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Synthbuttrange
May 6, 2007

Kurieg posted:

:allears:
Yes, cooking, the gift that as-written allows you to cut a hole in the roof of a high-rise, stick a ladle in it, and turn everything in the building, living or dead, into a nutritious slurry.

They changed the wording in W20 for this reason.

:stare: What exactly is the wording for it?

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Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:

SynthOrange posted:

:stare: What exactly is the wording for it?

I don't have the 1st edition core book, but in revised and 2nd edition they specifically say "A Small Cooking Pot" that you had to put the ladle into and stir it into a gruel.

In 1st edition it just said "a Container". Does a grain silo of dead bodies count as a container? Does a building? Does a baseball stadium?

Synthbuttrange
May 6, 2007

Neat. Trapped in a locked room with monsters? Just pull out your ladle and start swinging it around.

Kurieg
Jul 19, 2012

RIP Lutri: 5/19/20-4/2/20
:blizz::gamefreak:
Well no, you need to be outside of it. Otherwise you get turned into gruel too.

ThisIsNoZaku
Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!
I don't think it's been said for a few days, so I want to remind you all that CthuluTech is loving horrible



Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade- Wushu Two: Electric Boogaloo

Here's where we finish of the Wushu, with the clan specific techniques. These are generally most interesting, however.

Again, one's I particularly like will be marked as :ninja:.

Way of Balancing Scales The Wardens of Equilibrium wushu
The Balanced Mind (Level 1, Yin)
Get bonuses to discipline and Will saves checks vs. Fear and Insanity.

:ninja:Chi Conversion (Level 1, Yin or Yang)
Activate this wushu and for 1 minutes, you can use points of Yin chi as Yang, and vice versa, to activate other wushu. Sacrifice one chi and you can burn Permanent chi for each other the same way.

Weak early on, since it has a long use time (1 minute to activate), but once you've advanced some and gotten a bigger pool of chi, it starts looking better.

Many Tongues (Level 2, Yin)
Become able to fluently speak a language after listening to a few words for one scene. Doesn't say you understand it, though. :smuggo:

X-Ray (Level 2, Yin)
Use chi to see and hear through physical objects.

:ninja:Mind's Eye (Level 3, Yin(
You sense your surroundings by "seeing" chi, rather than hearing or seeing. You ignore blindness, can see 360 degrees around you, are immune to surprise attacks and pierce Level 1 and 2 Path of the Unseen Wushu.

See Chi (Level 3, Yang)
Let's you track chi the way a dog tracks smells. :3

:ninja:Destroy Chi (Level 4, Yin & Yang)
Cost 2 Yin and 2 Yang chi to activate. For the rest of the battle, whenever you hit someone with an unarmed attack, you can spend chi to blast their chi out of their body; spending Yang destroys Yin and vice versa. Sacrifice 2 chi to destroy 3 chi per round, without having to spend any of your own.

:ninja:Drain Chi (Level 4, Yin and Yang) Yes, it says "and" when the entry just before it used an ampersand.
When you hit a target and deal 2 or more damage, you can inflict no damage to instead steal a point of chi for two rounds. Sacrifice 1 chi to steal up to 3 per hit, increase the duration to 6 rounds or to let you do it just by touching, so you don't need to do damage.

:ninja:Poison Chi (Level 5, Yin)
Hit a guy and do 3 or more damage, and whenever the target spends any chi in the next minute, they lose 4 health.

Way of Caring Hands Bamboo Herbalist wushu
Diagnostics (Level 1, Yin)
Look at someone and instantly know if they're sick or injured. Get bonuses to fix those problems.

Quick Needle Technique (Level 1, Yang)
Pluck some of your hairs and put chi into them to turn them into needles. Throw the needles like shuriken or get a whopping +2 to holistics. :jerkbag:

Pure Touch (Level 1, Yin)
Touch someone to purify any natural poisons in their body and weaken supernatural ones.

Healing Trance (Level 2, Yin)
Enter a trance to heal twice as fast. Last at least 6 hours and up to 3 days. Useful, but not cool.

Heal Wound (Level 2, Yang)
Touch someone to heal some damage or give them some Stamina. Half effect when you heal yourself.

Confusion Touch (Level 3, Yin)
Hit some pressure points to scramble the electrical impulses in the targets body. This increase their chance to fumble and swaps their Strike and Dodge modifiers and their Roll and Grapple modifiers.

Paralysis Needles (Level 3, Yin)
Throw three needles and if they all hit, the target is paralyzed for a minute.

Regeneration Technique (Level 4, Yang)
Heal damage and get initiative and fortitude bonuses every round for 1 minute.

Lasting Life Technique (Level 5, Yang)
Resurrection. Return to life a person or animal that died within the last six hours. Sacrifice chi to extend this range to up to three days.

Way of Ebony Clutches Grasping Shadows wushu
Dark Eyes (Level 1, Yin)
You can see in darkness, and retain some vision ability if blinded.

:ninja:Shadow Cloak (Level 1, Yin)
Wrap yourself in shadows, making you harded to spot and obscuring your features enough so you can't be identified.

Puppetry (Level 1, Yang)
Make shadow puppets.

:ninja:Shadow Fist (Level 2, Yang)
Make a barrage of shadows to strike a target.

Master of Night (Level 2, Yin)
Makes everything within a half-mile radius as dark as night. Other Ebony Clutches wushu are easier to activate in the area.

Blinding Darkness (Level 3, Yin)
Creates magical darkness, in a much smaller area that Master of Night, that blocks all light.

Shadow Tentacles (Level 3, Yang)
Create tentacles out of shadows you can grab people with.

Unmoving Shadow (Level 4, Yin)
You stick the targets shadow in place, so they can't move.

:ninja: Shadow Jump (Level 4, Yang)
Activate and for a battle or scene, you can step into a shadow and step out of another one nearby.

Grasping Shadows (Level 5, Yin)
Shadows envelop the target and they are imprisoned in the Shadow Realm for a day then spit back out.

Way of Great Serpents rear end in a top hat snake guys wushu.
Long Tongue Technique (Level 1, Yang)
Your tongue grows 5ft long and prehensile. You can pick things up with it or make attack.

Sip of Venom (Level 1, Yin)
Drink a bit of "potion" and you know what it is.

Swallow (Level 1, Yang)


:ninja: Acid Spit (Level 2, Yang)
Turn your spit into acid.

Adaptation Technique (Level 2, Yin)
Negate terrain penalties.

Shed Skin (Level 2, Yang)
Slough off your outer layers of skin for some healing and... an Initiative bonus? :psyduck:

:ninja: Venom Strike (Level 3, Yin)
Grow snake fangs at the end of your fingers, which you can use to poison the poo poo out of someone .

:ninja: Up the Sleeves (Level 3, Yang)
Summon a bunch of snakes that swarm out of the sleeves of your shirt and bite the poo poo out of someone.

Nagah Form (Level 4, Yang)
Turn your lower half into a snake. Makes you move better.

Shed form (Level 4, Yang)
Grow a new body inside yourself that then climbs out of your mouth. Heals all damage and regrows limbs.

This entire clan has gone from "snake themed" to "Blatant Orochimaru clones."

Poison Body Technique (Level 5, Yin)
Turn all your body fluids into a deadly poison. Yes, it does specify "sexual encounters" in the list of things you do that will kill people now.

Way of Heaven's Judgement Will of Iron Wushu
Paladin Powers
Sense the Guilty (level 1, Yin)
Sense if someone is guilty about a crime they committed. Doesn't work on sociopaths, though, 'cause they won't feel bad. :smuggo:

Hunt the Guilty (Level 1, Yin)
Bonuses to anything you do to try and catch a guilty person you're hunting down.

Deception-Proof (Level 2, Yang)
Detect Lies

Blind Justice (Level 2, Yin)
Ignore penalties from blindness/bad vision.

Eye for an Eye (Level 3, Yang)
Get hit by an attack, deal half as much damage back.

Instant Justice (Level 3, Yin)
Put a curse on someone you see doing something wrong and the same thing will happen to them within the next few days.

Divulgence (Level 4, Yang)
Zone of Truth

:ninja:Judgement Blade (Level 5, Yin - Metal)
Mingle the spirit of your weapon with that of the victim of a violent crime. The weapon does +15 damage to the perpetrator of the crime, but passes harmlessly through anyone else, like in the clan founding story.

Way of the Immaculate show Blazing Dancers Wushu
The Perfect Show (Level 1, Yang)
Gain a +5 bonus to a non-wushu performance check.

Oh.

Boy.

The Beautiful Dance (Level 2, Yang)
Add your performance to all your Reactions for 2 rounds, and they all have less Speed. Actually pretty powerful.

Star of the Show (Level2, Yang)
You "[brighten your] aura" to make people like you whenever they look at you.

Hypnotic Voice (level 3, Yang)
You use your chi in your voice to enthrall people who hear you.

loving bards.

Trick Shots (Level 3, Yang)
Use chi to bounce ranged attacks off surfaces.

Shattering Song (Level 4, Yin)
Damage objects with sound.

:ninja: Understudy (Level 4, Yang)
Pick someone, you get +4 to all your combat checks against them and can copy all their Combat Techniques.

"It took your four years to master that technique. It took me four seconds." :smuggo:

The Destroyer's Dance (Level 5, Yang - Fire)
You're wrapped in chi and fire. Get a bunch of bonuses in combat.

Way of Inked Skin Body Gardeners Wushu
All of these are pretty interesting.
Ink Touch (Level 1, Yang)
Touch someone and put some ink on their skin.

Withdraw Weapon (Level 1, Yang)
Draw a tattoo weapon out of your body.

:ninja: Artful Defense (Level 2, Yin)
Activate when you're hit with a weapon to turn it into a tattoo on your body.

Tiger's Claws (Level 2, Yang)
Get some magical tattoos on your hands so your nails are super deadly.

:ninja: Needles of Agony (Level 3, Yang)
Needs you to use Ink Touch on the target. Turn the ink into needles stuck into the targets body, inflicts big penalties from the pain.

Pain Killer (Level 3, Yin)
Special tattoos that you can activate to eliminate pain.

Shuriken Explosion (Level 3, Yang)
You're covered with shuriken tattoos you can shoot out from your body.

:ninja:Complete Control (level 4, Yang)
Needs Ink Touch. You use the ink to control the targets actions.

:ninja:Mark of Fear (Level 4, Yin)
You have a bunch of tattoos on your face that you can make come alive and scare people.

:ninja: Extra Arm Technique (Level 5, Yang)
Special tattoos and some blood lets you grow extra arms.

Way of Kept Lore
The Long View (Level 1, Yin)
Add your Knowledge to your Initiative.

Refusal of Bedlam (Level 2, Yin)
Bonus to discipline and mental attacks.

Instant Reading (Level 2, Yang)
Touch a book, instantly learn everything it in for 1 day.

Yeah, you forget it.

:ninja: Setting the Words Loose (Level 3, Yang)
Touch an empty book (but only books :smuggo:) and will the knowledge in your head onto the pages.

Preserve the Words (Level 3, Yin)
Copy words on a piece of writing to copy it into a tattoo on your skin. Get bonuses based on what the writing was, but only for a couple hours.

:ninja: Worthy Borrower (Level 4, Yang)
Lets you give someone points of your chi. Sacrifice chi to let them use some of your wushu.

:ninja: Information consumption (Level 5, Yang)
A ritual that lets you steal the knowledge right out of the subjects mind.

Way of Spun Threads Hidden Strands of Fate Wushu
Invisible Threads (Level 1, Yin)
Turn your imbued threads invisible and lightweight. Used for traps and faking like you have telekinesis.

:ninja: Strumming the Chords (Level 1, Yang)
Change your vocal chords to make yourself sounds scarier or mimic stuff.

I give it's :ninja: tentatively.

Spider's Scry (Level 2, Yin)
Touch one of your threads and you can hear any sounds conversations within 20 ft of it.

Tentative :ninja:

Thread Web (Level 2, Yang)
Use your threads to create a web, for whatever use you can devise.

Blast of Webbing (Level 3, Yin)
You've heard of Spider Man, right?

:ninja: Battle Strands (Level 3, Yang)
Use your threads to basically hold and attack with weapons for you.

Clothing Change (Level 4, Yang)
Touch some non-armor clothing to make it look different.

:ninja: Cloth Mask (Level 4, Yang)
Make a mask of some chi-imbued cloth and apply it to your face. The mask turns into a fake but completely real-seeming face and you look and act like the person the mask resembles.

“Some Strands have even been known to create entire suits of imbued clothe in order to become the opposite gender.” Thanks, game. Thanks you for telling me that.

:ninja: Spider's Charm (Level 5, Yin)
Use your blood for threads. Gives bonuses to your related wushu when you use your bloodthreads, plus you can use them like whips.

Way of Twin Beasts Ninja Dog-Haver Wushu
The Hunt Begins (Level 1, Yang)
Bonuses to tracking.

In the High Grass (Level 1, Yin)
Bonuses to hiding and on Surprise Attacks.

Prodigious Howl (Level 2, Yang)
Howl really loud and deafen people. Inflicts penalties and the Dog-Havers also use it to communicate at long distance.

Canine Form (Level 2, Yang)
Take the physical form of your dog.

Linked Souls (Level 3, Yang)
Telepathy with your dog.

Meet in the Middle (Level 3, Yang)
Do a combo with your dog: you attack, then your dog attack and then you attack simultaneously for the third. Get bonuses if the first two attacks hit.

Animal Within (Level 4, Yang)
You take on “a bestial appearance,” with pointed ears, fangs and claws.

Human Form (Level 4, Yang)
The opposite of Canine Form, you turn your dog into a physical copy of yourself. They now act like a separate character from you.

Twin-Beast form (level 5, Yang)
Meld yourself and your dog into a giant, two-headed dog-ogre monster.

Signature Wushu
You can invent your own personal wushu. This can be done a few different ways.

First is by tweaking an existing wushu.

Next is by combing two wushu together. You can't combine wushu of different chi types, or that take different actions to activate. Combine the levels of the two to determine the new Wushu's level.

You can make completely new wushu. There are some guidelines for determine the Level based on what effect it has.

Next is the Equipment and Combat sections, smushed together for some reason.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



The History of Spring Crescent Middle School

Founded in 1913, Spring Crescent was a perfectly normal school for perfectly normal children, until 1947, when Dr. Norman Levitt was appointed as the new principal of Spring Crescent Middle School. Not much is known about Norman Levitt. He was, seemingly, independently wealthy, rich enough to get an Ivy League education. While he did little learning of proper curriculum, he was inducted into a number of secret societies and hidden cults, where he obtained a distinct interest in the occult and black magic. Using his powers, and a healthy dose of blackmail, Levitt graduated, leaving America to tour Europe after the first World War to seek out new black magics.

While in Europe, Levitt had come upon rumors of a witch-boy in Bavaria. Finally finding the child, named only Hans in 1934, Levitt proceeded to study the strange child. While he had no parents, guardians, or even friends, Hans lived a comfortable, happy, healthy life. Weeks of observation garnered him nothing, but the intense feeling that something was not normal about the child. Eventually Levitt decided that he must force the boy to use... whatever talents he possesses. With this in mind Levitt began using black magic and mental suggestion to cause a rash of curses, all pointing to the Witch-Boy Hans as the culprit. Eventually a mob formed to take care of the Witch-Child, with Levitt hot on their heels to observe how Hans would defend himself. When the mob approached Hans' woodland cabin, they were met by a tall man in Napoleonic dress wielding a bayoneted musket. When the crowd tried to force their way past him, the soldier suddenly grew to immense size, sprouting bayonets and muskets from its body, tearing the crowd to pieces. When the mob fled, the monster picked up Hans, and fled with him into the woods.

This encounter fascinated Levitt. A skilled magician could, with considerable effort, kill a single person, but this strange creature had just annihilated an entire mob, and came out none the worse for wear! He had become determined to learn more about the strange and seemingly limitless power of these “guardian demons”.

With this in mind, he returned to America and entered the field of children's education. Using his powers, he hid is dark past, and quickly made a name for himself as an innovative and effective educator. He quickly found a position as the Principal of Spring Crescent Middle School, and began to enact his plan. First, he spent five years renovating the school, adding two new wings and making across-the-campus upgrades, payed for with blackmail and corruption. These renovations were merely a cover to allow Levitt to instal mystic wards and sigils across the school, designed to detect and counter any monster or other supernatural being entering the school.

It wasn't until 1952 that the first monster set foot in Spring Crescent. Billy and his werewolf like monster Bad were first seen by the science teacher, Bartleby Hebig. The shock of the experience drove him into a terrified stupor, turning to alcoholism and denial. Levitt soon realized that something was going wrong in his domain, as Bad continued to act, but could not pinpoint the cause of the disturbances until he managed to catch Mr. Hebig on a drunken bender one night. Levitt managed to milk the story out of the inebriated teacher, and, realizing he may need help against Billy, told him enough of the truth to get him to join Levitt. And thus the Spring Crescent Conspiracy was born.

Levitt and Hebig managed to trap Bad and separate him from Billy. Billy was expelled and locked away in a sanitarium, while Bad became Levitt's personal guinea pig. Through the 50's, the conspiracy expanded, and took care of two more monsters. One was destroyed, and the other bound to Dr. Levitt. The Conspiracy felt assured of themselves, positive that the monsters were no threat to them, until 1960, when the new incoming class had seven kids with seven monsters, all united under the leadership of one Caroline Jolly-Kidd and her monster Black Slayer.

This sparked the first Conspiracy-Kid war. Nothing happened for most of the year, with the kids ignorant of the Conspiracy, and Levitt unsure of how he would battle seven monsters working together. Eventually, a secretary named Wilma, a junior member of the Conspiracy, tried to tackle Caroline and Black Slayer, but was defeated, her mind shattered by Black Slayer's powers. His began the war in earnest, though on a limited scale. The Conspiracy harassed and ostracized the children, trying to break their spirits and make them vulnerable to the spells that would bind their monsters, while the children fought back wherever they could, foiling ever plan the Conspiracy enacted.

Eventually Levitt found a plan that would work. He developed a mystic ritual that would transfer the power of a monster into seven normal humans, transforming them into part-monster freaks under the command of the ritual master. Gathering fourteen of the lowest ranking members of the conspiracy, Levitt sacrificed the two monsters he had bound, and turned them into Gidim.

With this new army, Levitt confronted Caroline's group on the night of Graduation, determined to kill or bind their monsters. The resulting battle resulted in the near annihilation of the school in a massive fire, and the death of everyone involved except for Dr. Levitt, Mr. Hebig, two Gidim, and Caroline Jolly-Kidd. Caroline survived thanks to her monster, Black Slayer, sacrificing himself by transforming into a likeness of Caroline to cover her disappearance. She hasn't been heard of since. Dr. Levitt was crippled, and died of his wounds a year later, turning over leadership of the Conspiracy to Hebig. As per instructions, Levitt was buried in a hidden room in the school, and his spirit still watches over the school and the Conspiracy.

Since then, the Conspiracy has only grown more powerful. For more than 40 years, only a handful of monsters have escaped the school, and the Conspiracy has expanded massively. Now under the leadership of Mr. Stanmeyer, the Conspiracy has grown fat and complacent, forgetting to fear monsters.

It's time for a lesson in humility.

Next Time: Machinations of the Conspiracy

Hutter
Feb 16, 2011

It's been giving me nightmares.
I vote for Art and Academe.

Arashiofordo3
Nov 5, 2010

Warning, Internet
may prove lethal.

Wapole Languray posted:



The History of Spring Crescent Middle School

Oh I like this. Settings like this are exactly the kinda thing I go in for. I really hope that someone runs a Monsters & Other Childish Things PBP at some point because I would be all over that. :allears:

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

I'm currently getting a 2 player game running with my girlfriend and her cousin. Once they've got a handle on the game I might post a recruitment here for a PbP or Roll20 campaign.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018

Ancient Magic won the roll.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Ancient Magic deals in lost arts of the past...and what art is more lost and ancient than the tongue of Adam, in which Adam named all things? The Adamic language is the most pure descriptive language in the world. It is the first tongue, perhaps even that spoken by God to create the universe. The power of naming may well be the first form of magic, ever, and there is good reason to learn the Adamic tongue. Fluency in Adamic allows you to name anything in range of your voice, creating a permanent Arcane Connection to that thing, and gaining an Arcane Connection to any mundane thing you know the name of. Further, even rudimentary knowledge of Adamic allows for greater ease in piercing Magic Resistance so long as you know the target's name. Further, when you Name something for the first time, before it has ever had any name before, you subtly change and influence its destiny.

Adamic doesn't even need to be integrated into Hermetic magic - just knowing Adamic is enough to make it work. The hard part is learning Adamic. There are no living humans who still speak it, and no written records of the language. There are a few ways to learn it, though. First: find a newborn with the Gift, then raise it to the age of five without any contact with other languages. Ever. The innocence of the child will cause them to naturally speak Adamic, though not anywhere near fluently. But it is, at least, a start. By the age of 5, that innocence is lost and the child will need to learn Adamic formally, as anyone else does.

Option two: Reconstruct the language from contemporary sources. You'll want to head back to the Tower of Babel for this, to discover the languages that Adamic was shattered into. Of course, hunting for ancient Babylon will not be easy - the place is located in the desert outside Baghdad, and it'll be a hunt to find. Plus Xerxes and Alexander the Great may have destroyed a good part of it, along with all people of the area, who stole the stones for building. Oh, and there's an Infernal pit and regio containing two chained angels, Harut and Marut, who hang upside down in penance for their sin. Also, the Mongols are in the area and unlikely to be friendly. In the next 15 years, they plan to turn the entire area into a staging camp. Still, hunting in Babel might find evidence of the original four languages: Semitic, named for Noah's son Shem and from which Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic grew, Hamitic, named for Noah's son Ham and from which Egyptian and Coptic descend, Scythian, descended from Noah's son Japheth and ancestor to Slavic, Baltic and Persian, and the unnamed fourth language, perhaps rightly called Cainite, which is ancestor to Greek, Latin and the Germanic languages. You're going to want to learn at least two of these ancient tongues via linguistic research, then study ancient Mesopotamia so that you can use that to reconstruct Adamic from those two (or more) tongues.

Option three: Seek out the Garden of Eden. The inhabitants still speak Adamic, and so it can be learned there. Biblical scholars know that Eden lies at the meeting of four rivers: the Psion, the Gihon, the Hideikkel and the Euphrates. Of those, only the Euphrates is still used. But hey, find those four rivers' meeting point and you will find a hidden Divine regio containing Eden. Now you have to get to the Garden. To do that, you havee to pass the guardians. They will not allow any human being to enter the Garden, nor any reptiles, who are kin to Serpents. Any attempt to fight them will just get you kicked out of the regio. Of course, non-humans and non-reptiles may enter and leave the place freely. So, turn yourself into an animal. You must remain in that shape for the entire time of your visit. Oh, and don't be a faerie or infernal being - they can't come in, either. All faeries are banned, for the fae are essentially intertwined with humans. All infernal beings are banned as Serpent-kin. Divine beings, however, may enter or leave freely.

So, you're inside the Garden of Eden now. It's a timeless paradise of animals and plants, where no one ever hungers or thirsts, is never in want for anything and all is peaceful. Magi who enter lose the Gift while within the Garden, and so are not offensive to animals but also may not do magic. Any active magic remains going, though. All animals within the Garden may speak as humans do, and all the beasts of the Garden speak Adamic and no other tongue. They're still not smart or anything - they're just animals. All animals are friendly, if not tame - they are ambivalent to newcomers, not hostile. They have no real sense of time, and will not remember you if you leave and come back. They know nothing of good or evil, right or wrong, sin or virtue, and have extreme trouble with these concepts. The closest they can get is 'instinctive' - the animals know that it is proper to follow their instincts and improper to act against them. Attacking each other is improper, for example. Befriending the animals may allow you to learn Adamic from them, but they make poor teachers. They need nothing, so there is nothing to offer them for tutelage. They can be threatened, but any attempt to harm them will have you ejected from the Garden. They do, however, like to hear stories of their descendants outside the Garden, and may well help out if they believe you're related to them. Otherwise, you're stuck learning Adamic solely by exposure, which is a very slow process.

Oh, and you should be careful. There are two trees within the Garden that you might well be interested in. One is a pomegranate tree, the other a fig. The former is the Tree of Knowledge, the latter the Tree of Life. All the native animals know never to touch these trees and will warn you not to touch them as well. If you do, they will shun you, and the only way to find the trees is to ignore them and explore alone. The scent of the fruits is overwhelming and irresistable to intelligent beings, calling to all desires, both virtuous and base. It requires great willpower to resist the smell of the fruits. Anyone who eats of either tree is immediately removed from the Garden, along with every animal of the same species. Such beasts, like humans and reptiles, will never more be allowed into Eden.

Should you eat of the Tree of Knowledge, different effects happen depending on what you are. A beast becomes fully intelligent. A normal human is given the Gift. The Gifted are warped by powerful magic. Those who eat of the Tree of Life immediately fall into a deep sleep from which it may be very hard to awaken. Once they do awaken, however, they become magical beings, no longer mortal and human. In either case, actually, you don't become human. As soon as you eat the fruit, you are permanently locked in the form you were in - that is now your true form. Sure, you can use magic to change your shape, but your natural form is that of the animal you were at the time.

Last option: there actually is one being left on Earth who speaks Adamic. His name is Cain, firstborn son of Adam, and he is cursed by God for murdering his brother, marked and doomed to wander the earth. You could learn it from Cain. Of course, some say Cain was twisted by the Mark, becoming a monster the feasts on flesh and blood. Some say the mark of Cain is, instead, a physical mark - the sign of the Cross burned on the forehead. Others say it is a metaphysical quality, which makes Cain seem to have an aura of evil and monstrous features, which keep others from getting near. It is not clear to Biblical scholars who Cain's wife was or where she came from - she just kind of appears in the Bible. But he did have a son, Enoch, and many daughters. No one is entirely sure where they lived. Some suggest that the Roman god Vulcan was a descendant of Cain, for one of Cain's great-great-grandchildren with Lilith was Lamech, who had a son named Tubalcain who was a smith. 'B' and 'V' were often used interchangeably in early European languages. So perhaps Vulcan might know where Cain is. Lamech, incidentally, tried to kill his father by shooting him in the heart. For his troubles, he was given the curse of Cain, but more severely transformed. He became a wild beast and is not mentioned again.

But okay, you need to find Cain. Cain is a shadow of himself, neither living nor dead, neither damned nor saved. He became, in fact, a faerie, a creature of darkness and death. His original curse was a form of faerie blood, and when Cain was murdered, he became a true faerie creature, perhaps the first dark faerie. Part of Cain's curse is that there are seven shadows of Cain that wander the world, each slightly different, each terrible and frightening. All of them are Cain, and know what he knew when he died. They want what he wanted. So while there is but one Cain, he can be in seven places at once, and this is the sevenfold vengeance of the Bible. Cain's aspects usually travel alone, but may come together to create a more potent whole, and always do so when they meet. Each fragment of Cain has its own focus for why it kills - the Wrathful Cain kills for vengeance, while the Fearful Cain kills from ambush out of terror. Adamic is the only language in which Cain is fluent; otherwise he speaks a garble of dialects and tongues that never makes much sense. Convincing Cain to teach Adamic is difficult, for he is petty and vengeful, and a poor teacher. Still, some schoalrs say Cain does possess a soul, for God did not drat him for his sins but give him the Mark of Cain instead. Perhaps, then, Cain can still be saved from damnation. If Cain could be made to understand and believe this, he might well teach you Adamic in exchange for hearing his confessions. (He might even enjoy the chance to brag about his deeds.)

On the other hand, maybe you'll need to force Cain to cooperate. He is susceptible to Divine things and the Dominion, so capturing him and threatening him with them will make him shriek in terror and perhaps help you. The touch of a relic burns him like fire, and the torture will make him yield...though it will earn you an immortal, terrible foe. But don't kill Cain. Anyone who kills Cain inherits his curse, becoming a twisted creature like him. Also he'll come back to life anyway. Eventually.


And that's why they made Cain a faerie.

Next time: Canaanite Necromancy

Arashiofordo3
Nov 5, 2010

Warning, Internet
may prove lethal.

Wapole Languray posted:

I'm currently getting a 2 player game running with my girlfriend and her cousin. Once they've got a handle on the game I might post a recruitment here for a PbP or Roll20 campaign.

Well you've got me interested.

I've been running a campaign using the system for the past two years. Admittedly I've not used a bunch of the mechanics nor the settings. But it's been my GMing trial by fire. But I've never actually been a player in a game of it before.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

In the ancient land of Canaan, there was a tradition of necromancy. Even after the Israelites conquered it, the necromancers continued their existence in the city of En-Dor, until the purge of the prophets and witches conducted by King Saul. This is common knowledge among the educated - after all, it's in the Bible. First Samuel talks about it. However, the details of the tradition have been lost to time. You see, Saul and the prophet Samuel had a great struggle, and to get rid of Samuel, Saul purged all prophets and magicians in the land, killing every Canaanite necromancer save for one. When the final days of his reign came, though, he needed her advice to try and divine the will of God by summoning the spirit of the prophet Samuel. And so he went to Zephaniah, the Witch of En-Dor, last of the necromancers. The ghost refused to help Saul, of course, and as it predicted, Saul was defeated the next day by the Philistines, and David became the next King of Israel.

The Canaanite necromancers practiced an ancient art that allowed them to communicate with, command and summon the dead, replicating the effects of many Hermetic spells. Despite the Biblical prohibitions of necromancy, the Canaanite magicians were neither Divine nor Infernal - they were magical, though the Goetic arts offer an Infernal variant on their power. A Hermetic might well study under Zephaniah or someone she taught to try and integrate the power of Canaanite Necromancy, though it would hardly be an easy task. It should be understood - there were never any texts on necromancy. The Canaanites practiced a purely oral magical tradition. Should a magus manage to complete the theory, however, they would unlock the power to target any dead spirit with their magic, gain a permanent Arcane Connection to all dead people everywhere and get all the benefits of that. Unfortunately, there are downsides: the connection both ways, for one, though few ghosts have the power to take advantage of it. Second, the dead can always sense a necromancer. Any dead spirit or ghost will know when you get within seven miles and may easily track you in that range.

So, who counts as dead? "The dead" is defined as any mortal man, woman or child that has died but has not yet entered Heaven. (Samuel, in the days of Saul, could be summoned because it was not until the coming of Christ that Heaven was opened even to the saints, who prior to that had dwelled beneath the earth.) Mortals in Hell or Purgatory count, as do those that die in Faerie or Magic realms, and any and all ghosts of any kind. Magi in Final Twilight, those who become faeries and those who become magical beings do not count. Canaanite necromancy also cannot interact with dead animals, just humans. Fae, angels, demons and magical creatures never count, living or dead. Those who reside in Heaven cannot be touched, but those who receive a Divine burial can be, if they have not yet entered Heaven. It is slightly more dangerous, but possible. The immunity to necromancy granted by the Last Rites is, after all, only a flaw in Hermetic theory, which does not exist in Canaanite magical theory.

as a note, there are still some problems in dealing with ghosts. The ancient dead are not going to speak your language, and even when you get past that language barrier, they often are simply unable to even comprehend modern concepts such as new nations, modern magical theory and so on. They also tend to resent being disturbed, so you will often have to force them to cooperate. Sadly, Canaanite necromancy also provides no clear answers on the nature of the afterlife - the dead cannot communicate any information on the afterlife, save for who is in it. Possibly this is a flaw in both Hermetic and Canaanite theory.

But how will you learn this, when every Canaanite necromancer is dead? Well, the last necromancer, Zephaniah, did leave a ghost. She resides still in fallen En-Dor, within a hidden regio in the ruins. En-Dor is somewhere on Mount Hermon, near the town of Tiberias on the shores of Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee. This is relatively well-known, and the area around En-Dor has been the site of pilgrimages. However, it is under Muslim control these days. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell which pilgrimage site actually is En-Dor, and finding it will take time. It would be wise to study the lore of Canaan and the Holy Land first, to make finding En-Dor easier. Fortunately, several books exist on the subject, though many may need a rabbi's help to get ahold of, and probably some literacy in ancient Hebrew unless you can get a translated copy of the Mishnas.

But let's assume you've found En-Dor. The lower bounds of the regio are abandoned, save for a single old man named Roland of Toulouse, who has been living the area since the 1180s. He prays three times a day and survives solely on the water of the stream of En-Dor, which acts as a longevity enhancer to those who drink it. (The water also contains Divine vis.) Roland knows of a cave nearby that is home to "an old Jewish woman" whom he's tried to speak with, but always failed because she speaks only Hebrew and he's bad at Hebrew. The cave is actually the way to get further into the regio. The cave leads into a valley, which can only be entered or left via the cave - the regio does not allow any other ways out or in. There are no living inhabitants, but several dozen ghosts - the Canaanite necromancers killed by Saul, including Zephaniah, the witch of En-Dor. They appear at night, and she leads them. She is not hostile, but is fiercely protective of her friends, the ghosts, despite the fact that they are essentially mindless. She still treats them as loved and respected relatives and colleagues who have gone senile, and will not appreciate attempts to harvest them for vis.

Zephaniah knows nothing of the Order, though she would be quite interested in it and might well ask magi to protect her and En-Dor, thanks to the trauma of the purge. She would happily offer tutelage in necromancy in return for such protection, and En-Dor would honestly make a good location for a covenant. The necromancy would be a great political uproar for the Order, as many magi attempt to confirm the death of various historic figures of the Order who vanished mysteriously (Tytalus, for example), while House Tremere would likely take it as a threat - they already burn their dead and dispose of them such that no one can try to call them up by normal Hermetic methods, so they cannot be used to threaten the House. They won't appreciate that being changed. Many nobles might well want the Order to help them correct succession problems by calling up the dead. House Guernicus, rightly or wrongly, might fear Schism War survivors trying to call up the ghosts of the leadership of House Diedne, and might well fear the resurrection of ancient conflicts by this new power. They might even try to extend the definition of 'scrying' to cover dead magi and their ghosts, making it illegal to call them up. Some might even go so far as to try and get Wizard's Marches called on the new necromancers.

Next time: Defixio Magic

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky


ASHEN STARS
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Part 9: Ships' Shapes

So now we've covered how to blow things up real good in a ship, let's see what there is for our Laser crew to pilot. Your ship is your home, laboratory, and headquarters. This is going to be another quick update that's mostly a list with cool pictures. A Laser crew automatically starts with a ship at character creation, and I think picking one is one of the most fun parts. Ships have names and the best ones have their own character and personality. Let's climb aboard:

Chapter 7: Starships (part 2)

Before the list, there's a few more important specs to cover. We know how Dishing It and Taking It values work, and most ships have theirs balance out to a net 0 value for the owner. Cargo represents your ability to haul freight as part of a contract or a side job. Each point of cargo reduces the difficulty of a Business Affairs test to negotiate hauling. Output is a stat that maybe should have been mentioned last time. Each ship has its own pool of points that can be used for showdowns in combat called its Output. All that fun babble about diverting power? Output is that power. More Output means a bigger pool, which means the ability to fight harder for longer. Upkeep Cost is how many bigcreds you need to spend per month to keep the lights on. Failure to meet it requires you to downgrade its specs to stay flying, and nobody wants that. Classed ships all have a theme to their suggested names, and I'll be listing a few that reflect the game's sense of humor and get the idea across.

Runner:
The most basic of ships. It's all-around decent and not particularly good at anything. The Bleed is full of these things so you never quite know who's inside. It has a 0 in every Dishing/Taking spec, Output 14, and Upkeep 6. As you'll see, that Output is high, which is why an otherwise dull class is a popular enough choice to be the default Laser ship.


Suggested names include: Appaloosa, Buffalo, Crockett, Eastwood, Houston, Peckinpah, Rio Bravo, van Cleef, Wyatt Earp.


Hammer:
A giant gun with warp drive. The Hammer has 3 Dishing It for Fire attempts, but isn't good at anything else. Its Output is only 8 with a -2 for Cargo due to cramped quarters, and has the standard Upkeep 6. The tactical holo-bridge image from last update is meant to be from a Hammer-class ship.


Suggested* names include: Blade, Flintlock, Gatling, Machete, Smith & Wesson


Rampart:
A flying fortress. the armor plating is so thick and noisy you can spot their crews groundside because they're so used to shouting to be heard that they don't notice it anymore. It's no good at Dishing It, but has strong enough Taking It values to rate a net +1 for its occupants. Output is 8, Upkeep 6


Suggested names include: Alcazar, Camelot, Kenilworth, Orthanc, Turku, Yinglong


Speeder:
A Balla-designed ship with a need for speed. People joke that the chrome is so the Balla pilots can look at themselves more efficiently. It's great at Maneuver attempts, but somewhat poor Fire and Override ratings bring it to net 0. Output 8, Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Condor, Cuckoo, Falcon, Kestrel, Kookaburra, Gryphon, Roadrunner


Hauler:
Mostly used by traders, smugglers, and entrepreneurial Lasers. It's spacey inside, but still cramped because most of the room is used for cargo bays. It has a net +1 on its combat specs, but since none of the individual specs are above +/-1 it's not such a big deal. Output 7, Cargo 3, Upkeep 6. All Haulers come with a tractor beam pre-installed.


Suggested names include: Ararat, Everest, Krakatoa, Olympus


Porcupine:
Another defensive bastion, but more sophisticated than the Rampart. the Tavak-designed Porcupine makes use of many interrelated defensive arrays and a gyroscopic construction that always keeps the important stuff pointed away. It has a net +2 for the Dishing/Taking specs, mostly from a -3 in Trickbag's Taking It. You will not be tricked. Output 8, Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Armadillo, Crab, Echidna, Glyptodont, Nautilus, Stegosaur, Tortoise


Mandible:
Made by the Kch-Thk, a Mandible has crew quarters built without the concept of "personal space". Instead it's full of varied weapons arrays. Kch-Thk know what's really important. The Mandible is also net +2, but this time from the Trickbag Dishing It value. Output 8, Cargo 2, Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Hornet, Recluse, Scorpion, Screwfly, Yellowjacket


Sherlock:
If you like to steal information this is your ship. The Sherlock class has extra lab space and is made for information gathering. It's covered in probes and antennae with an over-tuned mainframe ready to eat up data. Even at a net 0 its Override dishing it of +3 is a handy combat spec. One per case, one crew member can immediately refresh a Technical Investigative pool while gathering information on the ship. Output 8, Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Briscoe, Lupin, Magnum, Marple, Queen, Spade, Wimsey


Alexandria:
If you like to protect your information this is your ship. It was designed to protect and encrypt sensitive information from prying eyes and does it well. It has a net +2 in combat specs with a -3 in Override's Taking It. Once per case, a crew member can immediately refresh an Academic Investigative pool after depleting it outside the ship, provided they have a connected headset feed. Output 8, Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Aristotle, Darwin, Hawking, Josephus, Larkin, Mendel, Plutarch


Voodoo:
A modular ship, possibly designed in Space Sweden. It is made of linked rooms that can be rearranged during downtime. Its base combat specs are a 0 in all eight, but with time and a Systems Design test the specs can be altered, so long as each upgrade is matched by an equal downgrade. Output 5, Upkeep 6.


Suggested Names include: Cagliostro, Faust, Houdini, Mesmer, Prospero, Saint-Germain, Samedi, Teller


Junker:
A catch-all term for anything slapped together out of spare parts. She sure ain't pretty, but as long as she holds together she'll do right by you. People who don't fly junkers are playing the game wrong. Output 16(!), Upkeep 6.


Suggested names include: Boatcar, Gravedigger, Jake's Regret, Mutant, Smokestack, Trashcan, Unforgiven, Vulgar, Your Mama

Miser:
A ship for people on a budget. Cheaply made and cheaply operated, the Miser leads people to assume you lost a better ship or have no concept of "you get what you pay for". The preferred ship of extreme couponers. The combat specs are a net -3 so watch out for fights. Output 6, Upkeep 3.


Suggested names include: Buffet, Croesus, Fagin, Greenspan, McDuck, Midas, Vanderbilt, Winfrey


But what if you want something more personal? You're free to make your own custom ship class, and it's not very complicated. You start with a ship that's average in every respect. Each spec you degrade gives you build points that can be spent upgrading something else. You'll end up with something slightly worse than the ship classes in the book, but it's made to order and sometimes that's worth it.

There's also a full-page sidebar on determining how you got your ship. Your crew is just making ends meet, but you own an expensive piece of equipment; why is that? Answering that question is a good way to fill in your collective backstory and add to the personality of your ship, and maybe even lay groundwork for a future plot. The game assumes you already have it, but starting with a pilot episode that also tells the story of your transport acquisition is another fun option.

Next time: Ship-based Miscellany

quote:

* Warn players when choosing the name for their hammer-class that any ship named Bohemian Ear-Spoon immediately explodes on its first mission, killing everyone on board. This is the only way for Ashen Stars PCs to die during character generation.

HitTheTargets
Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.
Well that's oddly specific.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

HitTheTargets posted:

Well that's oddly specific.

Apparently, they're legit weapons. So, it's probably something that came up in playtesting by some "lol random" loony that drew the developers' ire.

Cyphoderus
Apr 21, 2010

I'll have you know, foxes have the finest call in nature
It may be a subtle nod to Traveller, what with characters dying at character creation in a sci-fi game and all. No idea what a polearm has to do with it, though.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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For those interested, I have decided the time is right to start an Ars Magica game.

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky
Would you want the phrase "Ear-Spoon" anywhere near your loaded-to-the-teeth machine of flying space death? Bohemian maybe, but Ear-Spoon?

Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009

General Ironicus posted:

Would you want the phrase "Ear-Spoon" anywhere near your loaded-to-the-teeth machine of flying space death? Bohemian maybe, but Ear-Spoon?

Yes. It's important to get the element of surprise, and a goofy name makes the enemy more likely to underestimate you.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.


Grimey Drawer
The Rampart makes me think of the space trucker's ship from Battle Beyond the Stars.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012



Machinations of the Conspiracy

This chapter covers how the conspiracy is organized and operates, as well as what sort of schemes they will bring to bare against the children. The Conspiracy is always led by a single person, traditionally the Principal, who is a skilled magician groomed by the previous leader. They are the only member of the Conspiracy capable of commanding the monstrous Gidim, giving him total control of the Conspiracy. With the Leader are the other members of the Conspiracies inner circle. This inner circle recruits those who are capable of obtaining some measure of supernatural power, and the members are always connected to the school in some way. These members are arranged in Cabals, who do not know anyone else in the conspiracy outside of their cabal, and some members of the Inner Circle.

While ostensibly a “virtuous” organization, dedicated to protecting the world from “demons” and “Devil-touched” children, in actuallity the Conspiracy is ran like a pyramid scheme. The Cabals are seen as disposable pawns, with the Inner Circle reaping the benefits of the Conspiracy, using it to gather Occult power.

Most Conspiracy operations follow the same rough outline:

Initial Plots
This is how the Conspiracy makes first contact with a monster. They assign a Cabal to “soften” the child up, and to act as a sacrificial lamb so that the Inner Circle can observe the monster and child.
  • The Grudge: They send a Gidim, generally a fairly weak one made from somebody with a pre-existing grudge to harass and intimidate the target child, hoping to start a conflict and force the monster to reveal itself.

  • Monster House: The Cabal summons some sort of hostile bugaboo from another plan into an abandoned building, then start rumors about buried treasure or similar tantilazing objects within. If the kids don't take the bait, the Cabal lures or forces someone the kids care about inside the building.

  • The Lock-In: The administration announces a school fair/event/dance/party thing. Cabalists monitor the party and try and prod monsters and children into getting into mischief.
Divide and Conquer
Now that the Conspiracy has a bead on the children, multiple cabals are assigned to wear the kids down. The focus is on breaking down relationships, turning children against their family and vice versa, and causing the rest of the student-body to alienate them, and eventually breaking any bonds that the Monster children may possess with each other.
  • The Trophy: A prized school trophy goes missing, and one of the kids is framed. If the other kids can't prove him innocent, he will become a social pariah.

  • Blackmail: The Conspiracy blackmails one of the kids parents into sabotaging one of the kids relationships, such as forbidding them from hanging out with a friend. When the relationship is destroyed, the Conspiracy reveals the parent's meddling to the child, hinting that their Monster is the reason for their parent's actions.

  • The Favorite: The administration promotes one kid to the head of the student-body. They attempt to corrupt him and cause him to alienate his friends.
Final Strike
After separating and alienating the children, the Conspiracy makes its final assault. They attempt to get one child alone and try to either bind or destroy their monster.
  • The Lamb: The Conspiracy lures the children away from one another, picking them off one by one, unless the other kids realize what's up.

  • Truce: Feigning surrender, the Conspiracy calls for a cease-fire and sets up a pow-wow, that is actually a trap.

  • Scorched Earth: If the kids have foiled their other plans, or are otherwise on the verge of victory, the Conspiracy goes to war. They openly attack the children at fullforce, kidnap friends and family, and unleash an army of supernatural beings to destroy the entire town if necessary. This hasn't happened though. Yet.
Damage Control
Something has gone south and now the Conspiracy needs to cover their tracks and disappear.
  • The Patsy: A cabal places the blame for supernatural mischief on a scapegoat, with the patsy generally mind-controlled into going along with the story.

  • Silence!: If the Conspiracy risks exposure, they start bribing, threatening, blackmailing, and disappearing people until everyone has (at least publicly) forgotten the very idea of a Conspiracy.

  • Betrayal: If there's the possibility of a mutiny, double-cross, or even just trying to leave, the Conspiracy reacts with extreme prejudice. The troublemaker is either “disappeared” or mind-wiped and exiled from the town.

Next Time: The Cabals and Members of the Conspiracy

Gerund
Sep 12, 2007

He push a man


Finally we're at the end of the Seasonal courts.



Never trust tears- weeping is but mawkish falsehood.

The core concept of the World of Darkness is that all these monsters are just in the shadows of humanity1. To keep this lie intact, White Wolf develops groups devoted to maintaining it- in C:tL's case, this is Winter Court. A court of spies and criminals, the Winter court is ultimately a court of survival- personal as well as social. They'll fight, they'll hide, they'll lie cheat and steal. Somehow this deals with Sorrow, the court's emotion.

Founded by Snowflake John by playing a two-year game of hide & seek with the season, Winter court tries its best to fit in to humanity and hide among them so that their silent arrow can strike remorselessly. And yet not every Winter courtier is anonymous- hiding in plain sight as a media-beloved radio jockey is a major tale within the court. In the freehold, Winter courtiers aren't always invisible and unwilling to lend a hand- more than a few talented Winter courtiers put themselves into trouble because, they wager, their skills will lead them and those they follow away from greater sorrow. But really, the Winter Court accepts every changeling fresh from the thorns, at least for a short time enough to be taught how to survive- and to be watched for signs of madness.

Their imagery is stark- whites, blacks, greys and browns with dark greens and blood reds as a color; ranged weapons and hunting animals. Sorrow as an emotion is cathartic when released- but often sits inside until they find their own private place to let it loose.

Their rituals are the Market- again, in contrast to the Goblin Market and to potlatch with the freehold- and the Formal, a masquerade dance that is slightly too reminiscent of awkward school kids trying to break the ice with a punch bowl- and Radio Free Fae, an underground radio ritually created in every freehold to allow dissent and secrets to be proclaimed. Their mantle is boring if useful: a bonus to being noticed casually, but not to be avoid notice specifically that increases as you increase your mantle, and an extra die to lying. Winter's mantle is about hiding by not being noticed, not gaining invisibility and tricking people into believing you.

(next time: the Courtless and more)

1 - Which strains credulity when we're presented demographics that make it seem like there is only Steve, the janitor left to be lied to.

U.T. Raptor
May 11, 2010

Are you a pack of imbeciles!?

I like how one of the suggested names for that last ship is "McDuck".

:ssh: Doesn't sound nearly badass enough to deserve that name, though.

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky
While this isn't specifically Ashen Stars material, I think it's relevant enough to post here. GUMSHOE is getting an open release and they are currently at work on an SRD. Here is a pretty interesting article on the process of defining the common spine of these very different games and providing the tools to build it back up into a full game of your own.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Defixio Magic does not derive from the Bible. Rather, it dates back to ancient cults in Greece and Rome, who could use curses without needing Arcane Connections. Most of them worshipped the underworld gods, Hecate, Pluto and Proserpina, but some also worshipped Ceres and Minerva. By the second century, these cults had largely died out. To do their magic, the cultists produced defixiones, small magical devices that name or describe the target of the curse, the effects of the curse and the trigger of the curse. It could be used on anyone they could name, and the curse could wait until a specific trigger.

Hermetic magi will find much of use in defixio magic, and can learn of it by mentions in Pliny's bestiaries, Plato's works or the history of Tacitus. House Tremere has some familiarity with the concept, though they exclusively use it to bind spirits with lead tablets. The study of the defixiones might allow for the ability to hold spells naturally in abeyance until a condition is met, or the ability to target ritual magic over an unlimited range, requiring only sympathetic connections rather than Arcane Connections. The latter is by far the more wide-reaching and powerful of the two, and the one that will be more opposed by, say, House Tremere looking to hold and keep their monopoly.

Now, you can in theory learn Defixio magic on its own, without Hermetic usage. However, each cult of Defixio users only did a specific type of magic - equivalent to one or two Form combinations, so the Ceres cult did Creo Mentem, the Hecate cult Perdo Corpus and Animal, the Minerva cult Rego Corpus/Animal, and so on. The magic is easier to do if you have Arcane Connections and know the target's full name, but it can be done with just the full name, a nickname or psuedonym or even just a description. Which can even be open-ended, though that's not easy at all. And of course baptismal, Rabbinical or otherwise religiously-granted names can't be used.

So, where are you going to find defixiones to study? Well, first you need to know what they are. The most common form is the curse tablet, a tablet usually made of lead though occasionally other materials, transfixed by a nail and hidden in a suitable location, like your target's grave or a temple to Hecate. There are also silhouettes, molded lead statuettes hammer flat by heavy weights and then left in a hard-to-get-to place. They were more commonly used by the Cult of Hecate. Ceres and Proserpina cultists preferred to make wax or clay figurines. In addition, there was an oral component used to empower the defixio, and these rituals were often recorded in texts, which may still exist. Such texts are hardly useful to the modern scholar save as a basis for further investigation, however, or in combination with a defixio. The greatest sources of such texts are Toledo (where the Church sponsors translations of ancient artifacts, though it destroys those used solely for magic), Egypt (where the texts exist inside Moorish libraries, deep in Islamic territory) and the Tremere archives (where the Tremere demand something in trade for access).

The Cult of Pluto used defixiones to command ghosts, and other curses were placed in graves as well. Thus, ancient Roman and Greek graves may make good sources of defixiones. Of course, such graves are often guarded by vengeful ghosts thanks to the defixiones, but...well, that's a challenge for you to solve. The good news is that most gravesites of Rome actually aren't in the city proper any more, so magic is much easier than if you'd attempted it inside the highly Dominion-controlled city of Rome. The Roman catacombs may also contain some defixiones in the Christian and Jewish graves within. Of course, the catacombs are also home to the Covenant known as Vardian's Tomb, a group of necromancers who harvest the defixiones for vis and will not be happy if you try to steal them. They are also home to the Spectres, a group of bandits who pretend to be ghosts and have no qualms about murder.

Another place you might check are the lost chthonic temples of Pluto, Ceres and Hecate. They were usually in isolated locations, and all were used as depositing spots for defixiones. The Tremere and the Witches of Thessaly are the most likely to know of their locations, though getting in without specific directions is usually very difficult. The example given by the book is a cave complex in Greece, guarded by spirits bound by the Defixio. The Theban covenant Erebos harvests the bats of the cave for vis but have not gone deeper for fear of the traps within. However, they are not willing to give up the resources of the cave either, not without compensation, perhaps in the form of negotiations with the Daughters of Erictho, foes of the Order who once held the cave complex and used it. They are a group of non-Order Witches of Thessaly in the area.

Next time: Fertility magic.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

The storm has a name... - Let's Read TORG


Part 8: Gearing up for the cosm sourcebooks
tl;drSkip to the end for the poll of what you want to see next!

The last real chapter of the core book is the Equipment chapter, and there's really not much to talk about here.

One thing that should be pointed out is that all prices are given in Core Earth dollars. Each cost also has a value to look up on the conversion tables for different realms' monetary systems.

It should also be pointed out that each piece of equipment has a tech axiom level. Remember, using an item not supported by the local axioms can cause contradictions.

First off is armor. Armor is pretty straightforward; it has a value that adds to the wearer's Toughness when determining damage, and bulky armors reduce your dodge value. Leather armor is Tech 5, gives +2 Toughness, and costs $400. A bullet proof vest is tech 21, and gives +6 Toughness. One interesting thing is that there's a significant tech jump from plate mail (tech 13) straight to a bulletproof vest.

Next is general gear, and this is mostly statless items you'd just buy. Again, the tech levels look weird here; a normal wristwatch is tech 20, but an electric watch is tech 21, and a pocket watch is tech 18. A glass mirror is tech 10, and an iron spike is tech 10, which again doesn't jive up with the tech axiom example I gave before.

Air vehicles are next, and are split into piston aircraft, rotary, and jet-powered aircraft. Not that it matters because they all have the same stat types.

In fact, all vehicles are pretty much stated up the same way; tech axiom, speed, number of passengers, and Toughness.

In the interest of brevity, let me just hit a few high points on vehicles:
  • Gliders are tech axiom 19. Sadly, you can't pull an Ator.
  • A DC-3 ($150k) is cheaper than a Spitfire ($200k).
  • You can buy an SR-71 Blackbird, assuming you have $32,000,000.
  • They list the prices for several era's worth of trains. To buy.
  • Also submarines and tanks. Because those are all things you can just, you know, buy.
  • They actually have US Space Shuttles as a vehicle you can buy. Space shuttles/

But let's get to the important part of the equipment lists: weapons!

Melee and man-powered ranged weapons do damage based on the wielder's Strength, but also cap out at a certain damage level. A broadsword or longbow does STR+6, but tops out at 20, so no matter how much your strength is above 14.

There's more tech axiom wonkery here, too. A short sword is tech 8, but a longsword is tech 9. A "Baseball Bat/Club" is tech 6, but a spear is tech 5!? None of the values feel like they make sense, even when you go back and check what the axioms actually represent. Why is a club higher technology than a spear? What is the technological leap that allowed people to look at a shortsword and say, "maybe we can make the blade a bit longer"?

It's another casualty of the need to model everything mechanically and keep the various realities seprate. I can understand not wanting people hopping from realm to realm and wind up with magic and superpowers and cyberlimbs. That's fine. And I get wanting to keep realities from mixing as a Thing in the game. But again things get taken too far and you end up with these weird situations where your short bow can stop working (the bow's tech 8, Living Land is tech 7. It can happen.)

The main difference between firearms and melee weapons is that the damage for firearms and related weapons is a flat value, usally in the 20s. There's not much to see here, but just for reference the available weapons range from muskets to automatic pistols to mounted rifles to anti-aircraft cannons to loving hellfire missiles. Where are they expecting people to buy these things?

The last part of the book is freeform character creation for people who don't want to just use the provided templates. Basically, it boils down to spending 66 points on stats, 16 points on skills (and three on the tag skill), and 10 possibilities. Oh, and if you're a magician you get the 12 points for magic skills and spells.

You also have to pick starting equipment, but instead of saying how much cash everyone starts with, you just get stuff appropriate for the type of character you're making.

quote:

If the player wants possessions which do not appear on the equipment list, she is responsible for providing you with enough information about the item so you can make up your mind. For example, if the item in question is a weapon, the player would have to describe, in game terms, how effective the weapon is, and what sort of ammunition or maintenance is required, how she came across the weapon, etc. A picture would be useful.

If the player wanted a mansion, she would have to draw the floor plans of the mansion, a map of the grounds, delineate the caretakers, and give you enough written description so that the mansion can fit into the campaign.

In short, if a player wants lots of equipment or material possessions, she must pay for it. The payment is not only in game money, but in imagination; she must work the equipment in so that it contributes to the story, and is fun for you and the other players, as well as herself.
And...that's the end of the core book.

The core box set came with two other small books. One was the "Adventure Book", which contained a starting adventure and some GMing advice. The advice is all general stuff, but oddly enough there's no advice on how to get a group of five characters from vastly different and distant parts of the world together at the start of the campaign.

The adventure itself is "Before the Dawn", and is intended to both be a simple campaign starter and part of the overall metaplot.

See, at the end of the first novel, the Gaunt Man put a device, the "vortex machine", at the bottom of the ocean near Indonesia that was designed to slow the Earth's rotation. He had planned to channel the stolen rotational energy into his Darkness Device to power the physical push needed to become Torg. Unfortunately, he got trapped in the dimensional prison before he could use that energy, and since then the Earth's rotation has been getting slower and slower. Since nobody knows about the device, all anyone knows is that the Eath's climate is getting knocked out of whack and it's ascribed to the invading realities. Dr. Mobius learns the location of the vortex machine, and is sending agents to sieze it. The PCs get swept up in this and have to stop Mobius and destroy the vortex machine.

The adventure itself is pretty straightforward; it's a basic adventure of the "roleplay scene -> fight -> lead to next fight -> fight scene" mold. Unfortunately, it's also pretty typical of Torg module design. It's very railroad-y, with the assumption that the PCs are going to follow the plot as the designer wants it to go.

Which is a larger problem with the game; when you read it you always get the feeling that the writers wanted to be fiction writers instead of RPG writers. Unfortunately, the small pieces of background fluff that appear in the books are so wooden they're embarassing. I'll include samples through the rest of the review, but as an example here's the boxed text that kicks off the sample adventure:

quote:

The world has surely gone to hell recently. The USA has been invaded by dinosaurs and lizard-men; the United Kingdom and Scandinavia have been overrun by knights in armor, Vikings and sorcerers; France has been transformed into a dark-ages
theocracy; the Middle East has been taken over by a raygun-weilding lunatic who wishes to recreate the glories of Ancient Egypt. It's been a bad couple of months.

And now the Earth has stopped moving. The sun has been in the same place for over 20 hours — somewhere over the ocean near South America — and the temperature over North America has risen almost six degrees above the record high for this day. You shudder to think what it must be like in South America now — and what it will be like here in a week.

But there's nothing you can do about that, so you are doing the best you can, running supplies into the boundaries of the so-called "Living Land" - a place that used to be called Ohio. Despite the invasion of the dinosaurs and the Edeinos, despite the destruction of the cities, despite the collapse of technology, people still live there, refusing to leave their beloved homes.

They may be foolish — even crazy - but you cannot simply let them starve or die for lack of food or proper medicine. So, every day for the last couple of weeks, you have been running a truckload of supplies into Ohio from still-normal Kentucky, at the same time, attempting to convince the people to leave.

After a few terrifying experiences in the first trips, you've gotten the hang of it by now — more or less — and this trip has so far been uneventful. You are heading down a dirt road back toward Kentucky. The road has degraded significantly, and, hitting a sharp rock, your front left tire blows out.

After the driver makes a save vs. car crash, a woman named Hildy comes crashing through the underbrush looking for help.

quote:

Under no circumstances should the Knights be allowed to kill Hildy. If anyone foolishly wishes to fire off a burst before seeing what they are firing at, Hildy gives off a frightened scream (she saw a large snake in the trees) just as they are about to fire. If the Knights insist upon firing anyway, they miss. Period.
She, and I quote, "throws herself in the arms of the nearest handsome male" and starts begging for help in German. When she calms down enough to ask for help in english, the party gets attacked by seven edinos.

This is pretty much a shakedown combat, nothing too hard. Except that one of the edinos will use the Animate Plant miracle to tie people up with nearby vines and impose some significant penalties.

Anyway, once that's dealt with Hildy will drop some exposition to reveal that her father has been kidnapped and been transformed to the Nile Empire, where he was forced to design a digging machine. Hildy's father has come to the Living Land to allow his captor to make a deal with the local edinos about "the key to unlock the power of the Still World!"

I should point out that, at this point, nobody has referred to the Still World. The "Still World" is Core Earth with the rotation stopped, so the players probably won't know this is related to the days getting longer.

Oh, and at one point during her six-paragraph exposition, Hildy will "give a pretty shudder". Just FYI.

Assuming the players want to continue with the adventure, Hildy will lead the characters to the digging device, which is your standard-issue pulp giant vehicle with a big drill on the end. It's guarded by 10 Nile shocktroops and the villainous Professor Shariff. Shariff, being a Nile weird scientist, is armed with a Sound-Gun and Force Field Generator.

Oh, and at the risk of quoting too much, this is the GMing advice for this fight and keeping things on track:

quote:

The main risk here is that the Storm Knights will be defeated. If so, Professor Shariff will attempt to capture them and imprison them in the digging machine, so that he can gloat over them at his leisure, and bring them back to Dr. Mobius as prizes. If this occurs, you will have to give them an opportunity to break free of their bonds and overwhelm their opponents, either during the trip, or when they reach the base (see the next act).

Another risk is that the heroes somehow manage to completely destroy the digging device — possibly by the injudicious use of magic or high explosives. Don't let them! This causes you no end of headaches — it destroys an important clue, kills Dr. Marlen, and removes the vehicle which is supposed to take them into the next act. Assume that, since most of it is still underground, the device gains a lot of protection from the rock and dirt. Any potentially lethal attacks do at most heavy damage to the digger, requiring several hours' time to repair.

Finally, you may be in trouble if the Knights decide not to attack at all, instead preferring to return to Kentucky to get help or do something else altogether. You have a number of choices: you can use Edeinos to herd them back to the encounter; once they are in Kentucky, you can feed them clues and hints suggesting that they go to the Nile Empire and find the hidden base; or you can somehow get them directly to Act Three in Indonesia, skipping Act Two altogether.

If the Knights simply refuse to have anything to do with Dr. Mobius or attempting to start up the Earth, you will have to run your campaign in the Still World setting, as described in the World Book.
When the PCs win, Hildy reunites with her father, who was held prisoner inside the digger, and are given Shariff's notes (either when they search the driller, or when Hildy's father just tells them) that's supposed to be about a secret base in the Nile Empire, but are really vague about it. It's entirely possible the PCs won't know where they're supposed to go next.

The notes also say that Shariff is here to trade with the edinos for the "key to the Still World". Shariff was here to trade a few crates of guns with them for an artifact the edinos have: a Faberge Egg. This is the "key" everyone is referring to. If they want, the PCs can stick around to try and get their hands on it. Either way, the characters are expected to head to the Nile base next.

That's Act One.

In Act Two, they're expected to go to the Nile Empire base, get past 40 shocktroopers, assorted workers, and two P-rated bosses, figure out the location of the vortex machine (the location of which is recorded in some flight plans), then take a convienient seaplane to that location. This whole act is basically two action scenes; the fight at the base that can go however the PCs want to take it, and then a dogfight on the way to the Indian Ocean.

Remember, there are no mook rules in Torg. All 40 of those shocktroopers are fullty stated and have the full shock/KO/wounds tracks. Despite what the book claims, this is not easy to keep track of. The book claims that this is a standard scene, so the Drama Deck is weighted in the PC's favor, but that doesn't change the fact that you need to keep track of the damage of about 50 NPCs, each of whom is treated like a full PC mechanically.

Anyway, while the PCs are in flight to the vortex machine, they get into a dogfight as two Nile fighter planes wanting to know why the plane took off a few hours early. The PCs can bluff their way out of this, but if they fail it's a fight scene. Even if they pass there's a fight scene, because the plane's mechanic was taking a nap in a secret compartment of the plane and will come out to gently caress things up.

That takes us to Act Three. When the PCs reach the right spot in the ocean, they'll see a giant vortex of energy spiking out of the sky into the ocean. The PCs need to dive into the ocean to stop the device (fortunately, there's deep-sea diving equipment in the plane), and to do that they need to get past Gibberfat, the demon the Gaunt Man bound to guard the machine.

Gibberfat is, and I'm not making this up, a three-form boss fight. First he appears as a great white shark when the PCs land the seaplane. When that form is "killed", he sinks out of view and comes back in the form of a giant electric eel once everyone's in the water.

Once the eel is defeated, Gibberfat will show up in his TRUE FORM: a red-skinned slightly overweight guy with webbed hands and feet.

Gibberfat will give the PCs a chance to surrender. If they got the egg back in Act One, they can give it to him as a bribe. He'll take it and let the PCs past (he wants it so he can bribe his own way out of this assignment). Otherwise it's a fight, and Gibberfat is no pushover.

quote:

Gibberfat in True Form:
DEX 14, STR 14, TOU 14, PER 14, MIN 12, CHA 12, SPI 12.
Skills: reality 14, dodge 16, maneuver 16, swimming 16, unarmed combat 16, alteration magic 16, divination magic 16, trick 16, apportation magic 16, conjuration magic 16, test 14, willpower 14, taunt 14, intimidation 14.
Possibilities: 10 minus those used in rounds one and two.
Natural Tools: magical toughness +2, rending claws 17.
Arcane Knowledge: death 3, life 3, inanimate forces 3, living forces 3, water 5, elemental 3, control 3.
Spells:
Charm Person: As spell in Rule Book.
Cold: This spell works exactly as the Lightning spell, except that the caster sends out waves of numbing cold for four rounds, effect value of 15. The skill is alteration inanimate force 19.
Ink: Similar to Mage Dark, but works underwater.
Strength: As spell in Rule Book.
Weakness: As spell in Rule Book.

Now, you'd think that from here it's just a matter of destroying the vortex machine, right?

Wrong. Now it's time for the real final battle.

At the bottom of the ocean the PCs will see that the vortex machine is in the wreckage of an old pirate ship.

quote:

When the heroes touch the ship, the vortex begins spinning faster and faster. Several skeletal figures emerge from below decks, walking drunkenly, carrying cutlasses. The dramatic conflict begins.
The PCs now have to fight a dozen undead pirates who can't be KO'd and don't take shock damage. Also, this is a dramatic scene, so the Drama Deck is stacked against the characters, too.

But I guess the designers didn't think that was hard enough, so...

quote:

The Gaunt Man has somehow imbued the machine with Possibility energy. Any physical, mental or spiritual attacks against it are absorbed as though "bought off" with Possibility points. Short of effects not in any way available to the heroes, the machine cannot be destroyed. It might also be noted that it would do no good to destroy the machine; it would not restore movement to the Earth. To do that, the machine has to be reversed.

There is a certain urgency to the task, as well. The machine continues to grow hotter from the moment the heroes touch the pirate ship, a security measure placed there by the Gaunt Man: if any Possibility-rated being touches the ship, the device releases some of its stored energy as heat, melting the ground around the machine, causing it to sink deep into the planet's core.

From the second the PCs touch the shipwreck, they have 20 rounds to reverse the machine's workings or you just fail. The Earth will not regain its rotation, the PCs will be broiled, and everything sucks forever.

Reversing the device uses Dramatic Skill Resolution, so the PCs need to make skill rolls while being outnumbered two-to-one. Which is hard, but not impossible. Except for one thing.

At no point are the PCs made aware of the fact that they have to reverse the machine or the timeframe they have to do it in. This information is never communicated in-game. They only way they'll know this is if the GM flat-out tells them, "okay, now you have 20 rounds to reverse the flow of the machine or the Earth is doomed."

And the GM better tell them that, because otherwise the players are going to waste a few rounds bouncing attacks off the device, especially if they have explosives. Then they need to realize it's not a matter of stopping the device, it's a matter of reversing it.

Anyway, if the PCs manage to reverse the machine, it destroys itself (a built-in failsafe) and the Earth's rotation will return to normal.

quote:

You are ready to begin a Torg "Infiniverse" campaign.


The last book in the box set is the World Book, which gives about ten pages tops to each of the invading cosms. Some of the cosms have special rules such as pulp powers or cybernetics, but I'm not going to get into them just yet.


So here we are. The end of the core set.

And goddamn there are a lot of rules there.

But I had to tell you all that so I could talk about the real reason you're all follwing this: the invading realities.

At the start of the Torg line, there were six realities invading Core Earth. Now, it's time for me to start talking about them. This is the real meat of the review, folks. This is where the best parts of the game are, and this is what made Torg's setting one of my all-time favorites.

SO! What cosm should we talk about first? Your initial options are:
  • The Living Land: dinosaurs, fanatical lizardpeople, and Dead Things
  • Orrosh: monsters, Victorians, and The Ecology of Fear
  • Aysle: Oddly named dragons, the driest fantasy setting ever, and Spell Creation
  • The Nile Empire: Jetpacks, pyramids, and Pulp Powers
  • Nippon Tech: Corporate shenanigans, treachery, and ninjas
  • The Cyberpapacy: Religion, cybernetics, and the Matrix

Tell me what you want to see...

NEXT TIME: The first stop on the multiversal tour!

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.
Clapping Larry
Moebius, the Pharoah commands it!

Baofu
Jun 15, 2007

Voting for Living Land .

Baofu fucked around with this message at 20:15 on May 24, 2013

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018

Cyberpapacy, because that name is so great.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Fertility Magic is millenia old - older than anyone can remember, older than any written history. The fertility cults of Europe uses rituals and spells to influence conception and unborn children, promoting desirable traits. Remains of the cult, in the form of strange fetish statuettes carved to resemble a wide-hipped pregnant woman, can occasionally be found in caves, though few even recognize them as cult artifacts, and often confuse them with relics of other practices, to be harvested for vis. In fact, other than the fetishes and a few cave paintings, there is nearly no record of the fertility rituals, and it is unclear who the ancient cults were, and whether they were wiped out or assimilated at some point, though in either case it was before Rome ever marched through Europe. They may have even predated the Deluge, a fact that is suggested by the commoness of shells and the bones of sea creatures within the caves that fertility fetishes are often found in. It's possible they were unconnected, disparate cults rather than one monolithic cult - even likely, given the wide distribution these caves have. Their original practices cannot be recovered - there isn't nearly enough evidence of them to try.

However, a Hermetic might be able to rebuild some of the fertility rituals by studying fetishes and cave paintings. Eventually, this might lead to two breakthroughs: first, a study of fertility and the lore of fertility that would allow for prediction of pregnancies and determination of lineal descent and degree of blood relation. This could then be used to develop ritual fertility magic, allowing Hermetic spells to target unborn children as entities of their own rather than part of the mother - extending Hermetic magic's ability to target them even before the second trimeseter, when they become developed enough for magic to recognize them as, well, part of the mother.

This ritual magic would also allow for the creation of fertility rituals, allowing the ritualist to devise a ritual that will ensure the child made by a union has certain traits - anything from red hair to the Gift. Such traits need not have any relation to those of the parents - they are simply chosen and ensured by magic. A fertility fetish can be made for a specific fertile woman, and a woman can only make one, as it binds some of her fertility into the fetish. The fetish is a permanent Arcane Connection to the woman and to any children conceived via rituals the incorporate the fetish. At any time, the fetish may be destroyed and the vis extracted from it, as with the ancient fetishes. However, if this is done, the woman is rendered infertile. Fortunately, these things keep indefinitely. The thing can even be used again for further children...though it is only perfectly safe to do so if the original child dies. The reckless may use a fertility fetish again anyway, causing warping in the ritualist and the child. A child made via such a corrupt ritual has a sympathetic tie to the predecessor, and also gets a penalty to all social interactions, as anyone can perceive instinctively that something about them is not quite right. They are also warped by the ritual over time, though all effects end should the original child ever die.

Now, the real trick is getting enough information to learn about and develop these fertility rituals. You see, most ancient fetishes were destroyed after the child was conceived and the mother passed beyond childbearing age, in order to protect the mother and child from the Arcane Connection. Those that remain are in isolated cave systems, as are surviving cave paintings. Finding a suitable cave system will not be easy, though fortunately they all follow roughly the same layout. A typical cave might have one or two surviving fetishes. The cave paintings are more interesting to magi - they depict, crudely, fertility rituals in practice. However, the paintings themselves are artifacts of the cult - a reproduction will not be worth studying. The magic is tied up on the stone, the texture, the cracks. You either need to study them in the cave, or bodily remove the entire painting and the stone it is on to your lab.

And this is all before you deal with the dangers of these cave systems. Anyone or anything might be living in them - while most are utterly unaware of the power of these caves and the ancient cults, they're nice caves to live in. Some are inhabited by fairies, particularly the duergar, a race of dwarf-fairies known for their maliciousness and their smithing skills. Others are whom to ancient worms, great dragon-serpents of immense size and hunger. These creatures tend to care more for their own survival than anything else, but that hardly means they're easy to negotiate with. Many are barely smart enough to negotiate with. Still other caves are flooded and airless, or home to the graves of saints and thus guarded by the Church, who will have little interest in allowing magi to poke around in these tombs.

The Order would not be shaken to its core by fertility magic, but there might well be those who seek out the knowledge once created. Perhaps a Bonisagus seeks to breed a line of the Gifted with interesting traits. Perhaps nobles seek you out to help commission an heir. Perhaps a Mercere magus wants to use it as a starting point to develop rituals to do the same for horses, developing new breeds for the Redcaps to ride. Perhaps some covenant seeks the knowledge to breed perfect servants. Perhaps the Church learns of the rituals and becomes involved, fearing a rise in paganism or an explosion of Gifted children.

Next time: The magic of the Grigori.

homerlaw
Sep 21, 2008

Plants are the best ergo Sylvari=Best
Aysle for spell creation

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

Man, I want us to start talking about Cyberpapacy, but you know, I think we need to work our way into it. I'd go for Nile Empire.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

In the days before the Deluge, beings of great power walked the earth. Their offspring were the gigantic Nephillim. Genesis calls these creatures the b'nai elohim, the sons of God. Before the fifth century, they were interpreted to be angels - 'b'nai elohim' is used only to refer to angels in the Old Testament. However, this view was used to attack Church philosophy and Saint Paul warned against the worship of angels, and Jesus claimed that angels did not marry or have children. So these days, the Church says that the b'nai elohim of Genesis were the descendants of Seth, the third child of Adam and Eve, and the sinful "daughters of man" whom they consorted with were the descendants of Cain.

This orthodox view conflicts with some early Church texts, but the Church says those were contaminated by Jews and heretics, and they are no longer in the canon. The single passage of Genesis is the Church's only acknowledgement of the Nephillim, and even they obscure it as mere giants. Other texts preserve the old interpretation, though, including the works that are called the First Book of Enoch, allegedly written by Noah's grandfather, who ascended into Heaven and became the Metatron. First Enoch covers many subjects, but the first section is the Book of the Watchers, which goes into great detail on the Nephilim than Genesis and explicitly calls their parents angels. First Enoch, as a note, is the correct one.

Enoch claims that the Grigori, the Watchers, did far more than father children. They taught their wives art and science, how to cut stone, do agriculture and astronomy, how to work metal. More importantly, they taught their wives the secrets of magic, and their wives taught others. Many were not ready for the power of magic and used the Secrets of the Grigori for evil. They became powerful emperors and forgot the ways of God. The Nephilim were born and laid waste to the earth with their horrific appetites, such that the earth itself cried out for respite. And so God told Noah to build the ark. He stripped the Grigori of their place in Heaven and seized their leaders, to bind them until the Day of Judgment. Some, including the leader of the Grigori, Samyaza, rebelled and became demons. The Flood wiped out all who knew the secrets of their magic, and killed all but two righteous Nephilim, who hid aboard the ark. With the leaders of the Grigori bound and their students gone, the magic of the Grigori passed from the earth.

The precise nature of it is unknown, but strands of it exist in Hermetic tradition; indeed, the magic of the Grigori appears to be little different than that of Hermetic theory. It is this that makes their secrets so valuable. Each of the chiefs of the Grigori taught mastery of one Technique and two Forms, and those who learned these arts could blend them in ways that the Order cannot. Araquiel's Secret, for example, allowed those who learned it to cast magic of Creo, Corpus and Terram - and, more importantly for Hermetics, to use the vis of those Arts interchangeably. One who knows Araquiel's Secret can use Creo vis for all Terram or Corpus spells, and vice versa, as well as ignoring Terram requisites on Creo or Corpus spells, or vice versa. There is a drawback, of course: Grigori magic is weak against both Divine and Infernal influence, and so use of it in Divine or Infernal auras makes magical botches much, much worse.

Study of Grigori magic is intriguing for magi, for it may eventually allow original research to surpass the Limit of Vis, perhaps even allowing all vis to be used no matter what Art it is for, and resolving the weakness in Grigori magic that makes it so susceptible to outside influence. Nineteen chiefs of the Grigori are named by Enoch, and ten have their powers listed. Araquiel taught Creo, Terram and Corpus. Armaros taught Rego, Imaginem and Vim. Azael taught Perdo, Terram and Imaginem. Baraqijal and Kokabel both taught Intellego, Mentem and Imaginem. Ezeqeel taught Muto, Aquam and Auram. Sariel taught Perdo, Mentem and Ignem. Semyza taught Creo, Corpus and Herbam. Shamsiel taught Rego, Ignem and Vim. It is unknown what the secrets of Rameel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Batarel, Ananel, Zaqiel, Satarel, Turel or Jomjael were.

But how will you find the secrets of the Grigori? The Deluge destroyed most of them. Still, just because First Enoch is not canon doesn't mean it's gone, and it is quoted by many sources in the historic world. Finding these histories and perhaps even a copy of the Book of Watchers will be the first step in discovering that their power exists, perhaps triggered by an interest in the Nephilim mentioned by Genesis. A further set of two books, the Enigma of the Sons of God, will also be useful. It was a work of Saint Nerius, which extensively quotes Enoch as well as Nerius' understanding of the Grigori and their nature. Nerius' first book covers how he was confused by the Sethite interpretation of the Church, blaming it on the demonic Grigori trying to obscure their own origins, and his book is a convincing text on the nature of the Grigori and the Dominion. The Order has several copies of the book. The second book of the set is more interesting - a complete copy of the Book of the Watchers, with annotations by Nerius. This one is much, much harder to find. Only three copies ever existed, and the one contained in the library of Durenmar vanished last century. The other two are located in parts unknown.

Of course, the Hebrew Apocrypha may also give some leads. The Book of Jubilees tells of Kainam, father of the Chaldeans, who found the Stelae of the Watchers, stone obelisks that contained much of their lost wisdom. Saint Nerius' second book talks about them, noting that legend gave their location as near Mount Hermon near the Sea of Galilee. The lower slopes of Hermon are free of Grigori artifacts, and the upper slopes are capped in snow much of the year. However, near the summit, an ancient Nephilim city exists, long since abandoned. It is built for giants, far larger than any modern man, and at its heart are three stone obelisks which tell the story of the coming of the Grigori and their teachings. The obelisks would be extremely valuable to study, especially for those that have the blood of the Nephilim in their veins.

And of course the Watchers still exist. Their leader, Semyaza, was bound "into the valleys of the earth" by Michael the Archangel, while Azael, one of the chiefs, was cast into a pit in the desert and covered in sharp rocks by Raphael. Many more became demons, and some accepted their punishment and remained angels. Saint Nerius records that the monks of Mount Ararat have a legend which states that when the flood receded, Noah and his family were careful to avoid the northern face of Ararat, for God told them not to go there. Nerius says that stones similar to those of Mount Hermon were found there. The truth, you see, is that some of the students of the Grigori attempted magic to save themselves in the Deluge, but were powerless. Some hid with the Nephilim on Mount Hermon, but they drowned in the waters that rose to meet them. And as they drowned, their teachers were imprisoned. In desperation, Shamsiel led his followers to Mount Ararat, but it became clear that they, too, would drown. Finally, on the fortieth day of rain, Michael appeared to imprison Shamsiel, and Shamsiel he deserved it. He appealed to God for mercy to those who had not sinned as he had. Let those who only took human wives but did not teach them magic be spared, to continue to serve the Lord, he asked. God agreed, and only those Grigori who had taught mankind magic were imprisoned. The rest would only be cast from Heaven, to walk the earth as angels.

Saint Jacob was the 4th century bishop who climbed Ararat to find the ark, but every attempt he made to climb the northern slope was foiled by storms. Finally, a pair of angels appeared to him, giving him a plank of the Ark and telling him to stop his search. Jacob thanked them and founded the monastery of Ararat that now bears his name. Anyone trying to retrace his steps most deal with storms, loose rocks and ice, for the mountain itself does ot wish Shamsiel's prison to be uncovered. Near the peak, on the northern ridge, there is a single stone carved with the True Names of the Grigori who did not Fall. Anyone who reads the True Name of Shamsiel aloud while within five paces of the stone will be transported to the regio in which Shamsiel is imprisoned. This regio covers the entire northern face of the mountain, and within it is a gorge two miles deep and a mile wide, where dwells Shamsiel. He may not leave the regio, and is a mere shell of his former self. He does not hate God or his servants, and he has accepted his punishment, though believes he will be cast in the lake of fire when the Day of Judgment comes. He is a master of magic still, and will teach his secret to anyone who promises to use it for holy purposes. When he was cast down, you see, God told him that one day the world would be ready for magic, and that any pious wizard who sought him out was worthy of his teachings. It takes a full year of study under Shamsiel to receive his secrets, and doing so will always make you a pious person.

But that is not the only prison. Near Jerusalem, on the edge of the desert, there is Beth Hadudo, the crack down which the Jews pushed the "goat for Azael" on the Day of Atonement, as instructed by Leviticus. Saint Nerius explains that 'hadudo' is Hebrew for 'rocky peak', coming from the word dudael, 'rocky place of the Lord'. Here is the prison of the Grigori Azael. Unknown to Nerius and other writers, Azael is not like Shamsiel - he did not accept punishment or imprisonment lightly. He Fell, and even now he broods, seeking vengeance on God and the world. The regio that contains him is Infernal, and the easiest way in is to release a goat from the peak. Azael cannot resist goats, and will draw them into the regio, opening it for others for several minutes. Azael, of course, cannot leave. Within, the landscape is harsh, covered in the bones of goats and the soot of Azael's forge, where he labors each day crafting weapons. Azael will eagerly teach his secrets to anyone who is willing to spend a year learning them and will promise to spread wickedness with them. However, this power he grants is corrupted by the Infernal.

As for the other Grigori, no clue has been left as to their prisons. However, some of the Grigori who did not teach magic still walk the earth as angels, though they are barred from Heaven. These are those saved by Shamsiel. They could never teach the Secrets of the Grigori and cannot now, but they do know of the city of the Nephilim and of Shamsiel's prison, and may tell a worthy magus. It was one of these Grigori that inspired Nerius to write his books, and they are known to leave the first of the two books where a pious magus might find them. With enough study of the city and perhaps the aid of Shamsiel, the full Secrets of the Grigori might yet be revealed.

Next time: The Mechanica of Heron of Alexandria.

ZeeToo
Feb 20, 2008

I'm a kitty!
Did I miss it, or did you skip the ongoing details of the Still World if that issue isn't resolved?

Also, next do Nippontech.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006

ZeeToo posted:

Did I miss it, or did you skip the ongoing details of the Still World if that issue isn't resolved?

Also, next do Nippontech.

I think EM did, mostly because 1) we want to get to the Cosms as quickly as we can, 2) the Still World campaign is largely skippable since no one in their right mind would run it, and 3) no one wants to play The Road as a campaign.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

Yeah, I skipped a lot of the adventure because a) it's not that interesting, b) I wanted to get to the cosm books since that's the main attraction of this whole thing, c) I wasn't planning on doing it but the equipment chapter is dull, and d) I was tired and cranky when I wrote it.

I am not as cranky as I was before, so let's talk about the adventure in a little more detail and the Still World setting.

I'm planning on covering Core Earth once I get through the first six cosms, but the Core Earth assumes that the PCs stop the vortex engine from siphoning off Earth's rotational energy.

But what if they don't?

Well, that's a problem.

See, the whole adventure is based around the fact that the Gaunt Man has vanished and now the remaining High Lords see a chance to become the Torg themselves. Dr. Mobius, High Lord of the Nile Empire, learned about the vortex machine and figured out what it was for. Remember, becoming Torg doesn't just require a ton of Possibility energy, it also requires a great deal of physical energy. The Gaunt Man planned to use the vortex machine to provide that energy, and with him out of the picture Mobius wanted to seize that energy for himself. He knew about Gibberfat and how to get past him (Mobius has both magical and technological means of divination at his disposal), so he formulated a plan to seize all that energy.

Mobius's plan was as follows:
  • Capture a scientist. This scientist would have beautiful daughter because that's how things work in the Nile Empire.
  • Force the scientist to build a digging machine.
  • Send his operative Professor Sariff to the Living Land with a few crates of rifles.
  • Trade the guns to the edinos for a Faberge Egg the edinos found in New York.
  • Fly to the Indian Sea.
  • Give Gibberfat the Egg.
  • Seize control of the vortex machine.
  • Become Torg.

Of course, Nile Empire world laws being what they are, the captured scientist's daughter escapes and finds a group of heroes. From there, the expected plotline of the adventure flows out: the Storm Knights trounce the Nile stormtroopers, save the scientists, head to the Nile base, find out that Mobius wants something out in the middle of the ocean, fly out there, fight Gibberfat, and reverse the polarity of the vortex to return Earth to normal and prevent Mobius from becoming Torg.

However, if the PCs gently caress up, then things are pretty bad. The vortex machine sinks into the Earth out of Mobius' reach, but it's still slowing Earth's rotation, which leads us to the Still World.

The adventure starts two days into the "Still World", i.e. the point where the slowing of Earth is noticeable. Two days later (four days into the Still World), Earth's rotation stops. At first, the effects are that the American side of the planet is stuck in perpetual sunlight, while the Eurasian side is stuck in the shadow. Temperatures begin to rise in central North and South America hitting 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and the center of Russia hitting -80. Russia is barely livable, but North America can't handle the extreme temperatures. The "twilight nations" on the western edge of Europe and Africa are a little better off, but not by much.

After a month, things start to get much worse. The centers of the Americas are pretty much dead as the temperatures start to reach the 160 degree mark. America's heartlands are practically deserts, adding lack of food to the world's problems. The Amazon Rainforest is also destroyed, knocking the ecosystem even more out of whack. The icecaps start to melt, which has all sorts of bad implications not the least of which is that at this point, only coastal areas are livable.

And after three months...well...

quote:

Alaska basks in the 80s, only the southern tip of South America is livable. The Greenland icecap melts more rapidly. Britain, France, Spain, and West Africa are the only other livable areas on Core Earth.

Unless the High Lords provide magical, spiritual, or technological means to support life on Earth, the planet and its lifeforms will die. This does not make for fun roleplaying. We suggest that you stop the dramatic temperature changes at something livable(via a High Lord's intervention) or allow your Storm Knights to restart Earth's spin at some point during your campaign.

Now here's why this is dumb. I mean, apart from the obvious.

At no point after the core set is any reference made to the Still World. The assumption is that the PCs will succeed at the adventure, fight their way through close to 100 bad guys, realize they're expected to reverse the vortex on their own (unless the GM tells them), and stop the machine within 20 rounds while being pounded on by underwater zombie pirates.

That's the default assumption of the game line.

If the PCs didn't stop the vortex, then none of the other books will apply to your campaign. Realistically, most of the High Lords would probably sat "gently caress this", pull their forces back up the bridges (or just ditch them to die) and call it a wash.

And like Young Freud said, playing a campaign in a world that's going to end in three months isn't exactly fun. Hell, the book even says it wouldn't be fun and gives you ways to reverse the bad outcome.

But I have to ask...if they didn't want this outcome for the adventure, why did they write that outcome for the adventure? I guess you could argue it sets the global stakes early, but do they need to be set higher than "a six-way struggle for control of reality"? If you don't want the end of the adventure to be "the world ends", don't write that into the adventure! Especially if you stack the deck against the players like they do here.

But again, we see a problem that's going to crop up in a lot of Torg adventures: the assumption that the PCs will follow the plot in a certain way, will make certain decisions, and will win at the appropriate times.

Agent Rush
Aug 30, 2008

You looked, Junker!
Wow, TORG sounds awesome and tedious. I'm casting my vote for The Nile Empire, Pulp Powers sound like my kind of fun.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008

I think "awesome and tedious" may be the best description of Torg I've ever heard.

Erebro
Apr 28, 2013
Nile Empire for me. I'm giving you a break (to the extent you can have one with this clunker of a system) and letting you do the one that sounds awesome.

Selachian
Oct 9, 2012

Evil Mastermind posted:

Reversing the device uses Dramatic Skill Resolution, so the PCs need to make skill rolls while being outnumbered two-to-one. Which is hard, but not impossible. Except for one thing.

At no point are the PCs made aware of the fact that they have to reverse the machine or the timeframe they have to do it in. This information is never communicated in-game. They only way they'll know this is if the GM flat-out tells them, "okay, now you have 20 rounds to reverse the flow of the machine or the Earth is doomed."

And the GM better tell them that, because otherwise the players are going to waste a few rounds bouncing attacks off the device, especially if they have explosives. Then they need to realize it's not a matter of stopping the device, it's a matter of reversing it.

Anyway, if the PCs manage to reverse the machine, it destroys itself (a built-in failsafe) and the Earth's rotation will return to normal.


This is exactly what happened to me when I ran this adventure back in the day. Rather than try to alter the device while under attack, the PCs decided to retreat and catch their breath and tackle the device later. I think we ended up throwing away that group of PCs and creating new ones to continue adventuring in a non-stopped world.

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mllaneza
Apr 28, 2007


Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952



EM, for your next trick you should write up the Torg setting as a set of interlocked Fronts from AW/DW.

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