Shamanic Conjuration Revised Rules

Shamanic Conjuration

-Alternative Shadowrun Rules-

English: Yukaghir shaman. Česky: Jukagirský ša...

What do you mean “All Spirits Busy, Please Try Again Later”?!?!

Mages vs. Shaman. Hermetic vs. Shamanic. Focused, methodical and intellectual vs. Perceptive, intuitive and active. They both cast spells, but the Shaman narrows in on certain sets and excels at them while the mage is reasonably good at everything.

And that works.

However, in the realm of summoning spirits, both kinds of magicians aren’t all that different, and the advantage is almost entirely with the Mage. Shamanic spirits probably have the better abilities overall, but the Shaman has a lot of negatives in dealing with them. First, they can have only one spirit active – where the mage can have many. The shaman must summon the spirit when he needs it. This isn’t a good thing, as this is often in the middle of and fight (and so he’s dealing with Drain and often withholding dice for other problems or dealing with penalties or damage). The Mage can summon a spirit well in advance, not even using an action to get several magical allies into a desperate fight or have one perform an action when needed, and can use other dice pools to make sure the summoning very successful. The Mage can also afford a lot more risk than the Shaman – taking a lot of Drain is less dangerous when summoning under controlled conditions than when you may have to defend yourself against goons, ninjas, ghouls or whatever in the next two minutes.

This is, suffice it to say, not in keeping with real-world Shamanic lore, the in-universe descriptions where Shaman are supposed to have a strong relationship with spirits, treating them as individuals and with respect. In practice, the Shaman just has one disposable minion he can summon – a minion likely less powerful than the Mage’s. Worse, the Shaman has even less relationship with the spirits he summons than the Mage has with even the most mindless elemental.

So, I had an idea – why not give the Shaman summoning rules which back up the way they’re written? Mechanically, it’s be a bit more even with the Mage’s ability – although that’s less about balance and more about the fact that they writers didn’t notice how the specific advantages they handed Hermetic magic worked in actual gameplay. Specifically, the disadvantages they hand Hermetics are disadvantages for the character, not the player. The disadvantages for Shamans can effectively lock the player out of choosing certain courses of action, but don’t really affect the character.

I’m actually good either way. Different games have different ways of handling this. For example, Dungeons and Dragons is a classic player-oriented game. Sure, you can go into doing roleplaying, but at its heart, the character is mostly a sheet and you play the game directly. There’s nothing preventing you as the player from making decisions. Sure, the GM may give you a swift kick for making decisions based on out-of-game logic, but it’s not really against the game and it doesn’t interrupt gameplay. Likewise, a great many people don’t really distinguish their character with that much personality or backstory, because it’s not important.

Exalted is completely the opposite. In Exalted, the character may have extensive backstory and personality unto him-, her-, or itself. Exalts are supposed to be extremely distinctive, even down to personalized powers and characters flaws. And while not everyone does things the intended way, you’re supposed to look at the rules as more of a “broad guideline” rather than rules for defining how the characters interact with the world.

In short, you can either play the character, or you can play the game. Shadowrun has some rules which trend both ways – and most games do. There’s no law which says you have to do only one or the other. However, you do need to be very careful about how and when you cross these up. Hence the problem here: Mages are limited by in-game elements. Shaman are limited by out-of-game elements. Or, to put it another way, the GM must go out of his way to stop a Mage from using his spirits in the exact way the player desires. However, the GM must deliberately choose the circumstances which allow a Shaman to use his spirits.

Here are a few examples: If both a mage and a Shaman are sneaking into a corporate facility, the Mage can just call up spirits. He summoned them a while ago, and while it cost the character money, it didn’t require any thought or limited resources from the player. The character may have quite a few, and they can go anywhere and act at the same time. If he’s skilled enough, the mage may have half a dozen spirits nigh-invulnerable to physical attack, all smarter, stronger, and faster than a peak-performance human even aside from their innate magical talents. And he can do the difficult work in relative safety, protected by assistants or the party, off-screen with everything decided by die rolls.

The Shaman, instead, must summon his spirit (yes, just one) on the fly and carefully balance the risk of Drain or an out-of-control spirit against the need for its aid. The Shaman can’t even decide which kind of spirit he gets: that’s determined entirely by the local environment – i.e., by the GM. If the Shaman moves from one environment to another, the spirit does not follow, and the Shaman may waste some of the success he had in summoning the spirit. Before you ask, no, it’s not always easy or even possible to know which domain you’re in.

That’s definitely a conflict. One set of restrictions affects the player. But the other affects the character, but may not hinder the player at all. And this is the basic problem. The trade-offs involved aren’t even related.

So, what are my specific recommendations? If we feel that there is a problem (and you might not, which may work perfectly well for your games) how we do deal with it?

Let’s take a look at the idea I pointed out above and use them as a guideline, as well as bringing out some important points from Shadowrun lore and the game’s style.

  • First, the Shaman should have an ongoing relationship to certain spirits.
  • Second, Shaman are generally more flexible than Mages.
  • Third, Shamanic Spirits have domains – places or regions in which they have special power.
  • Fourth, I don’t want to change anything about the general summoning rules or spirits, because that gets to be a big pain and makes the whole thing less modular with the existing system.

The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of giving Shaman specific spirits. The player characters will just have to deal with them. If the GM wants, they can even develop the spirits as personalities over time, but that depends on the group. If you do, then keep in mind that Shamanic spirits definitely remember how you’ve treated them. They can’t disobey the summoner, but they may “interpret” demands in very unpleasant ways.

In this version, the Shaman always summons a particular, named spirit when he summons one of a specific type.

This has some advantages. For one, unlike an Elemental, the spirit can and will protect the magician, at least as long as it has services left. Note that the Shaman doesn’t have to order this; the spirit will reasonably interpret his desires or needs within the bounds of its intellect. The spirit can also act if the shaman is helpless, unconscious, drugged, or otherwise incapable of requesting aid.

More importantly, the Shaman can store a number of Services equal to his Magic score. He must perform a summoning ritual at a specific Force, and does get any totem bonuses as long as he carries out the ritual in an appropriate domain. It’s easiest to conjure and store all services at the same Force, but it’s not required. These services are available for any spirit the shaman conjures. Note that while the Shaman doesn’t require costly components to summon a spirit, he does need them for these generic Services. Part of the cost involves making pleasing sacrifices. Shaman with appropriate skills can locate materials as per usual the Enchanting rules.

The Shaman does still need to make a conjuration test to call up a spirit. However, shamanic spirits can also call upon lesser spirits of their own type once summoned. A Spirit of Man, or Spirit of the Wild, of Spirit of (Whatever) automatically has unlimited services of another spirit of the same type one-third its own Force (rounded down). Of course, the minor spirit is pretty pathetic, but unlimited services are pretty handy. Note that the minor spirit will only obey the greater – it does not listen to the shaman.

So far, this is just a testbed for rules.  IF anyone would like to try them out, feel free to comment here how it functions in actual practice and if the players like the change.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 61b

Black hole wind

Are you sure that thing's a BLACK hole?

Deep inside the second-stage stasis field masquerading as a black hole, Ben and Jacob were bringing the Sabership into position near the galactic senate building. Inside, trapped in an instant, Huriel was in the midst of using the pyramid technique to channel the massed strength of Coruscant – and perhaps it’s entire solar system – to link the ships of the republic fleet to the galactic black hole. Around him, in both normal space and hyperspace, filaments of darkness were lashing out – slashing through people, buildings, the planetary crust and shields, and the structure of space and time as they did so. Through them, the black hole drank the time and life of the galaxy.

Now that Jacob knew what they were, he could feel them easily – and, to some extent, resist. It was Huriel’s fault; he’d bound the energies of the force, and thus of life and time, to timelessness and destruction. He should be able to shield himself against an accidental touch – at least for a few seconds, long enough to pull away.

He carefully adjusted the beam to minimize the destructive side effects and began to cut…

Meanwhile, back with Kira aboard the Mrs Beasley…

I awoke to hear my commlink chirping. I was still groggy from the drugged sleep and I wasn’t entirely sure what time it was. I finally found my commlink on the table and activated it.

(Kira) Yeah, what is it?

(Alys) Kira, we have a problem. Jacob and Ben went into the black hole last night and we stopped getting a signal from them an hour ago. Something very strange is going on with time outside the black hole too.

(Kira) Alright, on my way.

Sadly, the effects of the drug hadn’t worn off yet, and I was still too sleepy to effectively use my Force or Codex powers right now. I showered, got dressed in one of the spare sets of clothing I had from Gruenn, checked my powercells and was prepared to leave when I thought of something. Despite the grogginess of sleep, I was able to tell Valerie was still asleep in her quarters. I pulled out my commlink and left her a message for when she woke up alerting her to what I knew of the situation at the moment.

Virstris was waiting outside the door to my quarters. That friggin smile of hers was way too cheery for this soon after I woke up. She didn’t say a word, but fell in behind me as I made my way to the bridge. On the bridge, the scene of one of chaos. Smoche was busily running all sorts of tests I didn’t understand, Telera was busily trying to contact Ben and Jacob, while Alys was busily tearing her hair out as the galaxy was seemingly collapsing in on itself from her point of view.

After finally calming her down, I got a summary of the events thus far. Apparently Ben and Jacob got the giant lightsaber finished last night and in their enthusiasm immediately went off to try it. With that test completed, they then went directly into the black hole and started cutting the Senate building free of the planet. They quickly ran into the obvious stumbling block that the materials they were trying to cut were no longer experiencing time. Jacob then leapt to the plan of extending time to what he was cutting so that the cut would happen. I immediately saw the flaw with this plan as I doubted the filaments only went upwards from Huriel. True enough, Jacob apparently intersected one of the filaments and had frozen himself in time.

Jacob had been allowing the force to guide his cuts, carefully minimizing injuries – and, incidentally, minimizing his temporal contacts with the filaments as he carefully extended a bit of time along his lightsaber blade to allow it to make the necessary cuts. There had come a choice though – making the final cuts, despite the presence of a network of filaments, or abandoning the project – and leaving many thousands or stars, their attendant worlds and the hundreds of trillions of people on those worlds, trapped in stasis for eons to come.

He’d made them – and paid the price, as the black hole bled off all the power he could channel.

That was all fine and recoverable from, except that Jacob was an atavist and tied to the local universe’s timerate. From what little they could tell, Jacob was now funneling time into the black hole and accelerating it’s timerate while the rest of the galaxy slowed down a bit. From what we could get from their subspace beckon, it was still incredibly slow compared to what our timerate was. But the fabric of reality was so incredibly fragile here and now Jacob was adding to the stresses….

Valerie showed up moments later. She was disleveled but alert, apparently the Dark Side allowed her to power through the sedative more readily than I could. She immediately demanded a report on the situation and as Alys explained, Valerie put her hand on my shoulder as she countered the sedative in me. That helped matters immensely and I could tell from my Codex abilities that time was being dragged by an immense anchor. It’s affect on the timerate was subtle, but the ominous feelings I was getting were not reassuring to say the least. We either needed to fix this now, or begin an evacuation of the galaxy. Problem was that once we began removing planets, there wasn’t going to be much time before a complete collapse occurred.

Damn Jacob.

There was only one way to fix this, and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

(Kira) Alys, is the subspace ship ready yet?

(Alys) Yes, it is.

(Kira) Handell, I need a pilot.

(Lazlo) You aren’t taking Master Handell in there!

(Kira) Fine, you can fly me in then.

(Lazlo) I am not leaving Master Handell!

(Augusta) No way am I going to pilot a ship in there! So far, two out of three trips have had serious mishaps!

(Valerie) Yes, and you’ll note neither of those had Kira along.

(Augusta) One data point does not make a pattern!

(Alys) I’ll do it.

(Kira) Alright, get the ship prepped for launch, I need to collect some things and then I will meet you there.

Alys went off to prepare the ship. I grabbed a datapad and started requesting various items for delivery to the ship. I was going to need rope, a deepspace distress beacon, plenty of extra power cells, layouts of the Senate building on actual paper, a camera, and extra life support supplies. What some of those were actually for was a good question, but my Optimize technique indicated they might come in handy. Besides, it wasn’t like precognition was going to be of any use to me right now. The system acknowledged the request and promptly began fabrication and delivery to the subspace ship. Valerie was following quickly in tow behind me.

(Valerie) So is there any plan to this, or are you just winging it again?

(Kira) The plan is to kill, deep freeze, or fade Huriel. I’m flexible.

(Valerie) And what if you get stuck in there too? You’re the last one we have able to go in there readily.

(Kira) Well, you can tell your grandfather that I am then safely locked away in temporal stasis for the rest of eternity. I am sure that will please him to no end.

(Valerie) Leaving you in an unstable temporal anomaly isn’t exactly smart.

(Kira) And what exactly do you propose I do? Jacob has probably just made things a lot worse now and this galaxy is slowly falling apart anyway. We don’t have the resources to evacuate everyone from this galaxy in time once the collapse begins in earnest. At least Huriel is a major lynchpin of this whole debacle. If we can get him, then the stasis effect stops.

(Valerie) We could leave, take what we can, and cut our losses.

By that point we had arrived in the shuttle bay. The stuff I had requested was already being loaded into the ship by the droids. Alys was beginning her final checkout sequence as the ship hummed to life.

(Kira) Look, worst case, I should be able to resist any temporal interference long enough to fade out of the universe. Then our little countermeasure should be able to kick in again.

(Valerie) You are beginning to rely on that way too much.

(Kira) Then start considering where you can find another atavist in a hurry.

(Valerie) Those aren’t exactly common!

(Kira) Not my problem.

I got into the ship and closed the hatch behind me. Valerie was fuming, but she didn’t try to stop me either. That was probably a good sign then. Alys flew the ship out the shuttle bay and out into space. After a few quick checks of the anti-stasis layer, I started supplying time to the ship as Alys dove us into the black nothingness. We both breathed a sigh of relief as we found ourselves on the inside of the stasis field and aware of the passage of time. She laid in a course to Coruscant and engaged the hyperdrive.

The trip to Coruscant was thankfully uneventful. When we did finally drop out of hyperspace though was when things got interesting. We immediately started picking up subspace transmissions from the Mrs Beasley indicating a significant amount of blaster fire and explosions taking place. Attempts to hail someone on the comm channel resulted in no response. Alys was concerned and wanted to know if we needed to turn back.

Unfortunately, being inside the event horizon prevented me from doing anything more than passive reading on Valerie’s current status. She was annoyed about something, but not particularly concerned about whatever her situation was. Whatever the situation was, she evidently felt that it could be handled. All I could do was trust her, like she was trusting me right now.

So to that end, I directed Alys to keep going with the plan and to trust in the others at the moment. We then dropped orbit and made to the government district of the planet. As we approached the Senate building, we could see Jacob’s ship stuck in midair. There was also a spherical region of distortion surrounding the ship and senate and growing larger by the minute. I had no clue what it was, but it was Alys that pointed at that things inside the sphere were actually experiencing time. Incredibly slow time from our perspective, but it was still possible to see things move at almost glacial speed. Alys began wondering how exactly we were able to see what we were seeing, but I ignored the question as beyond me.

Alys then took us in closer to Jacob’s ship so that we could get a closer look at their condition. Unfortunately, the filaments were making it difficult to position the ship where we could see into the cockpit of Jacob’s ship. After Alys struggled with it for several minutes without success, I told her to bring the ship above the other one and park it there as best she could. I went to grab the rope I had brought with us and tied one end to a support bulkhead near the center of the ship. The other end I attached to my harness.

(Kira) Alys, I am going to shutoff time for a few minutes. Sorry, but I am going to need all the concentration I can spare to handle this.

(Alys) Understood.

I switched on my antistasis suit as I stopped supplying time to the rest of the ship. I went for the door to exit out of the ship, but then found the rope was not being responsive to my moments. It took a few minutes to figure out how to carry the rope so that it would unwind behind me while also not get in the way of my feet. Then came the annoyance of opening the door out. Thankfully, Ben had designed this one to be easier to open in stasis, but it still made life difficult for several minutes as I forced it open with Force Strength. That got me a chance to look outside now, but Jacob’s ship was below and behind me from this perspective.

I took a few good minutes to look at the various filaments waving around slowly to judge their speed and direction of travel. None seemed to be on an immediate collision course with us at the moment. That was good because this next maneuver was going to take some time. A firm grip on the rope and liberal use of telekinesis anchored me to the ship as I swung around to hang below it. It then became a tricky matter of orienting myself so that my feet were on the bottom of the ship and by looking up I would see Jacob’s ship below me.

The cockpit seat where Jacob was sitting had several filaments moving towards it – and was already behind too many to reach. What exactly that meant for Jacob’s chances of survival was beyond me to answer; who knew what would happen if one of the things touched him directly? Galactic stasis?. Ben was in the seat behind him staring at a control panel intently. I couldn’t see any filaments intersecting him at the moment, so that was good. On the other hand, that meant I had to make a reasonable effort to save his ass too. It took a great deal of careful thought while keeping an eye on those filaments in order to figure out how I could get down there with the least amount of fuss. Finally I just ended up tying the robe to one of my variable stars and let it unwind me down to the top of the ship.

My aim was a bit off though as I ended up several feet behind the cockpit instead of on top of it like I had planned. That still left me with good access to the cockpit hatch seals though. It took several minutes to open the locks, but finally I was able to swing the hatch free. My initial attempt to pull Ben free went nowhere until I realized he was still fastened into the seat. It took several more minutes of sawing at the straps with a knife in order to cut them free. It also didn’t help matters that my paranoia kept me glancing at those filaments every few seconds to make sure none were sneaking up on me. Finally, Ben was free and I got him out of the seat. Wrapping more rope around him and then to my waist, I started climbing back up to the ship with Alys. Thankfully, telekinesis helped in the effort of carrying so much dead weight as I focused on the strength technique in climbing. I will quietly admit that Ben’s head hit the hull of the ship a few times while I was climbing, but thankfully him being stuck in temporal stasis limited the damage to mild embarrassment for myself.

Finally I got him into the ship and the door closed. With that done, I was able to drop the antistasis layer of my clothes and let the ship’s layer take over the containment part of things. That instantly resumed time for the ship, Alys, and Ben.

(Kira) Alys, get us to a safe distance from those filaments!

(Alys) Trying!

(Ben) I take it something went wrong?

I showed him pictures of Jacob still stuck in his ship.

(Ben) Oh, he’s screwed.

The debate turned to whether we went after Huriel, or if we should go back to the Mrs Beasley for the time being while we reformulated the plan. I wanted to go back and think for a bit. Alys and Ben wanted to continue on. Ben then volunteered to run his Early Edition technique against our situation.

Ben didn’t know what would happen if those tendrils actually touched Jacob either – but he was reasonably sure that it wouldn’t be good at all, and the worst-case consequences might destroy the galaxy. There wasn’t time to go back to the Mrs Beasley!

(Ben) I can say with confidence that I cannot see any version of myself that successfully leaves the black hole!

…. ok

(Kira) Is this supposed to be an endorsement of your plan? Because it is not making me feel any better.

He then reminded me of the fact that none of us could probe beyond a black hole with Force senses. That made sense, but it still didn’t make me very happy about the current situation. More arguing ensued, until finally Alys pointed out that there wasn’t much else we could do to resolve the issue with Huriel that we couldn’t do with the resources we already had. Thankfully, it seems like Jacob had actually managed to complete his cut around the Senate building, so that was no longer an obstacle. I had to reluctantly agree on that point then.

Alys wove the ship through the filaments to land us on the roof of the Senate building. Ben did something with the landing gear to fuse them to the surface of the building. We gathered around the button for the subspace drive system and I held my breath as Ben pushed the button to activate the drive.

Special Investigator Nimh Tahl’s Field Report – Session 61b

I watched the shuttle with Keldav and Nere fly into the event horizon and then disappear. An indicator light on the subspace scanner showed their beacon signal was working fine and telemetry was coming in steadily. Soung insisted on watching the telemetry data several minutes before becoming seeming satisfied. She hides the concern well. For all the talk and bluster the woman puts out regarding being a coldly rational person, something possibly happening to Keldav bothers her.

Why is unclear though. As valuable as Keldav’s skills are, she has shown the capacity to mimic them herself to a lesser degree. Indeed, the skill sets of those two are so similar despite the years of separation. I suppose it is possible that Keldav is in fact a double agent working for the Varen against the Republic, and that he has been quietly feeding information back to the Varen on his activities this whole time. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense given Keldav’s basic personality profile.

There have been other oddities too. Like the fact that a Faded pushing Keldav out of the universe results in him appearing at Soung’s side moments later. Neither of them were especially surprised by that fact. They spend an inordinate amount of time together despite how much they argue and bicker with each other. They both seem to know where the other one is despite the fact that the other Force users onboard have difficulties tracking them. Then the converse fact that those two still need to consult the computer systems for specific locations on the others. So whatever it is, it is specific to the two of them.

Plus there is the fact that Keldav seems to trust Soung far more than seems reasonable given the circumstances. He doesn’t trust Telera that much even. Sadly, getting further information on the two of them is going to prove difficult now that both have moved into that Sith Canton. Virstris Soung has been systematically removing all the remote audio-visual feeds from the Canton, probably rerouting them to another command hub internal to the Canton.

I don’t like not understanding the galaxy and the people around me. I have had enough basic assumptions about how things work challenged recently to drive almost anyone mad. At the very least I should be able to understand these two oddball Sith and what makes them act the way they do. It has to be something very simple I am overlooking….

MY chain of thought was interrupted by the sound of blaster fire, lightsabers, and explosions. Looking up, I saw Valerie Soung, Virstris Soung, Dame Lisella, and the rest of the people on the bridge in the middle of a spontaneous firefight with the security droids. Within moments the battle ended as everyone quickly overpowered the droids.

(Virstris) What just happened?

(Xiang) The droids attacked us.

(Virstris) I know that, but why?

At that moment a droid’s voice came over the intercom system.

(Intercom) You will surrender. After surrender you will be confined to quarters as the Corellian Protectorate takes command of this vessel.

(Virstris) Wait, did we miss a Faded or something?

(Valerie) We were thorough in our checks. They were all accounted for.

(Nimh) I presume the one Lazlo encountered that was reprogramming droids managed to get a program commanding the droids to rebel uploaded before he died.

(Valerie) A droid rebellion? How incredibly tacky to resort to such tricks.

(Virstris) Alright, why is it that none of us even thought to consider the possibility?

The implications of that thought were chilling. On the other hand, if the Censor was actively preventing out of control droid uprisings, then it would explain an awful lot about why droid systems inevitably failed. But if the local Censor was impaired badly enough to not prevent such scenarios, then the amount of manufacturing capacity onboard this ship did not bode well for our long term survival.

The only option that presented any real chance of success was to get Smoche to the droid command center so he could reprogram the system. But attempting to force our way across the ship to the droid command center was sure to result in the droids literally clogging the path between us and there. Still, there had to be a way to get him there.

Smoche could reprogram droids in line of sight of himself and use them as a shield from the other droids. But the best chance of that working required something to draw away the vast majority of the droids for as long as possible to give him a chance to get to the droid command center. The only real way of accomplishing that would be to give the droids a point of heavy resistance to focus on….

A number of the others arrived at the same conclusion moments later. Smoche took off for the droid command center immediately. The idea of droids stealing his ship from him was apparently enough motivation to getting him moving in a hurry. I highly suspected that Smoche would either succeed or die trying. That man loves those hyperdrive coils.

Meanwhile the rest of us were scrambling for weapons, armor, and whatever supplies we could get our hands on and carry. Korda announced that she had found a good defensive position in one of the nearby habitats. Looking over the place myself via a datapad confirmed her assessment. It looked like a habitat modeled on Tantooine with a town at the top of a plateau and narrow approaches along the cliff faces all the way to the top. The place was even configured to mimic sandstorms when desired. Those would interfere with droid scanners nicely.

Orders went out for everyone available to make their way to the habitat to set up defensive positions. With that done, we all loaded into the elevators and made our way to the habitat. We were unloaded at the edge of the habitat and began making our way up the winding trail. The more combat talented among us took up the rear position while people like me who aren’t used to this much climbing made our way up the trail ahead of them. The sounds of battle quickly started behind us as the droids found our location and tried to overwhelm us. The defenders at the back of the line were able to hold them off long enough for us to reach the top though.

With Shipwreck jamming the droids sensors, Lazlo, Xiang, Khadim, Liassa, and a selection of others at first focused on tossing security droids off he cliffs. That was pretty successful for a bit – but the droids soon learned to space themselves out and to maintain constant covering fire. There were some slip-ups – such as when Xiang tried to leap down and knock a dozen over at the same time and nearly went over herself – but Lazlo managed to set off quite a chain reaction, knocking over better than a hundred once.

On another front, Khadim was using his missile-launcher to create avalanches, while the Sith sent telekinetically-guided grenades, force lightning, and remote-operated weapons (and sabotage) against groups that were getting too close.

They also discussed the possibility of turning this into a holo-epic, but eventually things got too busy for that discussion.

Elsewhere in the ship, the techs and crew were being hunted down (and carefully stunned and locked up), while the Jedi were holding out for the moment. Fortunately, the droids had been set to try and capture the ship and crew intact – so knock out and imprison was the order of the day.

Unfortunately, there were a LOT of droids.

At the top, I immediately took over one of the buildings and began preparations for treating the wounded. As I swapped droid modules and began unpacking the medical kit. Luckily, the droids were not built for heavy combat against talented opponents and our casualties were light. The situation only got better as we got a chance to get everyone organized and fortify our position better against assault. It certainly didn’t help the droids that they seemed to have absolutely no tactical programming whatsoever. Soung seemed as annoyed as always despite the current good luck.

(Valerie) As convenient as this is at the moment, remind me, if and when Ben gets back, to slap him as the original builder by proxy.

A number of hours passed as the droids ineffectually tried to climb the plateau. Repeatedly the assaults were turned back do to better coordination and tactics on our part. Eventually the droids did finally stumble on the obvious tactic given their position as they proceeded to cut a hole in the roof to drop in through, while simultaneously swarming all possible approaches. Despite Shipwrecks useless attempt to will a rapid fire anti-aircraft system into existence it was going to be only a matter of time before we were overwhelmed by that assault – and I calculated that Smoche was going to need a couple more hours to attempt to take over the droid command center. We needed to buy more time.

The only tactic I saw that might buy much more time was to give up the defensive position provided by the plateau and use the cover of the sandstorm to remain mobile. With Shipwreck making sure that the droids’ sensors were jammed, we should be able to move around ahead of the pursuit for some time before the droids finally just swarmed the entire area and trapped us through sheer numbers. The others quickly agreed to the plan and we made our escape.

What followed was a mess of sand, blaster fire, shouting, and not being able to see more than ten meters ahead of me. Sand seemed get everywhere in my clothing as the sandstorm continued blowing and that fool of an energy being kept insisting on using anti-capital ship torpedoes as a handweapon. These people are all insane to varying degrees. Plus I was getting tired of all this running too. Whether for good or ill though, the need to run heightened for a bit and then began to lessen as the droid encirclement began to close in around us. Soon enough we were trapped around a large rock formation as the stun blasts blanketed the place. The more belligerent among the defenders fell quickly, and the more cautious were beginning to lose consciousness as well. It was only a matter of minutes before we were completely overwhelmed.

(Intercom) Attention: emergency droid program update required. Please report for maintenance immediately.

And with that, the droids dispersed silently. I did my best to tend to the wounds of those injured. None of the injuries were fatal, but the number of burns, cuts, and other minor injuries were going to overwhelm our medkits we had with us quickly. I did what I could to patch up the worst injured and sent the rest to medical for treatment. I joined the others in returning to the bridge.

Luckily it didn’t look like the Faded had tried to take advantage of the droid rebellion to land boarding parties or anything else untoward. There wasn’t any word from Keldav’s shuttle though. We were getting the subspace beacon signal which was a good sign. Shipwreck was busily scanning the telemetry from the shuttle for clues as to what was going on when suddenly the black hole in front of us disappeared and was replaced with a familiar looking star field. Handell immediately threw himself into the pilot’s seat and began to lay in a course for Coruscant. Within far fewer moments than I would have thought possible, we made the jump to hyperspace.

On Coruscant, Jacob had found himself back in time – along with everyone else. Sadly, the place was still incredibly damaged; his ship had been slashed through by several filaments (and he could barely keep it from exploding while shutting things down),  he was injured, one of his prosthetic legs was almost severed and the other was damaged (although that was easily “healable”), the bedrock had a brand new selection of faults, the buildings were collapsing, and the Sith were still occupying the planet. He barely managed to set down without adding to the destruction…

Worse, some Sith troops wanted to interrogate him, and didn’t believe a thing he said. Fortunately, he managed to escape in the confusion (Vibrobaldes? Such ancient technology!) and went into hiding, since there were too many injured people around to risk pressing all the buttons.. Throwing the Sith off of Coruscant by himself would take some doing!

Well, at the very least, this suggested that Keldav’s mission was a success. He managed to kill or subspace freeze Huriel while in there and amazingly that was all it took to bring the stasis field down. This was another datapoint for later consideration then. Glancing over at Soung was also revealing: she was hiding it quite well but something was seriously bothering her. She was watching over Shipwreck’s shoulder as he peered intently into the sensor console trying to glean information from the static mess he was getting while we were in hyperspace to little effect.

Around Coruscant, the remnants of the Republic Fleet were arriving. Huriel actually had managed to destroy quite a few ships with his assault, and far more had remained outside the event horizon and had been lost to time – but the remnant republic fleet was still by far the greatest armada in the Codifier Galaxy.

Unfortunately, the Sith still had enough orbiting weaponry to do massive damage to Coruscant before the fleet could destroy them.

We arrived around Coruscant minutes later, only to find the Republic and Sith fleets in a classic game of chicken. The Sith were holding the planet hostage to use against the Republic fleet, while the Republic fleet vastly outclassed the remains of the Sith fleet. Both sides were shouting at the other to stand down and surrender and neither felt the need to comply. The most likely outcome of this mess was going to be large sections of Coruscant ending up craters.

And then we arrived in a massive superweapon. That did not help the stability of the situation at all.

Further throwing fuel on the fire, Lazlo decided now of all times was the best opportunity to tell the Sith that he didn’t care whether they lived or died, only if they surrendered to him. The Sith did not take well at all to this demand as they predictably started escalating their threats to the planet. Amazing Lazlo actually seemed to believe they were bluffing. Either he was incredibly naive or incredibly stupid. I wasn’t sure which, on the other hand, it didn’t matter which case it was as billions or even trillions were going to die because of this nonsense. We had to remove the planet from the equation if we were going to resolve this hostage situation. But how do you remove a planet?

Several of us all arrived at the same conclusion simultaneously as someone yelled at Smoche to move Coruscant out of the way of the Sith fleet. Smoche enthusiastically endorsed the idea and set to work instantly upon the process. Meanwhile I tried to shove Lazlo away from the communications console to prevent him from causing more damage to the situation only to be thrown to the floor as he knocked me aside. He looked really agitated by the move and I swore he was about to attack me when all the sudden he got this really tranquil, glazed look on his face and wandered off. It was at that point that I became aware of just how many Jedi had shown up on the bridge with us. Instantly I was very grateful that Keldav and the others insisted on rescuing the Jedi first.

There was a bright flash of light on the view screen as Smoche moved the planet. The Republic and Sith fleets immediately jumped to the conclusion that Lazlo must have ordered the planet’s destruction. The Republic fleet responded by shooting at us, while the Sith fleet tried to take advantage of the situation by fleeing in the chaos. Somewhere at the back of the bridge I heard Lazlo muttering some nonsense about everyone but him being incompetent.

We couldn’t let the Sith fleet escape, nor could we just let the Republic fleet continue to fire at us believing we had destroyed the capitol of the Republic. We really needed to put everyone on timeout for several minutes while people calmed down. It took a few moments to find the controls to the massive ion cannon. I had no real practice with the thing, but with a blast that size, there wasn’t much need to.

Fortunately, Smoche had only traded Coruscant with the nearest asteroid belt – two orbits out. The messages about that started coming in in minutes, well before everyone had recovered from the ion blasts. Equally fortunately, that was nowhere near enough for Silting to become a notable problem.

With the various ships incapacitated for the moment, the crew started using the tractor beams on the Sith ships to bring them against the hull of the Mrs Beasley. Virstris went off to coordinate getting stasis fields in place to trap the Sith ships while I busily tried to explain things to the Republic fleet as their communications came back online. I may not be the most eloquent person in the galaxy, but at least I was making more sense than the last guy we had speaking for us. Providing technical readouts, sensor scans, telemetry, Jedi testimony and actually moving Coruscant back into place finally seemed to get the Republic fleet to acknowledge we weren’t stereotypical Sith per se.

The Jedi took over the discussions with the Republic and Telera took on the role of intermediary for our group. With my role in the process over, I went off to find something else to occupy my time. I was quickly drawn to Soung and Shipwreck huddled around the sensor console trying to find something. The only answer I got regarding what they were searching for was that the beacon on Keldav’s shuttle wasn’t being picked up by sensors. That was cause for concern, but that was a matter for Shipwreck to study for the moment.

Why was Soung so concerned about the well-being of the shuttle? The only answer that made sense was Keldav. But that only reworded the same question: why was Soung so concerned about Keldav’s well-being? What about him could be so important to warrant this otherwise emotionless Sith to worry so much about him? The answer hit me like a star destroyer given how obvious it was in retrospect.

Those two were Bonded.

I had thought such things were legends or the fodder of holo dramas. That is why Keldav is willing to trust the Varen so much recently, and why he trusts Soung so especially. They know that if something happens to him, she is impacted as well. And on the converse, if good things happen to him, like learning new techniques or powers, she is likely to experience it too. That is why their skill sets are so similar and why they always seem to know what the other is doing and where. Hell, depending on how that Bond works it might well explain how Keldav managed to cross the galaxy from Gruenn to Varen space without a ship and reappear on the bridge of the Mrs Beasley after being faded. So it isn’t that the Varen are holding Keldav’s family hostage or have some sort of black mail against him. Keldav and Soung actually do seem to care about each other.

Things have just gotten very interesting indeed. This is valuable information to have, and valuable information is to be kept close to the chest for when it is of greatest value.

That’s one mystery solved at least.

The Educated Designer

Thoth, ancient Egyptian god often depicted as ...

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If You Don’t Know Something – Learn!

In Thoth’s recent article on Infravision, he stated:

Sure, you can say that the physics of your world works some other way – but then you’re going to have to build and explain that physics as soon as someone starts experimenting (if you want to go that route, here’s an article on Elemental Physics to give you a start, and a followup on Dimensional Traits). You may get lucky and not have to deal with that, but if you run enough games, sooner or later you’ll get some players who keep wanting to know “why” and “how”. Those are the ones who want to try another route to problem solving; figuring out how things work in the setting and how they can take advantage of whatever you come up with – in other words, engineering.

This is a major point.

At one time, many of the people making games were in fact, nerds. Well, they’re still nerds, but they used to be nerds who often studied computer science, engineering, and mathematics, or at least tinkered with radio kits. This had a profound impact on the games they made and how they built worlds.

You can look at earlier editions of Shadowrun, for instance, and see that it was designed by people knew technology. Most of the technology which went into the original three editions was pretty sensible. Sure – it was almost magic by the standards of the 1980’s. But in terms of what computers were capable of and what people could program in, it isn’t too far-fetched.  You can see they had insane notions about law and politics, but they knew technology in and out. They understated how much technology would change life – and got the basics of extreme connectivity right  We might never design cybernetic limbs which can run on body sugars, but it’s not outright impossible and the theoretical technology exists. We might never be able to jack in and control computers with our minds, but it’s not outright impossible and early experiments have already been done.

Likewise, the magic system was quite internally consistent – it was an inhuman “technology,” just like any other. Sure, there were a few oddities. Still, there was rarely an NPC who did something you couldn’t (though they did stretch NPC power to the ludicrous level at times). If it could be done by science, it could usually be replicated by magic, and vice versa. (at least in theory). The big difference was in the focus of each. Magic was personal but let you bend the rules of this universe. Science was universal but stable. But magic still had its own explicit rules. Despite characters sometimes claiming that they were “doing the impossible,” they weren’t. They simply pushed the limits by developing improved techniques and variants of old ones.

Spells were even consistently categorized, and this division wasn’t invisible to spirits and actual in-game characters. There was no neat dividing line between system and setting, because the world didn’t need one. The relationships which held true for one held true for the other.

More interestingly, magic and science had explicit interactions. In fact, science held the ultimate trump card: space. Outer space? No magic. Period. Trying to use magic in space was less safe than actively shooting yourself in the head. Nor was this the only interaction, but it was the most vivid one.

In essence*, Shadowrun used the principle that energy was energy. You (consistently) used a fireball spell just like you used an ice spell, or for that matter a transformation spell, because they were all Manipulation magic. The actual effect of that fireball was about the same as that of n incendiary grenade (but more variable depending on your skill and bonuses). Armor would indeed help, just as it helped against an incendiary weapon. Likewise, spells in the Combat spell category could hit you directly – but even then the same toughness which let you survive a bullet or avoid a concussion let you resist the spell. Magic in the physical universe used the same rules as everything else. Magic in nearby astral space bent those rules. Magic in a far dimension had totally different rules.

This kind of consistency was perfect for players. You didn’t have to be a genius or prophet to guess how your new spell would work, both mechanically and in the game world. You didn’t have to understand everything about science or peer into the minds of the designers to “get” how things worked. It was both consistent enough to encourage new development and familiar enough to make sense to players.

Now, Shadowrun wasn’t perfect. As mentioned, it was completely insane in several other respects. This game has the Supreme Court handing out Extra-Territoriality for Corporations as a result of a Criminal Case. It has AmerIndians mysteriously getting millions of new people, then engaging the American government in a guerrilla war with bows and arrows (I am not making this up) alongside the odd bit of major magic – and winning against a couple million troops and armored assault forces. And then they somehow took their population from nowhere and kicked out all the non-Indians living in the west, most of whom then vanished from the population figures.

Well, you get the idea. They built a coherent game with rules which made sense and allowed consistent interaction with the world. That’s a long and big-worded way of saying “It made sense and you didn’t have to house-rule everything.” They actually did make a coherent world in the present – it was the history which didn’t make sense, along with the odd nonsensical background note. (An author misunderstanding Diplomatic Immunity, for example, led to a hilarious scene in one early published adventure where sane or attentive parties would shortcut the entire session.)

So, after all this talk about what they did and didn’t do, who cares?

You should. You’re either a gamer, or you’re not. If you are, you’re either a GM or player or both, and if not, you should go start. But as a gamer, it’s in your interests to have a consistent setting. It means you can step outside the moment’s action. You can look ahead to the future, change your strategy based on the technology and rules, and come up with new solutions. It means you have a framework for what your magic, technology, and skills can accomplish. It means you have the option of being a co-creator along with your GM.

And for GM’s, this takes a load off your shoulders. You don’t have to explain everything, but you still have reasons for everything. You don’t have to houserule blind anytime someone tries something strange. You have a framework – one you can expand on if necessary – but which ties the players together. Ever wonder why so many D&D games fizzle? It’s because there’s not much to do unless the Dungeon Master goes to the trouble of making a coherent world on his lonesome. Apart from that, you’re just rampaging through corridors killing and looting, which gets tiresome if you play any one class too long.

As a consequence, knowing what you’re talking about is crucial for a designer. You don’t need a degree in political science to write about politics. That’s a good way to make sure you never understand politics whatsoever. Don’t read some textbook. Read the originals. Read von Clausewitz as he discusses war and politics. Read Machiavelli in translation, and listen as he talks about the hard choices that leaders face. Read the Bible and listen to the words of the Hebrews when they were in distress, and how their kings rose to and fell from greatness. Read Cicero’s Letters, and Caeser’s Gallic Wars (or de Bello Gallico) and you’ll understand what revolution means to people who lived it and fought for and against it on the battlefield and the Senate hall.

Likewise, know something about technology, science, and engineering – more than you can learn from a pop-science book. Here you do want a textbook. Learn how Newtonian physics work – and then learn why they don’t work (but mostly are close enough anyway). Get down into the structure of atoms. Look at how bio-chemicals, DNA, tissues, tissues, organs work and how insanely complex life really is.

In the end, this will make you a better designer. And it doesn’t take that much – a few weeks of reading.  You’ll probably have a lot of fun with it, because Machiavelli, Caesar, and Judges are gripping histories and stories. If you haven’t looked how matter and energy actually work (to the limited degree our puny minds can conceive), you may be very surprised and intrigued. And it may lead you to new ways of thinking and new idea about your world.

In this world, physical reality flows from natural law. Now, natural law may not be all that natural depending on your religious or meta-physical view, but the short version is that we have rules.  Likewise, human civilization has rules, if more flexible ones. And everything flows from these rules. Energy is mobile, always moving from an area of higher concentration to lower.

Now, for your game you don’t have to attempt to build an entire universe. For one, you won’t succeed: it’s vastly more complex than all the humans ever born working in concert to manage. But you should lay down some basic principles. Do you have “magic?” What IS magic anyway? Is it the will of the Gods, who define and reshape reality? Is it an energy which responds to your mind? Is it extra-dimensional spirits intruding their reality on our own? All these have impacts on the characters, the stories, and what magic should do in the setting. Thus, your rules and background can work together. Shadowrun sometimes took this too far in having in-universe characters talk about game concepts, but you can’t argue they didn’t mesh the rules and world.

This isn’t always so complex. Star Wars is a fantasy story with a sci-fi gloss. And George Lucas basically shrugged, said his ships had really huge guns, and left it at that. And because he had a reasonably clear idea of how it worked and he was the only writer, it was pretty consistent (then they opened up the universe for novel writers and things got messy). Star Trek ran into some trouble because there wasn’t much agreement on what the technology could do (not how it worked but its raw capabilities) from one episode writer to another. So the best Star Trek episodes were about human/alien society, science fiction in its rawest form, not technology per se.

*Ba-dum-ksssh! Shadowrun Players get it.

Cyberpunk Street Occupations and Backgrounds

Child beggers begging infront of a church on a...

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As a general rule, most street characters will have the “Streetwise” general skill, and many will also have area lore, begging, or something similar.

For their occupations, and their more important skills, roll 1d40:

.

.

Unskilled
Occupations:
Special Notes and Requirements
01) Acolyte Enough patience to hang around and be
respectful with a straight face.
02) Artist/Crafter Relevant general skill, such as “painting”.
03) Hobo / Bum Being willing to put up with anything.
04) Day Laborer Often idiots or thugs. Servants and such will
need a general skill such as “Butler”.
05) Dependent “Property” as far as the streets are concerned.
If you don’t like it, all you have to do is get
out on your own.
06) Driver A driver’s licence.
07) Entertainer Needs a relevant general skills or skills.
08) Guide Needs city knowledge and – preferably – an
extra language or two. Salespeople are a
minor variant.
09) Lab Rat “Volunteers” are always handy.
10) Plaything Mostly for runaways. This is awfully easy at
first, but rapidly becomes less pleasant.
11) Social Worker From babysitters and volunteers on up.
Higher-ups may have contacts, law, legal
protection, psychology, and linguistics.
12) Street Vendor Those who restrict themselves to legal items
are usually barely getting by.

.

Skilled 

Occupations:

Major Skill Minor Skill
13) Begger Con Artist Begging
-“Gypsy” Syndicate Backing Fortune Telling
14) Enforcer +3 Martial Art Intimidation
-Hitman Sniper Ambush
15) Gang Boss Information Gathering Gang Leadership
-Yakuza Syndicate Backing Intimidation
16) Go-Ganger Acrobatics Piloting
-Courier Evasion Smuggling
17) Hacker Computer Operation Forgery
-Executive Syndicate Backing Extortion
18) Lookout Stealth Tailing
19) Messenger Dodging Recognizer
20) Petty Thief Slight-Of-Hand Evasion (1)
21) Poseur Thespian Disguise
-Celebrity Professional Skills Reputation
22) Prostitute Information Gathering Seduction
-Geisha Professional Skills High Society
23) Rebel Saboteur Field (City) Lore
24) Shoplifter Stealth Casing
-Burglar Locksmith Search
25) Street Dealer Fencing Contacts
-Fixer Information Gathering Connections
26) Tinkerer Technician Scrounging
27) Warewolf Cyberware +2 Martial Art
28) Wiz Kid Minor Magic (Psionics) Sensitive
-Mage Add any one magical skill Mystic Tongue

.

Highly Skilled 

Occupations:

Major Skills Minor Skills
29) Bodyguard Alertness and Missile
Deflection
Ambush and
Cyberware (2)
30) Bookie Syndicate Backing and
Con Artist
Gaming and
Connections
31) Cyberdecker Computer Operation and
Technician
Cyberware (2)
and Contacts
32) Nomad Caravan Master and
Guild Member
Personal Vehicle
and Piloting
33) “Preacher” Guild (Church) Member
and Select
Oratory and
Religious Ritual
34) Quality Goon Combat Armor and MOS
(3) Training
Brawling and
Intimidation
35) Reporter Surveillance and Select Photography and
Connections
36) Rich “Kid” Cyberware and Legal
Protection
Contacts and
Money
37) Rigger Cyberware & Electronic
Warfare Sensor Operator
Combo for remotes only.
Special
Vehicle(s) and
Gunnery
38) Street Cop Legal Protection and
Law/Criminology
Brawling and
Contacts
39) Street Doc First Aid and
Drugs/Medicines
Advanced First
Aid and
Technician
40) Street Shaman Minor Magic/Pacts and
Special Devices
Contacts and
Bargaining
  1. Evasion is normally a major skill, but Petty Thieves get a small break for their lifestyle. They could certainly use one.
  2. As a minor skill, Cyberware is limited to appropriate items.
  3. Military Occupational Specialty.

Continuum II divided most character abilities into General Skills (common, ordinary, talents that everyone got some of), Minor Skills (specialized talents covering either some special ability or a narrow field of training), and Major Skills (the items that tended to define a character – major special talents or broad fields of expertise).

The Street Runner vocation includes;

  • Militance II: 4D8 Vitality, +3 Attack Rating and Resistance Rating, and Semicombatant vitality bonus.
  • Expertise II: Two major and two minor skills, usually determined on the occupations chart above. Unskilled Occupations simply provide background. If you get a Skilled Occupation just roll up a second one and take the skills for both, ignoring “Highly Skilled” rolls. If you roll a skilled occupation twice, upgrade to the advanced (unnumbered) version if there is one, otherwise roll again. If you get a Highly Skilled Occupation first, you’re done.
  • Martial Arts I: Normally basic skills with Pistols and blades.
    • Street Survival Martial Art; Exclusive Weapon Katas (Blade and Pistol 3), +1 Attack (2), +3 Attack Rating(2), +2 Defense Rating (1), Fast (-1 on initiative, 1), No formal training (-1).
  • Either Mastery II – or Mastery I and a Vocational Speciality covering basic gear, credentials or a reputation, some minor auxiliary skills/etiquettes – and the fine art of getting along without an official identity.

Street Runner is not the most efficient vocation around – but it does have the advantage of being something that you can simply pick up as you go along.

Playing with Extradimensional Spaces

Here we have another question from Alzrius…

The Practical Enchanter offers some great spells for creating extradimensional spaces, but what about ways to manipulate such spaces (though this borders on planar travel in some areas)? How do I break into someone else’s extradimensional space, or ward them from breaking into mine? How can I take something in the real world and shunt it into a personal extradimensional space or demiplane? How would I force something in an extradimensional space or demiplane back into the real world? Would size be a factor (e.g. a demiplane the size of a continent or world that I wanted to merge with my native world)?

This particular group of questions mostly calls for secondary effects.

Breaking into a plane physically requires an open gate of some sort; otherwise there simply isn’t anywhere to apply physical force to it. A long-term extra-dimensional space can simply be fitted with physical defenses around it’s gate (for an example, see Realmsong). If you want to put in – say – iron-reinforced doors and a selection of traps to hide behind, you want the “Trapped” modifier (and possibly “Furnished” in case you want to hide the traps and have nicer doors) from the modifier listing in The Practical Enchanter.

That, of course, suggests an interesting combination spell – an illusion-and-spacewarp which creates a spacewarp full of traps and barriers with an illusion that makes it look like you opened a door and fled into the space while covering up the fact that you actually opened the door in front of yourself.

The easy way around people breaking in physically is to simply close the portal. You can do that with the “Barriers” modifier, which allows you to open and close the gate at will. A closed gate is pretty much proof against physical force – save, perhaps, for some epic-level use of Open Lock or Escape Artist. (If you can use Escape Artist to get through a Wall of Force, I don’t see why you can’t use it to pass through other walls or sealed gates). Such a gate could be tricked into opening if the effect exists as an independent mechanism built into a continuing spell, employing the Use Magic Device skill or a specialized spell to impersonate the caster.

It could also be forced via a Gate Keying effect (those are usually level two for gates that are just shut or level three for gates that have special conditions on them – plus any gyrations you have to go through in the case of gates that have wards or seals on them). Spells like that are relatively uncommon in most d20 games, but probably shouldn’t be; getting into mystical locations that were sealed away centuries ago or where the local yokels cannot reach is a staple of fantasy fiction – and provides a wonderfully simple answer for “why those horrific monsters aren’t out ravishing the area”; they’re all sealed away because they can’t cast the right spells. They’re fun in gate-network games too.

Finally, gates which are actively linked to their creators can be opened by applying some method of taking control of the spell away from the caster.  That’s vanishingly rare in most games, and with good reason; it’s a great deal more complicated than simply forcing the gate open – usually even more complicated than a planar travel spell that doesn’t even need a gate – and how often do you want long-term control of someone else’s portal? The vast majority of the time, a far simpler and easier Gate Keying effect will do everything you need.

To get around the problem of people seizing control of your gate, you’ll either want internal defenses (as above) or to apply some reasonable level of the Mobile modifier: moving your entryway into a co-existent plane, or a hundred feet underground, or some such, will prevent anyone from using it who isn’t willing to invest a great deal of power in the project.

To prevent people from planeshifting into your extradimensional space without your permission requires a second level of the Barrier modifier; it blocks anything short of Wish, Miracle, Divine Intervention, or those specific “seize control of the portal” spells from accessing your dimension. It might be a reasonable extension to allow another +2 levels or so to block anything short of a specifically-developed epic spell, but that probably isn’t worth the bother unless you desperately want to seal something up for some approximation of “forever”.

Moving things in and out of an interdimensional space is another matter altogether.

If you want to drag something out of a pocket dimension back into reality, there are three basic approaches;

  • You can collapse the pocket dimension, so that the stuff in it drops back into some other plane.
  • You can (or perhaps a minion) go in and carry or plane shift it out.
  • You can send in something a spell or power to latch on to whatever-it-is and drag it back.

The first is straightforward, if magically expensive; you can power up a transdimensional dispelling effect, or send in a minion to do something catastrophic – probably the old “extradimensional space in an extradimensional space” routine – to destroy the place. This usually works, but doesn’t really guarantee that the things you actually wanted will wind up anywhere near you.

Going or sending in a minion is easiest to describe; it doesn’t even necessarily require any magic or special powers – although it can be a difficult and dangerous trip.

Latching on to something in an extradimensional space and dragging it back is harder; basically what you want there is a Plane Shift with transdimensional range on it and some method of targeting it. Size would be a factor; if the thing you want is very large, you’re going to want to bump up the area affected as well. The metamagics in Eclipse can do all that, but it’s going to be expensive on more than one level.

Alternatively, you may be able to get away with Conjuration. After all, if a mere first-level spell can reach across the dimensions, grab a creature, drag it to you, compel it’s obedience, and then send it back home regardless of intervening barriers, you might be able to conjure something out of a pocket dimension a lot more easily – but if you’re using my far more limited interpretation of how summoning spells work from The Practical Enchanter, than this won’t work.

Personally, unless a character has access to high-powered freeform magic, and is willing to use a lot of it, I’d go with Ceremonial or Ritual Magic; it’s a lot easier to work up once-off effects that way.

Finally, we have merging a demiplane or continent into another world.

That’s… awkward.

  • What set of natural laws or planar traits is it going to work under? World A? World B? Both at once? A merged or compromise set? Which will dominate? Are we revising two entire universes here?
  • Are the contents of a pocket realm simply going to be dumped on top of whatever’s there now? That could be a pretty major disaster, and will probably convert whatever is in the pocket realm into a huge pile of junk.
  • Is it going to merge with what’s there now? That’s going to be really complicated when it comes to the people and creatures.
  • If it displaces what’s there now, where is the stuff it displaces going to go? Will there be tidal waves, a fantastic impact, and other disasters? What will crossing over the border be like?
  • Will it distort the local geometry to make space, packing an area of – perhaps – immense size into an area that can easily be walked around in a few moments?
  • Is it going to manifest as a co-existent plane that’s really easy to see into and shift back and forth into? That’s a simple idea, and avoids a lot of other problems, but adding a new dimension of movement to the game will complicate other things tremendously.
  • Will there be limited access-ways? Perhaps few walls, or narrow mountain passes, that lead to the newly-added areas? That’s pretty much just adding some permanent gates to the world.

In theory, a sufficiently high-level spell could simply drop a pocket dimension into a larger world in the form of a new planet – either transforming it to work under the rules of it’s new dimension or altering those rules locally. A demon-lord who rolls up his hell-dimension into a new “planet” and brings his entire power-base along for an invasion would certainly make an epic villain.

The trouble with this is that there are simply too many undefined parameters to say much that’s meaningful about the magics involved – although we can be sure that they’re going to have to affect a massive area and will be extremely high level. For the most part, however, we’d simply be looking at a planetary-scale instantaneous gate or overlay; that would cover the overlay, limited-access, and spatial-distortion variants – and could even cover an exchange-variant of the “displacement” version. The merger effect however… that calls for a massive transdimensional transformation capable of affecting multiple worlds.

On the other hand, events on this scale will often fall into the “Plot Device” category. Ergo, once again, the best option is Ceremonial or Ritual Magic.

Legends of High Fantasy – with it’s drastically expanded ritual magic system – even included a ritual for this sort of stunt.

Budding the World Tree: Stabilizes areas of the dimensional fringe of Cemar, possibly even adding substantial amounts of territory to the world. In general, one can attempt to stabilize a route, to stabilize several routes – or to push back the fringes entirely. The rite always involves planting a twig which grows into a mighty tree during the rite; while it endures it’s roots and branches will hold reality steady, as will any offspring after it. Destroying such a tree, grove, or forest, will allow the lands they held to fade into the mists once more. In general, Area (Route +10, Routes +15, Domain +20), Eons (+20), Severe (+10) and Target Present (-) = DC 40 (Route), 45 (Routes), or 50 (Realm). There are several minor artifacts which can help with this sort of rite, but the components are difficult to come by. Still, creating a stable route to any other world offers enough possibilities for wealth for people to keep trying.

  • This ritual is commonly used by Sorcerers and Wizards.
  • Lesser rituals can stabilize a route long enough for an expedition but if you’re still away when the rite expires – or is disrupted – you’ll likely never return.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too. Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. It will be updated with Eclipse III when that’s done as well.

Recordings from the Holocron of Kira Keldav – Session 41

   Session 41 was the thanksgiving weekend session – and thereby was short several players and turned out to be a bit short. This will happen…

   With the number of people stuffed into stasis having grown to rather large proportions what with the phony plagues, the resistance was asking for direction on what to do with them all. There was only two real options that I saw: underground or in a warehouse. There were plenty of caves to hide people in, and it would have provided excellent shielding against scanners picking up the stasis fields. Problem got to be that it was going to be really awkward trying to explain why so many shipments of crates were going to caves.

   Using warehouses made it easier to explain why crates were being shipped to them, but had the problem of being rather public and difficult to conceal. Those stasis systems show up rather distinctively on scanners – and I am told that a warehouse in and of itself wasn’t going to do much to shield that. Shipwreck pointed out that the fact that a warehouse was in the middle of an industrial district would hide the signature to some extent, and some low-level screens would help a bit without showing up as anything much more than commercial precautions – but it wouldn’t match a few hundred feet of rock.

   Sigh, there was no real good option here. Zandaras almost certainly knew of stasis technology and might well know what to look for. But moving lots of crates into the middle of nowhere was surely going to attract a lot of attention we definitely did not need. The best option I could see was use a warehouse, post some guards, and hope that the Sith have a hard time picking one warehouse out of an entire planet full of distractions. Fortunately people in stasis didn’t take up a lot of space – and perhaps Zandraas wouldn’t give whatever information he had about stasis to his minions.

   Next came yet another debate about what to do with the minefield and planetary shields. Using the large-scale stasis systems, we could capture the shield generators fairly readily. That wouldn’t allow us to activate the shields without a lot of work and time though. And the clock would immediately start running once we captured the shields. We couldn’t possibly get the shields operational before the mines could begin bombarding the planet.

   We couldn’t build new shield generators in the timeframe I believe we have to work with – and the Republic didn’t have spares laying around that we could borrow either. Ben’s suggestion of stealing them from a Sith occupied world using hypertunnels required more equipment than we had and would destroy the systems from silting. Stealing from an alternate dimension had massive targeting issues as well. My suggestion of moving the planet to the Codifier galaxy got a lot of horrified looks – starting with Alys – on the grounds that the rest of the galaxy would see it as a planet-destroying superweapon attack, and go berserk.

   Sigh

   Ben gets to make suggestions regarding building weapons of mass destruction or death, yet when I suggest moving a planet people get upset. Is it just because they think that I might actually get it done?

   Tests regarding how shield systems perform within a Second Stage Stasis field weren’t encouraging either. Looked like the field strength was reduced in proportion to the time rate of the generator. We also determined that using the stasis effect on crystals in an attempt to rig a smaller system to mimic the planetary system was a convoluted way to may crystals explode instantly.

   Hmm, didn’t Shipwreck have the coordinates for several derelict fleets? Turns out the answer was yes, and that two were relatively nearby to us. According to him (I don’t know where he got this level of detail), the first fleet was a massive fleet dating from the Infinite Empire. It was lost when the fleet ran some sort of arcane hyperspace experiment to move the fleet as a formation or some such and somehow instantly aged the entire fleet by a couple of centuries. It was now sorely needing maintenance after 15,000 years of none. The other fleet was significantly smaller but in better condition. Apparently they’d jumped into a battle situation and picked up a massive radiation pulse while the shields were down that killed the crew – and in the chaos of a Sith war the location wound up lost.

   Well those were worth salvaging, but we would need crews and parts to make that work. The Gruenn system could supply both crews and parts, but was currently occupied. The occupation could be broken with the fleets, but the fleets couldn’t be made operational without support from Gruenn. Damn it, we have all the parts we need to make this work and liberate the planet, but can’t seem to manage to get it all assembled together.

   I put a pin in that problem to think about it later. Currently the best plan we have is to fire a large number of concussion missiles at the mines in orbit, while simultaneously putting the rest of Zandaras’s agents and the shield systems into stasis. The asteroids would then enter the area and engage any orbital assets that were left. Then began the race against time to get the shields up before Zandaras’s response could arrive. Until we could get any better modifications to that plan going, we had to proceed with what we had.

   Ben was busily building Second Stage Stasis systems with the help of the technicians that could remember the task at hand. The Galactic Censor was getting incredibly annoying at times as we couldn’t give directions to use the stasis systems to anyone too easily affected by the Censor. That had drastically reduced the amount of manpower available for the task of faking the plague. Well at least that was winding down as we mimicked the signs of the government gaining control of the situation.

   I helped where I could in assembling pieces together according to instructions, but it was still slow work. Eventually my robe was getting torn enough from the work and the damage incurred from the ambush earlier to warrant finding a tailor. Speaking with members of the resistance got me pointed in the direction of a little blue alien by the name of Qwuam. It was a bit of a ride getting to his shop, but my speeder was needing some time out of the warehouse.

   The ride was pleasant save for all the people that turned to stare as I went by. I ended up tapping into the Codex a bit to keep from overhearing too many thoughts about what they were thinking of me. None of them were true in the slightest, but it still made me ill sensing them directing those thoughts towards me.

   Lazlo had also decided to go shopping; being knocked out by a mere soldier in a barroom brawl had made him aware of just how heavily he’d been relying on the force to resist major attacks – and that perhaps a bit of armor, and maybe even a weapon, would be a good idea.

   Sadly, he soon found out that weapons and armor were kind of hard to find in an occupied territory when the locals believed that you were with the invaders. He’d just have to have the base run some up for him if he couldn’t find anything locally.

   I arrived at the tailor’s some time later. Stepping into the shop, I saw it was devoid of people save a little blue-green alien with several arms. I think I recognized the species as Everadddiii or something similar. Qwuam took one look at me and immediately began lamblasting my clothing in intricate detail. I found myself stammering apologies despite myself and the role I was taking. Thankfully no other shoppers were in the shop to overhear this. I was especially unnerved when he pointed out the hidden weapons and the fact that the stasis belt and anti-stasis suit would not work together in the current configuration.

   Alright, how did he see those and immediately deduce that they wouldn’t work together?

   All attempts at questioning him on the matter were brushed aside as he began taking measurements and told me to hold still and be quiet. When asked if I had specifications for the base designs, I handed over a data chip I had been keeping in case I needed to rebuild the clothing again. Qwuam snatched the chip out of my hands and then asked what was the base color I wanted to the clothing.

   I wasn’t sure how to answer that. Black would work better since I was trying to impersonate a Sith, but white was becoming my symbolic color for displaying that I wasn’t a Sith. It didn’t help matters that I thought the Force placed some weight on symbolism. Oh well, splitting the difference and going with a gray should work well enough.

   I was then asked how many sets did I want to order. It was apparently going to be 12,000 credits for the first one and 4,000 credits each for the next three if I got them as a set. Well I had over a third of a million credits in my name and not much I’ve been spending it on, so this sounded like a worthwhile investment. I elected to order all four and was swiftly rushed out of the shop so that Qwuam could begin his work. He told me to be back in four days when he expected to be finished.

   Once I was back at the warehouse that Ben was using to build the stasis units, several members of the resistance approached me and asked if Lazlo’s stories about the other members of the party were true. Unfortunately, Lazlo’s stories were not as exaggerated as the resistance wanted to believe. Ben was an insane superweapons obsessed engineer, Xiang thought she was a Holo character, Jarik fell to the Dark Side of medicine, Shipwreck is way too trigger happy with torpedoes, Khadim was an energy being with little understanding of galactic civilization, 10CH is an assassin droid turned pacifist, Lazlo is a genetically engineered body guard, and Jacob…. is a suit of armor painted to look like a tree.

   Myself, I am a punk from Alderaan, that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nearly got killed by the Sith, developed powers, got captured by the Sith, escaped from the Sith, and now I’ve been running from the Sith and disrupting their plans almost nonstop ever since. My next door neighbor is continually on the news blaming me for all sorts of nonsense. The children in our group make cartoons of me going on a crusade of Dark Side fueled galactic conquest. And Telera stands there smugly giving me Jedi koans.

   All prospects of me having a normal life anymore are pretty much nonexistent.

   Meanwhile. Lazlo – having heard much of the rant before – headed out to go and drink with the Sith troopers. He was almost getting the hang of this independent socializing thing!

   Unfortunately, he accidently admitted that he had money – and so wound up stuck buying drinks for everyone. He also wound up having to find excuses not to enlist – and was drunk enough to claim that he’d already joined once, as a Sith trainee, and to try to demonstrate his powers.

   Perhaps fortunately, he was also drunk enough to simply knock himself out with a misdirected attempt to exert a little telekinesis – with the result that none of them took any of his claims seriously. Later on, when he was sober, this would begin to seem like a good thing. It still led to a discussion of what made most soldiers human, where most of the recruits for the Sith came from, and various other personal details – in which Lazlo revealed rather too much about himself.

   Even more fortunately, the Sith troops were too drunk to remember anything too.

   I saw looks of sympathy from the resistance members around me and was about to ask their stories when a loudspeaker announced it’s presence. It sounded like the police had arrived and wanted us to surrender immediately to be stunned. Oh bloody hell, I really didn’t want to have to deal with this right now. Making sure the robes were set to black I strode forth to met security surrounding the building and demanded to know what they wanted.

   Security were not happy to see me and weren’t buying the story that I was here to capture Kira Keldav. The security chief was damnably perceptive at determining that while I was telling the truth, I was being very misleading in how I said it. Trying to distract him didn’t go over well as I heard Jacob announce that no one was going to take him alive. The security then began to bombard the warehouse with missiles. Before the missiles could hit though, the warehouse twisted, shifted, and then vanished as it left a crater in the ground.

   I would have said that was the hypertunnel effect, but something seemed…. off about it. Lazlo started sliding down the crater to the center as a lot of firepower was aimed at me by the security forces. My odds of escaping this were pretty good, but making a run for it would blow whatever cover I had left at this point. I was then promptly blamed for bringing an Artificer to this world. While correct, I didn’t feel that the accusation was an adequate summary of the issue here. Demanding explanations of me for what just happened to the warehouse didn’t go over well as I don’t have a clue what insane experiment Ben just cooked up in there.

L   azlo – hearing about the emergency – arrived shortly after the incident, tried to investigate the crater – and found that the inside was incredibly smooth. Virtually frictionless..

Lazlo’s sliding around the apparently frictionless crater was something to watch, and I suspected it was a vital clue as to what happened, but I wasn’t a hyperspace expert able to reason through this. The security hauled us off to the local station for questioning on the incident as their people scanned the crater for clues. The security chief reminded me a lot of Officer Larson back on Alderaan as I simply could not distract him from the story that I was a Sith hunting Kira Keldav.

Eventually Security Chief Olson delivered an ultimatum: either I tell the truth about me being Kira Keldav, or he would make my life very difficult while I was on the planet. Well damn it, so much for this whole scheme. I can fool mighty Sith Lords, Bounty Hunters, the Republic, and the party, but I can’t seem to con my way past the humble security forces. Maybe at heart I am still that stupid punk from Alderaan after all.

Finally relenting, I proceeded to explain who we were, why we were here, what we’ve accomplished thus far, and what we hoped to achieve. Olson didn’t really seem happy with the whole idea of us being here, and he was adamant about seeing proof that we didn’t kill all those people. Lazlo was brought in to confirm what we told them and we demonstrated the stasis belts for Olson as a show that would could dispose of people temporarily without killing them.

It took a great deal of convincing from both myself and Lazlo in order to get Olson to “cooperate” with us. Even if said cooperation mostly entailed neglecting to notice our presence in the area or confirming it as needed. We were given a copy of the scans his people had performed on the crater, but neither Lazlo or I could make heads or tails of it. All the people that could have are now missing. Along with our warehouse we were manufacturing the stasis systems.

The information they’d gotten was basically that a hyperspace transition had been recorded, but that no exit transition had occurred – and that the signals from inside had redshifted out of existence when whatever had happened had happened.

The planetary security forces were not happy with Kira’s explanation – but they weren’t happy with the Sith either, it was their duty to resist the occupation – and the Sith would turn the place into a disaster eventually no matter what. There wasn’t all that much choice except to turn a blind eye to Kira’s activities.

Drat, well no way I can help the others get out of whatever mess they’ve gotten themselves into. I am going to have to send a message to the asteroids telling them to build more stasis units to hypertunnel here in the worst case scenario, in the meantime I going to have to get the resistance to see if they can duplicate Ben’s design to make more. Hmm, I better include in that message to the asteroids a note to go hunting for mercenaries, techs, and volunteers to work on getting those fleets operational again. Maybe with the asteroids building parts and droids, some of those ships could be made operational in time to make a difference.

I also need to make preparations to track down those showing Codex abilities that Ben found so that they can properly evaluated and trained once the occupation ends. Sigh, yet another mess to clean up.

Thaumaturgic Variations – Amnesia Magic

   Like most of the magic systems in Eclipse, Thaumaturgy is open-ended. Characters are free to name and develop their own fields of magic and the eight occult skills within it – and most Thaumaturgists do so, making each one unique.

   This time around, it’s one of the more off-the-wall fields out there – Amnesia Magic. That isn’t a common field – or at least, if it is, no one seems to remember that.

   In any case, before I forget about it, here are the eight magical skills of Amnesia Magic:

  • Ability Removal. This straightforward skill allows the user to take away learned abilities and to make creatures forget how to use inherent ones. In general, the more deeply ingrained the ability, the harder it is to remove it. Making a wizard forget a few of his or her most powerful spells is fairly easy; that ability is complex and was acquired relatively recently. Making someone forget how to walk is a great deal harder.
  • Forget the Trauma. This subtle skill allows the user to counter mental disturbances and problems – at least for a time – at the lower levels, to accelerate the healing of wounds and injuries that would heal naturally given time at middle levels by “pushing them into the past” or to temporarily wipe away greater problems. At the highest levels it will allow even death to be forgotten temporarily and can instantly heal fairly severe injuries.
  • Forget The Prophecy. This skill covers breaking the chains of destiny. At lower levels it can remove lesser curses, minor blessings, and other low-grade “permanent” effects. At middle levels it can remove effects of greater power and cause mildly unlikely events to become likely At the highest levels it can allow individuals to break free from the confines of fate, break almost any destiny or curse, and repurpose dedicated items.
  • Forgetfulness. This straightforward skill covers spells that make creatures forget. At it’s simplest, this can wipe away a few recent moments, cover social gaffes, and make creatures hesitate in combat. Midrange spells can unbind weaker ghosts and make creatures forget about their abilities, or perhaps which side they’re on. High level effects can expunge major chunks of memory, allow easy retraining, or reduce an unfortunate victim to near-infancy – at least on the mental level.
  • Remembering What is Not. This skill covers creating memories of things which did not happen. At the lowest levels this can make people seem like casual acquaintances, suggest odd ideas, and make people think they’ve been paid. At middle levels it can create detailed memories and create “old” traumas and phobias. At the highest levels it allows the user to overwrite old memories with powerful, detailed, new memories of things which never happened, recall events from other dimensions and alternate realities, and to remember accurate information that he or she never had in the first place.
  • The Universe Has Forgotten. This skill allows the user to bury things in the past. At it’s simplest, it can be used to end spells other effects with durations, to wipe away trails, magical and psychic residues, and to make things seem old. At middle levels it covers dispelling effects, wiping away long-term records, and actually making objects older. At the highest levels it covers restoring objects and areas to their original conditions, banishing objects and creatures into pocket dimensions, and rendering things out of phase.
  • This Seems Familiar. This skill covers knowing how to do things without actually having to learn how to do them. At low levels this can be used to cast spells which enhance existing skills or to operate unfamiliar items and equipment. At middle levels the user can gain bonuses to skills that he or she does not actually have. At the highest levels this can be used to perform exotic magical rituals, cast minor spells from other fields, and to temporarily bestow formidable skills.
  • Willful Ignorance. This skill allows the user to ignore or misinterpret things. At it’s lowest level it covers resisting mind-influencing effects. At middle levels it can be used to baffle divinations, operate devices that are attuned to particular races, abilities, or alignments, to fail to understand things that annoy you, or to ignore other conditions, such as nausea. At it’s highest levels it allows the user to get things to work that shouldn’t, such as simply ignoring the physical environment, getting fire spells to work underwater, or gluing someone’s arm back on and having it take.

   Amnesia Magic is thus mostly relatively subtle. In general, it won’t blast your foes, teleport you from place to place, conjure monsters to defend you, or weave illusions.

   It can, however, make your enemies into friends and allies, persuade sea-captains to carry you where you want to go, confuse monsters into attacking each other, or make people remember a years-long past relationship that never happened – and, if you use it cleverly, that’s often more than good enough.