlement is a center for major guilds of factions – not the minor guilds of carpenters and weavers, nor the loose clubs of the (highly individualistic and contentions) major spellcasters – but the associations of those who have some power, but not enough to negotiate with the great on equal terms. Guilds of Mercenaries, Adventurers, Rogues, Assassins, and Scouts, Witch’s Covens, Warlock Cults, and more may all have a strong presence in town – commonly offering their members access to Hearthstones and/or Package Deals. While these are generally of some use to primary casters, their benefits tend to be focused on meeting the needs of more mundane types. Such a town is also likely to boast a few extra high-level types.
    • Add (City Level – 4) “guilds” of interest to adventurers which offer appropriate members who base themselves in the city some significant benefits. For an example, the Mercenaries Guild might offer a Package Deal, or boost a warrior-types effective level by one when it comes to calculating Wealth By Level (via getting special deals and using in-house facilities if anyone asks for an in-game reason), or offer access to a Hearthstone – or even offer more than one of those benefits. Such guilds invariably focus on “Low Tier” character types, offering little or no benefit to “High Tier” types.
  • Hub: The site is a natural nexus for resource processing – perhaps where coal from the valley, metals from the mountains, lumber from the northern forest, and herds being driven up from the southern plains, all tend to come together. It is a setting of manufacturing and industry.
    • Mundane equipment suited to the level of the settlement costs only 75% as much as usual here, but sells for only 40% of its base value.
  • Outpost: This Settlement (Small Town maximum) is supported from elsewhere – whether for diplomatic, military, trade, or other purposes. Outposts are rarely in Good Places, otherwise there would be little need for any special reason to place a settlement there; one would spring up naturally. Outposts that ARE in good places usually lose their Outpost status after people settle in.
    • Add a fortification and/or a diplomatic office and/or a trading post, a garrison of (2d4 x 10 x Settlement Level) men, and minor support businesses, normally including a healer of some sort. Mundane adventuring supplies (possibly exempting extremely expensive items such as telescopes) are readily available regardless of settlement size.
  • Presence: The Settlement is the seat of a major divine or quasi-divine power. Whether blatantly or subtly, it will deeply influence events. Residents may have visions, those who violate local taboos may suffer terrible fates, sacred, intelligent, or otherwise powerful animals may be common – or there may simply be some demigodling running the place.
    • Add (d12, d8) servants and a (d10) enemies of said power, at least one secret shrine, and a variety of strange customs that no one will explain to visitors.
  • Primordial: The Settlement contains, watches over, or has formed a bargain with, some terrible elder horror, sleeping power, artifact, monster, or hidden force. While this may be an onerous duty, and demand strange taboos, rites, and behaviors, there are always benefits for the inhabitants. The entity may be a source of strange magical resources, or sometimes bestir itself to defend the Settlement, or grant magical powers in exchange for meeting it’s demands and performing its rituals.
    • Given that each such situation is unique, there are no standard modifiers. A settlement built on the back of an island-turtle that only wakes once a century is very different from one haunted by a dark god where the walls occasionally bleed magical ichor that bestows the “pseudonatural” template on those who ingest it.
  • Resource: The site offers access to one or more special material resources – metals, gems, rare or abundant woods, petroleum, upwelling earthblood (whatever that is), coal, exotic herbs or fungi, compounds and drugs, the ingredients for exotic gourmet cheeses, or something similar that’s valuable enough to be worth establishing a settlement to get easy access to.
    • Add +4 to skill checks made to obtain funds in the settlement. Add +50% to the town budget.
  • Ruins: Plenty of Settlements have some old ruins, a haunted graveyard, or wererats in the sewer system, suitable for an adventure. THIS one has a nearby megadungeon – a multi-thousand year old necropolis, tunneled out mountain, abandoned (underground?) city, or other location that a hundred adventurers could explore for years and not run out of adventures to go on.
    • Add (d8, d6, d4) characters specializing in adventurer support – healers, armorers, alchemists, and so on. There will be a backroom market dealing in strange items (often with odd drawbacks) from the ruins, a doubled-up militia/city guard, and fairly regular problems with stray creatures from the ruins.
  • Sacred: A notable religion considers the area a holy site. There will be shrines, some holy men, pilgrims, and various archeological sites scattered about. It is entirely possible for more than one religion to consider a city holy – although even if they do agree on THAT, they very rarely agree on anything else.
    • Add Priests (d10, d8), (City Level +2) temples, monasteries, and Sacred Locations, and halve the effective cost of religiously-oriented magical features, such as a Healing Spring or appropriately oriented Planar Spire.
  • Safety: In a dangerous world this location is defended by divine decree, isolation, being perched atop a towering mesa, ancient wards, mighty walls and earthworks, the presence of a “school for adventurers”, being hidden (note that this tends to cut off trade and external support, so make sure that your settlement can get along without it), existing in a dimensional pocket (also tends to cut off trade), or something similar.
    • No modifiers. Most cities work hard on defending themselves anyway, so this just leaves more resources for other projects.
  • Trade: The Settlement is a natural nexus of transportation and trade – whether by air, sea, being at the intersection of major underground routes, having teleportation gates, dimensional rifts, access to the realms of dream or the afterlife or some other exotic aspect of reality, by hosting an ancient starport, or what-have-you. Materials from distant lands and exotic cultures will be relatively common. An extra 2d4+2 powerful individuals (nature and level GM) and their entourages will be around to take advantage of that – often making the settlement a center for whatever arts they practice.
    • Triple the GP Limit. Double the Budget, and multiply the amount available for City Magic by 1.5. Transportation, exotic items, and information are all readily available, as are would-be henchmen, kids selling “treasure maps”, and contacts with far-away places.
  • Twinned: This settlement has a an immediately accessible companion settlement. If, for example, it floats in the air, it’s “companion” may be on the surface, underground, in orbit, across the boundaries of life and death, in an alternate dimension, in the past or the future, magical versus technological, linked by a realm of dreams, or simply a little ways off but connected by some sort of transportation system.
    • While the second settlement must also have this foundation, both settlements are presumed to cooperate with each other, allowing both locals and visitors to draw on the resources of both settlements. Increase the Budget and the Magical Infrastructure allotment by 50%.
  • University: The Settlement is a long-established center of learning – hosting one or more great schools of magic, martial arts, channeling, mystic arts, or some other major discipline. Museums, ancient libraries, and research laboratories are likely – and it many be possible to obtain or commission a variety of unique items, alchemical reagents, or strange secrets.
    • Add (d8, d6) Professionals (Sages and Teachers) and a (d6) Administrator. Add (City Level) related Facilities of appropriate scale. Various ancient tomes, clues, and hints as to obscure adventures may be found around the city.

Exotic Conditions:

Exotic Conditions are abnormal, even by the standards of d20 cities, and often transitory. Ergo, these are even more optional than the rest of this…

  • Freedom: This settlement offers liberty. Slaves, bound spirits, summoned monsters, and anything else bound to service is legally – and sometimes magically – set free upon entering the settlement. Classically this was a major draw; in d20… it is a great deal more questionable. Slaves of more or less “normal” races are one thing – but bound outsiders, creatures called through gates, and many more d20 entities are considerably more problematic. And if it’s purely legal… how the Settlement will stop some high-level character out to retrieve a lost servant without suffering enormous amounts of damage is just as open to question. It’s best to leave this one to planar metropolises in chaotic planes; everyone there expects random insanity anyway.
    • There are no general rules for this one; it’s simply too volatile for that.
  • Newly Founded: This settlement is full of crude buildings and empty spots, has little or no organization or law enforcement beyond lynchings, and has very little infrastructure beyond what any higher-level individuals who are involved have brought along.
    • Treat this Settlement as if it was two levels smaller with respect to infrastructure, one level smaller with respect to the GP limit.
  • Ruinous: This settlement is a wreck. Whether due to a recent dragon attack, or being overrun by a barbarian horde, or some such, much of the population (and almost all the higher level types) have fled, monsters have moved in here and there, and there’s a power vacuum. Fortunately, this is generally a temporary condition; much of the infrastructure will probably survive and people will soon move back in.
    • Doing business here is difficult to nigh-impossible. For the moment, this isn’t really a settlement any longer; it’s a disaster area.
  • Therapeutic: This settlement offers health benefits. Unfortunately, most of the classic benefits (mineral rich hot springs which soak away infections or arthritis, rare herbs which relieve the plague, holy grottoes that offer miracles to the faithful) are pretty meaningless in most d20 settings, where easy magic handles all of that quickly and conveniently. Ergo, this Foundation is only applicable in settings where there’s something that ISN’T easily fixed. For an example, the classic Red Steel AD&D setting featured massive contamination with Vermeil – a dust that could give you various powers but which also gave you detrimental mutations – and the much rarer Cinnabryl, a magical ore that could protect against the side effects of Vermeil and which could be forged into (quasi-) magical weapons cheaply. In that setting a Settlement that offered some relief from the side effects of Vermeil would qualify for the “Therapeutic” foundation. Otherwise, pick something else.
    • Once again, there are no general rules for this since it’;s based on some exotic feature of the setting.
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Secrets of the Elders

   Have you ever noticed that, in Legend of the Five Rings, aging has no effect – and there is no requirement that a character ever actually die?

   OK, there aren’t any rules for children either – but apparently people remain hale and hearty (at least to judge by their undiminished Rings and Skills) until, it is vaguely assumed, they abruptly fall over dead at some undefined time. Obviously, aging must be voluntary – and if its voluntary, why do so many people do it? What secret techniques do the elderly gain?

   At last, the Secrets of the Elders can be revealed! Read now, and glory in, the secret knowledge of the “Courtier” SCHOOL OF SENILITY.

  • Trait Bonus: +1 Void
  • School Skills: Calligraphy, Ceremony, Courtier, Defense, Etiquette, Meditation, Storytelling, and Theology. Free choice of any two Lore skills and any two other skills.
  • Special: Any character may start taking ranks in the School of Senility at any time after reaching 40 without explanation. At 60 they may start trading in ranks in old schools for ranks in the School of Senility.

First Technique: Retiree

  • Hard of Hearing: The elder may ignore the effects of any social skill check by simply invoking the mystic mantra “Eh? What was that you said? (random sentence with a word or two which vaguely sounds like what was said)” or some variation thereof (Immunity/Social Effects, 10 Points).
  • Nearly Blind: You don’t have to see anything that you don’t want to, and thus lose no honor for “overlooking” any misbehavior or situation (Immunity/Honor Losses for overlooking things. 5 Points).
  • Querulous Demand: You may select a skill for which you may obtain Favors. (5 Points)

Second Technique: Respected Grandparent

  • You Don’t Get To Be My Age Without Becoming Very Good At Not Dying. You may increase the TN for all attacks or spells used against you by (Void x 5) at the cost of accepting a similar penalty to all other rolls except Defense. (15, -5/Limited Activities, net 10 Points).
  • Rambling Digression Prana: You may make a contested Void check against up to three targets in the immediate area. If you win, they are trapped listening to you tell some long and incoherent story of your childhood, looking at pictures of your grandchildren, or some similar digression, and may not move, attack, or take other actions unless violently disturbed for one minute, plus one minute per rank by which the user’s void exceeds theirs. While this occupies the user as well, he or she may continue to invoke the Rambling Digression Prana against any new targets who make the error of getting too close. Fortunately, an individual target may only be so pinned down once per hour by any single user (Contested Void Paralysis 10, -5 for occupying the user, +5 for extended duration. Net 10 points).

Third Technique: Doddering Old Fool

  • There’s No Cure For Old Age: The effects of this schools techniques cannot be negated, blocked, or otherwise taken away (5 Points).
  • Doddering Elder Technique: Anyone who attempts to attack you, or who lays violent hands upon you, loses honor points equal to your rank in addition to any other honor losses they would normally take for such an action (5 Points).
  • Senile Dementia: You may ramble on incoherently, saying anything you please to anyone you please, and no one will take offense. In addition, you lose no Honor for anything you say (Immunity/Giving Offense, 10 Points, plus Immunity/Honor loss for saying things, 5 Points. Unfortunately, due to your general incoherence, no one will take anything you say too seriously, -5 points. Net 10 points)

Fourth Technique: Withered Geezer

  • Moment of Clarity: Experience counts for something you young whippersnapper! During those rare moments when you focus on something properly, you may demonstrate all your old skill and insight. Gain a daily pool of (2x Void) Free Raises which may be used on any desired roll – but they must all be used on a single roll and you will lapse back into senility – unable to take any non-defensive actions on your own – for at least a minute (in combat) or an hour (out of combat) after completing the task in question. (15 Points – 5 Points – 5 Points, taken twice = 10 Points)
  • Imperious Demand: Your dementia now lets you see beyond the usual boundaries; you may select an additional four skills with which you can request Favors. Unfortunately, you must spend a Void point to invoke this privilege (10 Points, -5 for Void requirement, net 5 Points).
  • Practiced Reflexes: You have trained so long that your Kata have become ingrained: you may keep one of them active at all times, spending either the usual practice time or a void point to switch (5 Points).

Fifth Technique: Wizened Ancient

  • Obvious Harmlessness: So long as you carry no weapon and make no threatening moves, you are so obviously harmless that no one will pay attention to you, allowing you to pass where you will. At most, guards will gently steer you away from the most secure locations or keep your hands away from the most dangerous or important items. Sadly, you must either spend a Void point or spend at least fifteen minutes talking to yourself to activate this technique. In other ways it is generally similar to the Steal the Air Dragon Kiho (10 Points).
  • Blessings of the Patriarch / Matriarch: You have hordes of descendants, relatives, and connections through them. You may make a TN 20 Void check to call on a “floating” 2-point human ally once per session (10 Points).

   OK, so this is a bit tongue in cheek and stretches the rules a bit here and there – but no more than most schools. I can see some circumstances under which someone might actually want to start taking ranks in it. In heavily social games, it might even be seriously overpowered. It doesn’t have any real offensive potential, but it will let you get away with all kinds of things.

Maur Wachiru, Scion Shaman

   For today, it’s the third member of our little Scion team – Maur Wachiru, their mystic and social engineer. Maur is – at least for Scion – an extraordinarly versatile, if relatively low-powered mystic and prefers to be a noncombatant. To make up for it, he has minions. In fact, he has lots of minions…

.

Maur Wachiru

   Scion of Ogoun

   Maur grew up in a modest village in northern Africa. Unfortunately, the turbulent violence of the region washed over his village when he was fifteen – and mere hours after Ogoun had dropped by to introduce his vision-questing son to a few spirit-bodyguards and allies.

   His new allies were more than enough to cover the villagers retreat, but the war wasn’t going away. With his new powers, Maur was a resistance leader within a few weeks – and nearly died for it. He just didn’t have the defenses to stop a skilled sniper with a high-powered rifle.

   Maur was far more cautious after that, kept some of his spirits (usually the Metal Elemental) on bodyguard duty, and employed his talents far more subtly. He still became known as a local leader, and as the most powerful shaman that the area had seen in generations.

   By the time he was seventeen, he had managed to bring the local area under the protection of one of the greater national militias, but he had also become aware of the influence of malevolent spirits, sorcerers, and supernatural creatures, and of the need to pursue them. Just as importantly, he had become a destabilizing influence himself – attracting opponents, seen as a potential rival by the national militia commanders, and an inspiration to local hotheads and cultists. It was time to leave.

   Tracing his opponents web of connections – and the rumors of a powerful magical Kris that they had been using to call forth the Dragons of the Sands – led him to North America, and to a meeting with Arnor and Dernulf. Joining forces seemed appropriate: Arnor was a master of melee combat – an area in which his bodyguard-spirits were relatively weak – and Dernulf possessed some useful defensive talents which he could share with his allies, plentiful funds, and considerable expertise as an investigator, as well as being virtually omni-competent.

   Maur is a solidly-built black man with complex tribal tattoos and an extensive collection of small fetishes, engraved tokens, and similar talismans. He dresses in classical african garb if he has a choice and usually shaves his head.

   Maur’s tactics are designed to shield his personal weaknesses. His magic is subtle and versatile, his social talents are excellent, and his manifested spirit bodyguards are formidable at long-range combat – but none of his abilities are well adapted to close-quarters combat, offer him much real protection against a long-range strike, or will readily scale up to deal with truly potent opponents. A bulletproof vest is useful, but it really doesn’t offer much protection in scion-level combat. On his own, he’ll send minions if at all possible rather than enter combat personally.  

  • Calling: Freedom Fighter
  • Nature: Judge
  • Willpower: 6
  • Legend: 2 (4 Legend Points)

Virtues:

 

Harmony

3

Order

1

Piety

2

Vengeance

3

.

Attribute

Base

Epic

Knacks

Perception

3

1

Unfailing Recognition

Intelligence

2

   

Wits

2

   
       

Strength

2

*

 

Dexterity

3

1

Monkey Climber

Stamina

4

1

Damage Conversion

       

Charisma

5

1

Friends Everywhere

Manipulation

4

1*

God’s Honest

Appearance

2

   

.

 

Ability

Skill

Notes

 

Academics

3

 
 

Animal Ken

3

 

*

Art

   
 

Athletics

3

 
 

Awareness

   
 

Brawl

   
 

Command

3

 
 

Control

1

 

*

Craft

   
 

Empathy

3

 

*

Fortitude

   
 

Integrity

3

 
 

Investigation

   
 

Larceny

   
 

Marksmanship

1

 
 

Medicine

   

*

Melee

1

 
 

Occult

3

 

*

Politics

3

 

*

Presence

3

 
 

Science

   
 

Stealth

   
 

Survival

   
 

Thrown

   

.

  • Dodge DV: (Dexterity+Athletics+Legend)/2 + Epic Dex = 5
  • Net Soak: 7B/5L/2A.

Birthrights (5 + 15 Bonus Points):

  • Followers/10 Heavy Weapons Trooper Spirits (5/7):

   Heavy Weapons Troopers use the Experienced Soldier template, but throw in a couple of extra weapons of choice (usually a heavy military weapon, a bayonet or melee weapon, and three grenades), an additional skill at 3, a relevant kit (medical, demolitions, etc), and a helmet (+1L/1B armor). They tend to be well-coordinated, but are usually a bit overconfident in their weapons.

   Given that most of the time the GM will only care what the heavy weapons are like, Maur’s troops carry one flamethrower, 2 LAW missile launchers, two light machine guns, one demolitions pack (a selection of mines and satchel charges), two grenade launchers, a light mortar, and a surface-to-air missile launcher. Getting in front of this bunch is NOT a good idea. Of course, they’re also REALLY hard to explain in most situations.

  • Followers/10 Nature Spirits (4/5): Place (Mountain, Desert, Forest, Hearth, Prairie) and Elemental (Water, Air, Earth, Fire, Metal) Spirits.

   Spirits are normally immaterial. Within their particular domains they can provide information (for example a Hearth spirit can provide information about inhabited places), move appropriate material about (an Earth spirit can make clouds of dust and throw rocks), aid travel (those under the guidance of a forest spirit will bypass hazards, find food and water, and travel several times more rapidly than normal through the forest), protect people (a Fire spirit can ward off flames, heat or cold, and smoke inhalation), cause or prevent accidents (a Mountain spirit can greatly ease a climb – or cause a disastrous fall), search their domains (a water spirit can easily locate things under the water), conceal people and objects within their domains (a Desert spirit can easily call up dust and sandstorms, or weave mirages, to conceal areas of the desert), get people frightened or lost (a prairie spirit can easily misdirect those traveling within its realm), withdraw from or surround people (an Air spirit can make it very hard to breathe, or provide air in unpleasant environments), animate appropriate materials (manifesting a body, such as a Metal spirit creating a suit of animated armor around someone to carry them safely out of danger), or provide minor “special effects” (light, puffs of wind, etc). Sadly, none of these effects are especially powerful: simply use the controllers (Charisma + Occult) pool for appropriate effects, but such spirits cannot apply more levels of Epic Charisma than their base cost (in this case, 3).

  • Followers/10 Normal Human Spirits (1): These are actually generic “types”, who can fit into virtually any setting when called upon. His set includes a Chauffeur/Taxi Driver, a Lawyer, a “Well-off Patron”, a Cop, a Butler, a Cook, a Doctor, a Beautiful Woman, a competent Repairman, and a Secretary.
  • Followers/10 spirit-swarms of assorted nuisances (1) (Perhaps these should fall under “Creatures” instead, but who cares?): Wasps (x3), Fire Ants, Rats, Micro Fire Elementals, Locusts, Jellyfish, Brown Recluse Spiders and Scorpions. Maur usually calls on these when he needs to hinder or distract someone.
  • Guide (3): Marindo the Smith. A minor Loa, a master of artifice and maker of devices. He often blesses the weapons and tools of those he favors, but is likely to send his allies on peculiar quests to gather the ingredients he needs. He can make all kinds of devices, both mundane and magical, in mere hours – but is reluctant to teach his techniques, although he can be more readily persuaded to teach the secrets of making specific items. He always demands an offering of wine, meat, and fine cloth when called upon for more than a few words of advice.

   Maur would like to have even more spirits to call upon – a group of creatures similar to Coatl would be ideal – but he simply hasn’t got enough points. Game Masters who don’t want to deal with the Heavy Weapons Troopers (and their assorted destructiveness), or who want a more mythic feel, may prefer to substitute intelligent (and thus 4-point base) Coatl-type beings, or a pack of 10 werewolves (See Scion: Demigod) with a street-cop level base, or some similar group for the troops.

  • Veve Tattoos (Relic 3): Allows the use of the Shamanism Purview as if the user’s Legend was one level higher than it actually is and cannot be removed.

Epic Attributes and Boons (10)

  • 5x Epic Attributes
  • Shamanism II (3)
  • War I (1)
  • Fire I (1)

   Maur is currently hunting for a Kris which is supposed to allow its user to employ the War and Fire Purviews, as well as allowing him or her to summon (albeit possibly not control except by bargaining) the Dragons of the Sands – but at the moment he cannot employ his War or Fire boons unless someone lends him an appropriate relic.

.

Shamanism Purview:

   This purview expresses the user’s ability to relate to spirits and the spirit world.

  • Level One: The Spirit Drum. Dice Pool: None. Cost: None. You may contact, summon, and dismiss spiritual allies, contacts, and followers without the use of a relic provided that you have either several minutes to focus, can draw the symbol of the entity or entities in question, or bear a pre-inscribed symbol of the entity or entities in question.
  • Level Two: Feast of the Akasa. Dice Pool: None. Cost: One legend point per spirit. If a spirit is “slain” (disrupted) in your service, you may recall it by spending a point of Legend, making offerings, and holding a special ritual in its honor, rather than by waiting a year and a day for it to regain its strength naturally.
  • Level Three: The Offering of the Self. Dice Pool: None. Cost: One or more experience points. All your spirit followers gain the benefits of supernatural stamina if they do not already have it and 8 XP to spend (the player may select where these are spent). The user may spend additional XP to further upgrade his or her followers, granting them 1 each XP for every 2 he or she spends.

   Higher levels of Shamanism provide the ability to bind additional spirits into your service, astral projection, and similar abilities.

   Friends Everywhere: You may spend a Legend Point to find a friend – either casually befriending someone in the immediate vicinity or knowing someone in the area (whether natural or supernatural).

The Corruption of Power

   The question of exactly what is “The Corruption of Power” has come up in conjunction with the Mandate of Heaven Courtier Rulership School for Legend of the Five Rings. A quick check on Google reveals that the term is widely used and – presumably – understood, although, like most common phrases, it is rarely defined in precise terms. It is, however, generally taken as a series of undesirable, and more or less predictable, behavioral changes which commonly occur in individuals who come into long-term positions of power.

   The notion that power breeds corruption was old when Caligula ruled Rome – and, like most very old ideas, the underlying observation has some merit, although the classical interpretation may or may not. While those who are unstable, obnoxious, or severely flawed, tend to misuse power in obnoxious and eccentric ways – and rarely improve with time – quite a few apparently well-meaning, idealistic, and presumably stable individuals become more and more obnoxious over time.

   Is this just a consequence of power allowing hidden flaws to manifest? This is very likely true in some cases – many people who come into power begin to misuse it immediately – but is insufficient to explain the gradual progression observed in many other cases. Furthermore, symptoms commonly continue after an individual is removed from power, although they may gradually recover. The notion of a simple triggering condition is not sufficient in more complex cases, ergo, one or more internal adaptive, feedback, or gradual-failure effects must be involved.

   To locate that effect or effects, we’ll have to start with the symptoms:

   There seem to be three underlying elements of The Corruption of Power:

   1) Infallibility Syndrome. The belief that the your decisions and plans – however hasty, ill-considered, driven by personal desires and motivations, or influenced by extraneous factors or lack of information – are invariably the best ones possible. In really extreme cases this may become the belief that – since your decisions are “obviously-to-everyone” the best possible for everyone – opponents (however well-meaning, innocent, or rational they may appear to be) are making themselves traitors to humanity for some bizarre personal reason or insanity, and deserve nothing less than immediate execution. Any undeniable failures can only be the result of active sabotage by traitors, natural disaster, or supernatural interference – hence the proper course of action is to take measures against such interference and try the same plan again. In less extreme cases, this usually leads to a tendency to discount the human, resource, and monetary costs of executing your decisions. After all, since your plans are “obviously” the best possible for everyone, such costs will “obviously” be even higher if any other decision is made. Even in mild cases it often leads to decisions that any unafflicted individual can see are counterproductive, such as displays of conspicuous consumption in the midst of famine or economic depression to “keep everyone’s spirits up”.

   2) Entitlement Syndrome. Any position of power comes with perks – whether those are financial, sexual (a study of reproductive success as a function of power-positions through history is quite revealing – and shows why men tend to be more attracted to power-positions than women: the genetic benefits for them are considerably greater), physical, legal, or social. Those in positions of power tend to arrange for themselves to be extremely well-paid (whether in monetary terms or in goods and services), to get the best of personal care, to be respected by many (and insulated from those who don’t respect them), and for the suppression of their opponents. They also tend to push constantly for the extension of those privileges, and soon come to see them as things they are personally entitled to rather than as special allowances for their position – or things that they were lucky enough to get away with. Shortly thereafter, they come to see anyone who opposes the extension of those privileges, benefits, and perks as a criminal who is attempting to “steal” those items from them – and thereby deserves severe punishment.

   3) Privileged Position Syndrome: The rules don’t apply to you. In fact, you are above consequences of all kinds and may do as you please, indulge your every desire, and eliminate your enemies on a whim. The populace will bow to your will rather than forming raging mobs, assassins cannot touch you, the law does not apply, god meant for you to have this position, no one can possibly defeat you, etc, etc, etc… Mild cases may simply expect everyone to overlook minor indiscretions, such as lovers, undue pomp and ceremony, excessive personal spending, and similar behavior. In fact, mild cases are often aided and abetted by other powerful individuals and even by the population at large – after all, such minor failures are only to be expected, and who wants to tarnish the image of a great man or woman? The kids need role models.

   And that stage is harmless enough. It may – for reasons discussed below – even be beneficial later on.

   Things get worse when you start taking bribes, jailing opponents on trumped-up charges, having troublesome witnesses eliminated, deploying your private army of thugs to squash your opposition, kidnaping scores of adolescent girls for your harem, forcing your religious beliefs on everyone else, enslaving nations, or massacring populations – all, unfortunately, popular pastimes for powerful individuals throughout history.

   So what causes these syndromes?

   Well, they’re all progressive behavioral aberrations which proceed either to some limit or – in at least some cases – to the point of complete dysfunction. In behavior – and in living organisms in general – that’s a characteristic feature of an unbalanced feedback loop. So what feedback loops might lead to these outcomes?

   Human beings – and, I suspect, almost all sentient lifeforms – come up with various ideas and plans and then evaluate them – comparing them with their memories of the results of previous plans. That serves to remind them of factors they tend to forget, of how often their unmodified plans are successful – and thus how much additional thought and consultation should go into them – of which advisors suggestions worked out best, and whether or not their assumptions are good ones.

   People do like to hear good news though – and when you’re in a position of power, you can reward those who bring you good news. Bad news is never welcome. Competent subordinates tend to take it as a part of their jobs to compensate for, and correct, weaknesses in their bosses plans. Incompetent ones quietly cover up failures for fear of losing their jobs or otherwise being punished – or lay the blame for failures on external forces. The normal tendency for individuals in positions of power is to hear that their plans – no matter how ill-conceived – were either great successes or were foiled by external interference or “acts of god”. As the “success” tally builds, it becomes – quite rationally in many ways – more and more natural for them to assume that their unconsidered plans and ideas are inerrant and without flaw.

   So why doesn’t every long-term ruler succumb to a full-blown case of Infallibility Syndrome? Well, there are several possible compensating factors. Some have a long record of personal failure and self-doubt – making them far more welcoming of negative feedback and possibly even wanting and expecting it. Others are simply so introspective that they constantly find flaws in their own ideas and plans and remember doing so – leading them to evaluate their ideas on the grounds that “the last fifteen plans I came up with were no good, so chances are that this one is no good too – even if I can’t see why just yet”. Still others take great pains to employ temporary foreign advisors – who are less impressed with their positions and have little stake in attempting to cover up their own errors and none at all in extending their jobs. Feedback from old friends, spiritual leaders, and other advisors may work if the powerful individual can avoid the collection of sycophants. Finally, the simple tendency to admit errors and change your mind when you get new information is helpful. It makes it easier for what negative feedback does get through to have an effect.

   There are aggravating circumstances as well. Anyone who’s inclined to reason from “principles” or ideology, already believes that they have some sort of “mission”, is inclined to justify “temporary difficulties” in pursuit of the “greater good”, or any similar tendency has already begun detaching their evaluation of plans from their results in favor of conformance to a set of preconceived ideas. In such individuals it doesn’t take much more in the way of unwarranted reports of “success” to achieve complete detachment from reality – and a full-blown case of Infallibility Syndrome.

   Secondarily, anyone who prides themselves on decisiveness, dependability, or not changing their mind, is at higher risk: they are already irrationally attached to their first ideas – and it will not take much to convince them that their first idea was another success.

   The loop that leads to Entitlement Syndrome is more fundamental. It’s roots lie in elementary biology and early childhood. Elementary biology tells us that living organisms tend to try to secure more and more of the available resources – whatever their nature – for themselves and their progeny. Any species that didn’t was crowded into extinction long ago by the species that did. That basic tendency may be modified by the virtues of cooperation, by intelligent consideration of consequences, and by simple physical limitations – such as only being able to eat so much – but the basic drive to “grab everything you can and hang onto it” still lurks at the instinctual core of every human being. Such a tendency is reinforced in humans – one of the reasons why they’ve pushed themselves into every human-survivable environment on earth (no matter how uncomfortable) and into near-total dominance over the planet – by their extended childhoods. Human children face many years of learning, of pushing their way past parental limitations, of driving to improve their strength and skills, of competition with other children and adolescents, and growth before they can begin their adult lives – and to survive and reproduce they must hang onto their gains and try to match any gains that other children manage. Humans are pretty fiercely competitive and possessive.

   You can easily see the loop in small children. Put them to bed at eight, and they are soon agitating for nine. Let them have nine for a few weeks – perhaps as a reward for good behavior or a special privilege – and it becomes a right, switching back to eight becomes a punishment to be resisted as desperately as possible – and the campaign for ten has already been opened.

   Under normal circumstances, the restraining factor on this particular loop is simple and obvious: other organisms fight back when you try to shove them aside and take their stuff. No single tactic or individual has the advantage under all circumstances – so things tend to stabilize at some point. Things tend to get a bit out of control when a particular individual wields a great deal of personal or organizational power however. At that point you have to fall back on secondary restraints.

   Some people are simply aware enough of their instincts and drives to recognize “enough” – at least at some point (often well past the point when it was actually “enough”) or have trusted advisors who are so blessed to help restrain them. Rather more control themselves intellectually – either by recognizing that pushing everyone else into rebellion will imperil their current privileges or, quite commonly, by modeling their behavior on the reported behavior of some successful figure from the past that they admire – attempting to emulate their success through similar behaviors and restraints. This is why – as noted earlier – the tendency to quietly sweep the flaws of powerful figures under the rug and out of sight may be a net social benefit later on. Still others manage to compensate by embracing the concept of an extended kinship group – consciously or unconsciously extending their drive to optimize conditions and opportunities for their offspring and close genetic relatives to larger groups defined by a common faith, nationality, or – in very rare cases – even species.

   Privileged Position Syndrome is really the simplest loop of all: every creature – whether by genetic programming developed over the eons or by conscious awareness – regulates its behavior and tests its limits by going on until it’s satisfied (almost never for most organisms), hits a practical limit, or it becomes painful, exhausting, or otherwise more trouble than it’s worth. Lifting weights? You lift them until you get tired, bored, or start to feel the strain. Determining your drinking capacity? You drink until you’re either too sick to go on or you suddenly wake up with a headache, count the empties, and subtract one. Hiking? When you start getting too tired or your legs or feet hurt more than it’s worth to go on, it’s time to stop. Driving at 60 and doing fine? That speedometer will start to creep towards 70 unless the pain in your wallet overcomes the desire for speed. Angry at your spouse? Small assaults will become full-fledged abuse soon enough unless something is done about them.

   If the escalation goes on unchecked, eventually you’ll pull a muscle, ruin your liver, develop blisters, get an expensive speeding ticket/have a serious accident, or get yourself arrested – unless your spotter, Alcoholics Anonymous, orthopedic specialist, old car engine, or marriage counselor intervenes first.

   Power, like wealth, has a tendency to insulate the possessor from the consequences of many of their actions. There may be bodyguards to keep upset people from hitting you, spare cash to pay people or fines, lawyers to fend off lawsuits, a staff to clean up after you, or a corps of assassins ready to eliminate accusers. The wealthy and powerful find – like celebrities – that they have close friends that they’ve never met ready and willing to help them out.

   Restraining factors here are equally simple: some people are simply clever – and thoughtful – enough to recognize the limits of the protection their power or wealth offers and refrain from passing them. Others place their trust in less privileged advisors, model their behavior – and its limitations – on some successful past example, or adhere to a set of principles which they believe will lead to lifelong success.

   Unfortunately, you never quite know whether any of those limits apply – or at what point they’re going to kick in – until someone actually obtains a major position of power, by which time it’s far too late for second-guessing if they happen to be inclined to go in for indulging their appetites, whims, or aggression without restraint.

   As might be expected, those who reason from evidence and observation, focusing on expediency rather than principles, tend to be more vulnerable to this particular feedback loop than those who base their decisions on more abstract principles.

   What’s the point of all this analysis? Well, it’s an interesting topic – and, in terms of this blog, it’s a useful set of considerations when you’re creating a background for your game setting. Is the local ruler relying on foreign advisors? Do they have agendas of their own? What is restraining the local overlord? How will he or she react to a group of adventurers who defy him or her?

   When you’ve got a set of principles to work with, you can usually get along with a few notes – or even improvise credibly on the fly.

   Could I have missed something or be entirely wrong? Of course I could! I am in no way infallible – although I suspect that I am considerably more inclined to detailed analysis than most. That belief could, obviously, be a symptom of my own Intellectual Arrogance – another feedback driven syndrome related to the Corruption of Power, but one often held in check if the victim is willing to debate and defend his or her views (especially in writing, where they can be picked apart at leisure). Personally, if you see something I’ve missed – or feel that one of my arguments or deductions is seriously in error – go ahead and leave a comment. Who knows? I may have to revise this entire essay.

White Wolf

   I’ve put up the World of Darkness point-buy Character Creation rules in the download box. I’m going to be adding a series of subpages for the World of Darkness and Exalted material: there’s quite a bit of it. So much material, so little time.