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Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009


InShaneee posted:

SV8, knowing SMERSH's origins, was suspicious to say the least.

Did I miss something about how SMERSH came to be in Delta Green? The real-life SMERSH was just a pooling of resources between different intelligence agencies for counter-intelligence purposes outside mainland Russia.

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InShaneee
Aug 11, 2006

Cleanse them. Cleanse the world of their ignorance and sin. Bathe them in the crimson of ... am I on speakerphone?

Fun Shoe

Lemon Curdistan posted:

Did I miss something about how SMERSH came to be in Delta Green? The real-life SMERSH was just a pooling of resources between different intelligence agencies for counter-intelligence purposes outside mainland Russia.

Sorry, that part's a little clumsily written. I was just referencing the previous sentence: in DG, SMERSH breaking off from the NKVD to become their own entity coincides with them being tasked to continue Stalin's research into the occult, a fact that GRU-SV8 was aware of.

InShaneee fucked around with this message at 11:06 on Jun 5, 2013

Erebro
Apr 28, 2013


Mr. Maltose posted:

It's really the final insult. Not only were you taken, not only did they change you forever, not only did they replace you with a puppet, but they replaced you with a puppet who's better than you at being you.

Well, technically all fetches are, by nature of the pledge used to make them, worse at being you than you being you. They have to be missing a personality trait. If the fetch isn't well-made, this is often his conscience.

Thing is, pledgecraft is, by its nature, full of loopholes and breaking the spirit while obeying the letter. The trait of a well-made fetch could easily be nicotine addiction, impatience, short attention span, urge to kill people...

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Let's begin by talking about House Bjornaer. Each of the segments begins with a little sidebar containing some statistics with key facts on the Tribunal. For Bjornaer: They have a population of 79 at last count, and the house Domus Magna, Crintera, is in the Rhine Tribunal. Their Prima is Falke, who basically got forced into the job and is struggling to become a good leader. She is working on a strategy of isolation and patience, trying to earn the trust of the Quaesitores. Her heartbeast is a silver-gray falcon with white-banded wings. House Bjornaer magi are most common in the Novgorod and Loch Loglean Tribunals, which contain many wild places, followed by the Rhine Tribunal. Their motto is Potentio super ipso potentia super allis, 'Power over the self is power over others.' The symbol of the house is a cone, chosen by Trianoma to represent them for it can cast the shadow of a triangle or a circle, but never both at the same time, reflecting the heartbeast. House Bjornaer also uses the symbol of the two-faced Janus, but instead of the faces of two men, it is a bear and a woman.

When asked about House Bjornaer, all magi know that they are shapechangers. The more arrogant magi dismiss them as primitives, and the more misty-eyed see them as the lost remnant of a forgotten people, a sort of noble savage. Neither is going to have a good time finding an actual Bjornaer that fits their stereotype, but the stereotypes endure. Few can mention any major historical members of the House, and fewer still can mention any major historical event involving them. The Order barely realizes that it knows so little about House Bjornaer, and that what it does know has no facts to support it. That is deliberate - House Bjornaer has worked hard to keep its secrets. The truth is, they are an ancestor cult, gaining power in the present from the weight of all those gone before. They believe their ancestral spirits reside within them, giving them the power to change shape. Through greater communication with this internal spirit, they seek to become true creatures of magic.

In four and a half centuries of existence, House Bjornaer has changed a lot. They have been primitive shapeshifters and savage wilderness guardians and now upstanding Hermetic magi. To fully understand the House, one must understand its history. It's no accident that most magi do not even know that history. The central figure of the House, the Founder herself, is as much legend as fact. She was from the remnant of a Gothic people that once controlled all of northeastern Germany. Her name was not Bjornaer, but Birna, which meant 'she-bear' in the tongue of her tribe. As an initiate to the Gothic witch-cult, Birna was visited by an ancestor in the form of a spirit bear, which told her that the witches enslaved the ancestral spirits with evil magic, convincing Birna to try and find a way to break their power. Birna pretended to be magically weak, while learning the hidden lore of the witches. She was scorned and mocked for her poor magic, and her hatred for her fellows grew by the day. When stories of a traveling witch came to the tribe's ears, Birna was selected to face her as the most expendable member. However, this witch, Trianoma, told Birna of a new magical society, one where she would be treated as equal and taught magic to surpass those who despised her. Birna readily agreed to join the Order of Hermes, but advised Trianoma that there was no point in heading further east into Germanic tribal territory, for the sorcerers there were hostile and of little consequence. This petty vengeance denied her former fellows the possibility of joining the Order, and in turn they assumed Birna had been killed by the witch, and did not mourn her.

The magic of Birna's tradition relied on shapechanging and ecstatic trances, much unlike the classical philosophy of Bonisagus, and Birna found it necessary to change her entire worldview to learn Hermetic magic. However, the magus Merinita proved a capable and kind mentor, and they became as sisters. With her help, Birna was able to overcome her own shortcomings, becoming equal to the other Founders. She referred to the bear-shape given her by her ancestor as the "beast of her heart", and it forever frustrated Bonisagus that his theory had no means to penetrate the "disguise" of Birna's bear form. Birna realized it should be possible for other Gifted to come into communion with their own ancestral spirits, and using her knowledge of her tribe's rites and Merinita's training pagan Mysteries, the two magae devised the Ritual of Twelve Years to do just that. All of Birna's apprentices were of the Germanic tribes, and she taught them the heartbeast as well as Hermetic magic. Her earlier apprentices helped to teach the later ones, mirroring her own "apprenticeship" under Bonisagus and Merinita.

Midusulf and Maruhs came of her own tribe. Midusulf literally means "mead-wolf" in Old Gothic, signifying a bear, and Maruhs is "stallion". When her third apprentice proved to be a witch-cult spy, Birna hunted down the traitor and ended him with her own claws and teeth, turning her attention to other tribes thereafter. Ilfetu ('Swan', in his native tongue) came from Frisia, where Wilkis ('Wolf') and Arelie ('Eagle') came from a Prussian tribe. The last, Sirnas ('Stag'), came from the Wends on the Baltic coast. Only Ilfetu learned to conduct the Ritual of Twelve Years from his master, and the House met regularly to conduct the ritual for new apprentices in Birna's eventual home, the covenant of Crintera. At one of these early Gatherings in 831, Birna, then a century old, imparted some final instructions to her House. To each of her six apprentices, she spoke a single word. To Midusulf: Lead. To Sirnas: Protect. To Ilfetu: Teach. To Maruhs: Strive. To Arelie: Remember. To Wilkis: Nourish. Thus began the Six Clans of Bjornaer. Once she did this, Birna disappeared forever after taking on bear form one last time.

The six apprentices of Birna continued to recruit from the Germanic and Slavic tribes, and due to the predominance of these "pagan barbarians" among them, the House gained a reputation for savagery that it is still trying to shake. The goal of most members was to defend the wilderness against the invading Dominion brought by the expanding human population. Birna had taught that the wilderness held great secrets of magic, a secret that could be experienced, but never tamed. The soil yet untoched by plow, the river unparted by boat, the forest uncut by axe - these were sacred to the Children of Birna.


Yes, the House name really is entirely because everyone was just too polite to correct an error.

In the early years of the Order, House Merinita suffered a rift, as two magi battled to determine the course it would take. When the matter was decided, most of the losers joined House Bjornaer, learning the Outer Mystery of the House. Despite their differing philosophy, they were welcomed. The lineage has long since died out, but they left behind a lasting legacy in the form of a secret society within the House, which we will discuss later. As human populations expanded across Europe and the forests began to shrink, House Bjornaer tried to turn back the tide. Most saw little wrong with extreme measures such as killing peasants, and many legends of ravaging creatures that could be both beast and man stem from this period. In the tenth century, one member of the House, Herisson, came to the realization that this entire attitude might be counter-productive. Humans destroy that which they fear. The behavior of House Bjornaer was just making the peasants more determined to cut down the forests and destroy the dangerous beasts within. Herisson tried to convince the House to encourage humans to live in harmony with nature rather than attacking those who would violate it. However, he was ridiculed and became the laughingstock of the House.

At the Gathering of Twelve Years in 999, concerns were raised that the Order was in danger of fragmenting due to internal conflict. The non-Latinate Houses, Diedne, Ex Miscellanea and Bjornaer, seemed in particular danger, as the traditionally Roman Houses banded together to attack their "primitive" fellows in flagrant disregard for the Code. House Bjornaer became paranoid and insular, with many retreating to Crintera. When the wholesale attacks on House Diedne began in 1004, the last few members of House Bjornaer joined their fellows in Crintera. Some Roman Houses feared Bjornaer would side with Diedne, but instead, no magus of Bjornaer was seen for nearly 15 years, until the Schism War was well over. When they emerged, they were led by a man named Salmo, a descendant of Ilfetu. He had a vision for the House's future, the foremost aspect of which was to closer integrate them to the Latinate Houses. Under Salmo's guidance, House Bjornaer kept a low profile, and its members gradually became more and more similar to the standard Hermetic magus, to prevent becoming a target of a future Schism War. While the House retains structures from its tribal past, the average Bjornaer of today is as civilized and cultured as any magus.

One other consequence of the Schism War was the increasing popularity of Herisson and his teachings. They were attractive to the post-Schism House, primarily because they attracted less attention from Quaesitores. The more traditional members of the House started to call themselves Wilderists in response to these new 'Harmonists.' Both factions still exist within Bjornaer, and the Harmonists of today now equal the Wilderists in number. The most notable event of the last century for House Bjornaer was the invasion of the island Rugen by King Valdemar I of Denmark in 1168, followed by the conquest in 1201 of the surrounding German provinces. While the covenant of Crintera itself was save in its regio, the House feared that the settlement of Christian folk on the formerly pagan island might destroy its aura. Appeals to both the Rhine Tribunal and Grand Tribunal proved fruitless, and the House was just reminded to uphold the Code, so many Bjornaer are still resentful that the Order did not help in their time of need. Fifty years later, the biggest effect the invasion has had was to force Bjornaer to change Primus twice. The first brought the aggressive Urgen to leadership, who spent three decades lashing out at the mundanes and covenants he blamed for aiding the invasion. He was popular with Bjornaer, but not the Order as a whole, and he resigned as primus in 1203 in favor of the level-headed Falke, though he remains active in House politics.

House Bjornaer has several unique customs that set them apart, but also make them a target for accuastions of savagery or barbarism. The maintenance of these so-called "primitive" customs such as animal names and tribal organization keeps them linked to their past and their ancestors, which they draw power from. The stereotype of a Bjornaer is a scruffy, uncultured individual who spends most of their time in the wild, uses primarily nature-oriented magic and fears fire. While such individuals exist, they are no more common in Bjornaer than any other House. They choose to adopt the trappings of this existence, but are not forced down the path by inferior philosophy or poor education. House Bjornaer may actually benefit from the stereotype, for while their foes underestimate them, they have the upper hand, both on the Tribunal debating floor and the certamen circle...and, of course, the battlefield in Wizard's War.

Next time: Clans.

Yessod
Mar 21, 2007


SynthOrange posted:

I think I've got an eye injury from reading too many Rifts updates and rolling them too much. Uuuuugh.

I've really been enjoying them - I never read a lot of Rifts, and it has this awesome "13 year old's binder drawings" aesthetic to it.

Changeling is also basically the most awesome and horrible game ever. So, an idea for a character:
Winter Court Ogre. Back story is a rich kid high school football star who had secret horrible insecurity about never being good enough. Brought into the Hedge by the Fae "father" that had eaten his abusive coach, on the idea that it would love him and accept him for who he was. Being accepted for who he was in the Fae mockery of a family meant slowly turning into an ogre of the "abusive big brother" model, cultivating and then eating their negative emotions so they felt they were in a good place and wanted to stay or just eating them if it didn't work, and having to go out into the hedge to hunt down other children to bring back to the family. Eventually, he bonded with one other kid (probably one of the other PCs), who tried to convince him that he was being changed instead of accepted. The climactic decision to leave Arcadia came as he caught an attempted escapee near the edge of the hedge, could hear the family's hounds baying behind him, realised that the escapee was the kid he had the bond with, and fled with him instead of bringing him back. Now he's one of those crust-punks who hops railroad cars, being protective big-brother to another PC, eating other people's sadness and pain so they don't have to suffer, and trying to figure out a way to feel accepted and loved without being a monster.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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



Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Central to House Bjornaer philosophy is the idea that magic springs from pristine, natural areas. Magi believe that only in such pristine wilderness can ancestral spirits be found, for the attention of mankind corrupts pure spirits with heathenry, turning them into fae. Likewise, they believe that even pagan, nature-worshipping religions are tainted by Faerie and thus anathema to the ancestors. This is why House Bjornaer and the modern House Merinita don't tend to get along; the Bjornaer feel the faeries have usurped their ancestors. The main divide in the House is about how to defend the pristine wilderness. Harmonists, also called Concordiarii, say that the 'invasion' by growing human populations is inevitable, and there are too few Bjornaer magi to defend all that must be defended. Besides, all humans have the right to contact the ancestors, so the Harmonists argue they must be taught to live in harmony with nature and coexist respectfully with it, thus preserving the magic of the natural places. The Wilderists say, instead, that humans should be sent back to their cities, corralled within their stone walls where they can do no harm. They ensure that marshes, forests and moors are places of danger for humans, where wild beasts roam and untamable power is in control. Thus, the ancestral sites are protected from iron boots and vulgar men. The more zealous Wilderists seek to revert areas tamed by man into wild states, driving out settlers and keeping them away. In time, they hope the ancestors will return to such places.

The House is divided into six tribes or clans, which are further subdivided by sept. This structure encourages close relations between magi, and the members of a sept are usually close comrades bound by mutual support. This makes the House unusually cohesive, and magi are often shocked by the degree of organization these "primitives" are capable of, and the strength they can wield together. Every apprentice joins the clan of their teacher, and each clan descends from one of the six barns Bjornaer. Together the clans roughly constitute six political viewpoints that drive the House. Not all members of a clan will share its views, but most will. Clans Midusulf and Sirnas are largest, with about 18 members each, while Ilfetu is smallest, with perhaps six. The other three clans have around 12 each. Each Clan posseses their own mystery initiations: The Trial, a terrible Ordeal, the Deed, a quest, and the Oath, a sworn vow that must be upheld. They're typically (but not always) done in that order.

Clan Arelie was charged to remember. They believe the ancestors are best honored by remembrance, and they seek to preserve as much of the stories and lore of what has gone before as possible. They also attempt to dispel the whole Germanic barbarian stereotype as much as they can, and they are the most outward-looking clan, watching the rest of the Order. Many are taught the Art of Memory. They tend to be Harmonist even to the point of pacifism, and are the first to complain when a Wilderist acts out of turn. They also have a reputation for being the last to defend the House, and Clan Midusulf often accuses them of being caged birds for the rest of the Order, particularly the Quaesitores. The Trial of the Tree has an Arelie initiate hanged by the wrists for four days, gaining a gaze that pierces lies at the cost of terrible palsied hands. The Deed of Forgotten Lore sends the initiate to uncover that which is not known or has been forgotten about a clan ancestor, earning the power of clear thinking. The Oath of the Empty Hand vows never to raise a weapon against another being, earning an affinity with Mentem magic. The chief of Clan Arelie is Ursula Dansacer (Latin for 'Sharp-Tooth'; such bynames are common in the House), who has been given accolades for her scholarship by House Jerbiton and is an amazing poet. She has a wolf heartbeast, and is good friends with the Primus, Falke.

Clan Ilfetu was charged to teach. They are the most mystically inclined of the clans, adminstering the ancestor cult and conducting all of the public rites of the House, as well as leading the way in discovering new Mysteries. They are dreamers and theorists, both blessed and moonstruck. They hold much of the power of the House, being the only ones able to initiate others into the House Mysteries, but they do not exercise this authority often. They are Wilderist as a whole, for Birna commanded them to preserve the wild, and the Wilderist position offers the most protection to the ancestors. The Trial and Oath of the Prophet are one, and together, they earn the power of divination via the wounds of animals, though the initiate must swear to never lie and is pinned beneath a rock for nine days. The Deed of Honor is a quest to find and claim an ancestral site, earning the power of Second Sight. The Clan chief is Ardea, an aged woman with a heron heartbeast. (Traditionally, the clan's representative on the Bjornaer Council must have a heron heartbeast.) She has initiated the majority of the members of the House, and she is said to be the most potent mystic in the entire House. She is given much respect as a spiritual mother.

Clan Maruhs was charged to strive. It does not allow itself to be bound by rules of culture, but demands freedom to act as it pleases. The Maruhs are known for being romantics, passionate and daring heroes and excellent poets. They are the bridge between past and future, doing their best to be remembered by those who will come after. They have a reputation for being wild and capricious. They are Wilderist, largely because Harmonist policy requires conforming to societal standards, which they abhor. The Trial of Chains involves being bound in magical chains and tossed in a pit. Those who escape gain puissance in a single Art at the cost unpredictable and wild magic. The Deed of Emulation is a quest to replicate the heroic deed of an ancestor as closely as possible, unlocking the power of Dream Magic. The Oath of the Muse has the initiate vow never to hesitate in following their inspiration, always acting recklessly, but earning the power of free expression and skill in art. The chief is Larus Egg-Thief, a wandering magus of no fixed covenant. His heartbeast is the skua, a form of sea bird, and he is reachable via dead drop, mostly.

Clan Midusulf was charged to lead. And, rightly, they are often looked to as leaders, considering it their sacred trust to preserve the ancestors. They are the most likely to fit the barbarian stereotypes of the House, and tend not to care what others think of them. They are highly conservative and resistant to change, but also often those with the deepest understanding of the Heartbeast. They are the most fervently Wilderist of the clans, and often aggressive and even arrogant about getting their point across. The Trial of the Sacred Marriage involves ritually wedding the earth in a bloodletting ceremony that grants an affinity with the Heartbeast at the cost of a requirement to study the physical embodiments of the Hermetic Forms to learn properly. The Deed of Glory requires the initiate to win some prize from the House in competition, and in doing so earns a bonus to understanding magic from the physical embodiments of the Hermetic Forms. The Oath of Steadfastness is a vow to never allow an insult to the House or its magi to go unpunished, but in return they gain stronger magic in the presence of other Bjornaer magi. Urgen (more fully Archmage Urgen Midusulfis Twin-Slayer) is the chief of Midusulf and former primus of Bjornaer. He is well-known for his aggressive nature, especially on the issue of mundane encroachment, and has been accused of sending animal attacks to harass villages.

Clan Sirnas was charged to protect. Much as the stag guards the herd, they guard the House, and they feel direct conflict with humanity will harm the House. They are noted for bravery, honor and loyalty, and they seem to seek out causes to serve. Most of the Merinita who joined the House in the 800s became Sirnas. They are Harmonist, and the most active of Harmonist clans. They believe in fighting for their ideals, and often find allies in Clan Wilkis. The Trial of Self Control involves starving yourself to the point of collapse while in the constant presence of food. This makes you worse at magic while hungry, but grants you a strong will. The Deed of the Woodland Warden grants the power to Awaken natural things at the end of a quest to protect the wilderness from a true threat. The Oath of the Helpful Stranger has you vow to forever protect those weaker than you, gaining a magical focus in wards. The chief of Sirnas is Ophia Sirnaus Isle-Warden, who lives on an otherwise uninhabited Aegean island, guarding a shrine of Artemis. Her heartbeast is a serpent.

Clan Wilkis was charged to nourish. They honor the ancestors by strengthening the House, ensuring its lore is actively sought and rescuing House secrets from outsiders as well as hunting down those who endanger the House by their action. They are loyal to the primus in all things, no matter what clan the primus belongs to, and they enforce the will of the Bjornaer Council. Due to lacking an explicit representative on the Council, they remain focused on the good of the House above all agendas. They are Harmonists, generally disdainful of mundanes but seeing themselves as having no real choice about harmony with them. However, they tend to be swayed by the views of the primus, supporting the less zealous Wilderists when a Wilderist is primus and being stronger Harmonists when, as now, a Harmonist is primus. The Trial of Self-Negation involves publically humiliating yourself before witnesses, earning an infamous reputation (and probably a new byname), but gaining the power to fuel rage with shame, learning the art of the berserker. The Deed of Fealty is a quest to complete a task that has no meaning but to prove loyalty to the House, earning the power of cautious sorcery. The Oath of Completion involves a vow to complete the unfinished life's work of a clan ancestor, gaining the power to fuel magic with your own life. Technically, the current prima is the chief of Wilkis, but in practice the primus appoints a deputy chief, currently Retetarius Bjornaer, whose heartbeast is a salmon and who dwells within the River Danube in order to swiftly travel much of Europe.

The septs are informal groupings within a clan, descended Hermetically from some common ancestor. They tend to be named for the most recent common ancestor held by all the members, though not always. Some septs share 'family' ties and peculiarities, such as a heartbeast all have in common, while others are more due to geographic proximity. Not all Bjornaer magi are in a sept, though most are. The sept helps to train apprentices and teach them, and a Bjornaer may always call on sept-mates for aid and expect at least one to offer a season's worth of help, on the understanding that they owe the same in return. The largest current sept has eight members, but 3-4 is far more common. Members of the same sept tend to live in the same area, usually within two or three nearby covenants, generally no more than a week away as the crow flies.

The Bjornaer Council, not the primus, is in charge of the House. The six seats are named for the heartbeasts of the barns Bjornaer. The Seat of the Bear is the leader of the council, and is always held by a Midusulf with a bear heartbeast. The Seat of the Wolf belongs to the primus, who acts as a spokesperson to the Order through the Grand Tribunal and directs Clan Wilkis. The Seat of the Swan is held by the premier mystic of Ilfetu, and always a heron heartbeast. (Oddly, no one has seen a new heron heartbeast in fifty years.) The Seat of the Horse is held by Clan Maruhs and is responsible for membership in the House. The Seat of the Eagle, held by House Arelie, is responsible for keeping an eye on the Order as a whole. The Council chooses the candidates for primus and votes on them, while all other seats are chosen by election at the Gathering of Twelve Years. Primi are typically Wilkis, as the current Falke is, but not always, and even if they are not, they represent Wilkis on the Council. If the primus has a bear heartbeast, the Seats of Bear and Wolf are combined, regardless of the clan of the primus, and the Seat of the Fox (named for the second Primus, Fauho) is occupied by a Wilkis representative. The Seat of the Fox exists only in this circumstance.

The Gathering of Twelve Years is, yes, a gathering of the entire House every 12 years at Crintera, during which they perform rituals associated with maintenance of lineage and solidifying House bonds. It is both social and political, and no member of the House is willingly absent. The event is central to the ancestor cult and a time to honor one's mystical family. It begins on the night of the full moon closest to the summer solstice, and magi will arrive up to a fortnight in advance. Only those initiated into the House Mysteries may attend, and they assemble on top of an immense wooden platform in Crintera, while those awaiting initiation wait on the ground below. The Council performs an ancient Gothic ritual meant to ensure that no shapeshifters are present for it forces all present simultaneously assume their heartbeast form. After this change, they may freely take whatever form they prefer (usually human, for ease of communication). Then, the Ritual of Twelve Years is performed for each applicant to the House. All who fail are escorted out and forever barred from House Bjornaer. Nominations for vacant Council seats follow, with the actual vote taking place later. All initiated members of the House, apprentice or full magus, have the right to vote.

There is only one other organized event at the Gathering, which takes place near the end. All Initiates assemble, seated, to hear the Eagle Elder present the news of the Order and the Horse Elder present all news from within the House. Lastly, the Bear Elder announces any political decisions to be pursued over the next twelve years. Everyone present has the right to speak, and signifies desire to speak by standing. Points may be debated and decisions changed as a result of these debates. The rest of the week-long Gathering is held to honor the memory of the House's lineage, with skilled magi performing music, poems or plays revolving around the deeds of famous ancestors or the deeds of current magi in pursuit of House secrets. Each member of the House tries to uncover as much of their lineage as possible, for such knowledge is vital to the House Mysteries. It is also a time to renew friendships and settle grudges. No Bjornaer magus may discuss what goes on at Gatherings with other Houses, neither confirming nor denying any rumors, which adds to the mystery of the House. The most paranoid suggest that perhaps Bjornaer has reasons to keep the Gathering secret. (So far as the book says, they really don't other than tradition.) The next Gathering will be in 1227.

Next time: Being a Bjornaer apprentice.

ThisIsNoZaku
Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!


Yessod posted:

I've really been enjoying them - I never read a lot of Rifts, and it has this awesome "13 year old's binder drawings" aesthetic to it.

That's what Rifts is all about.

Ask yourself; "Do I want to play a dragon wizard in a party consisting of a psychic robo-paladin and knight errant ancient-walking-tank jockey fighting vampire armies and insane AIs and an evil empire of skull-festooned human-supremacist cyber-fascists and slaving inter-dimensional horrors and an enormous swarm of genocidal locust and etc.?"

The answer is of course "yes," but you can't because the rules are just hosed.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Rifts:™ England Part 12: “Actual New Camelot, no for reals this time”



So now, some statblocks for actual Knights of Camelot. We start with King Arr’thuu of course. I am still astonished each time I type that spelling that somebody thought it was cool. He is a charismatic 22 year old who took the throne at 16 after being groomed by Mrrlyn. He “replaced King Ebor after the good king and his two sons were ambushed and slain by demons on a trip to a neighboring kingdom.” Firstly, I thought Mrrlyn created New Camelot, and secondly, this book seems to assume a network of medieval-styled feudal fiefdoms it has not gone to any lengths to explain. Rifts Core did note that a lot of settlements are ruled by petty warlords and such but they didn’t go around styling themselves knights. I guess that wouldn’t be Amurrican. :911:

Anyway Arr’thuu has a tendency to recklessly throw himself into battle and Mrrlyn can’t talk him into hanging back. He is best friends with Prrcyvel which if one can avoid drinking all memories of this book away, you may recall that he is in fact a Chiang-Ku dragon trying to block Mrrlyn’s plans. Arr’thuu, being a dope, doesn’t suspect anything about Mrrlyn and his secret police force but thinks Prrcyvel might be a True Atlantean because he totally knows what those nearly extinct half-legendary people are, but not Chiang-Ku dragons.

It also states that Arr’thuu is exactly 4d4 months from asking Guinevere’s hand in marriage. I am glad they’re being exact about that. Apparently Caliber-X (:barf:) is a pre-Rifts artifact meant to be used by psychics with a specific wavelength and Arr’thuu is one in ten million who can handle it and is maybe descended from those guys, who knows.



that is the most harrowed 22 i have ever seen

For all that talk about how chivalrous he is, his alignment is actually Scrupulous. He’s a sixth level Royal Knight and has psionic powers and recognizes a lot of magic but can’t cast it.

Caliber-X is a special pre-Rifts weapon that works like a Cyber-Knight’s psi-sword but can also shoot energy bolts that cost 1 ISP per blast (Arr’thuu has 75) and can be telekinetically thrown and return for the same cost. It can be destroyed when not in psi-sword mode though it has 300 MDC; Mrrlyn has a spare, and one other one that has a different attunement. He wears that dumb plate-styled armor with 100 MDC. They really should get him something stronger. Also he has a robot horse called Morgana, which is kind of gross.

Sir Prrcyvel is as we know a Chiang-Ku dragon and the only knight who has figured out Mrrlyn’s deal. Unfortunately he has not figured out Guinevere’s deal. He has a bunch of magic tattoos, I don’t feel like looking those up. He has an Undead Slayer squire. Supposedly he and Arr’thuu are the best of friends but Prrcyvel hasn’t been able to gather enough evidence or whatever to out Mrrlyn. Also it says Arr’thuu would be shattered to find out that his father-figure and his lover were both puppets dancing on alien strings, he has such a dilemma.



i am completely a human, this is how humans dress right?

Sir Dred



he took his helmet off!?

A selfish and arrogant young knight, easily manipulated to spy for Mrrlyn--and Prrcyvel as it happens, treated with a lot of disrespect, disrespects others in turn. Basically dumb enough to have thrown himself in harm’s way to save Mrrlyn, not realizing the spellcaster is a 2000 MDC shard of an alien god, and was granted knighthood.

Sir Galahad

An Atlantean Undead Slayer--wait, okay, I see now why Arr’thuu might suspect Prrcyvel but not why he’d think his friend would hide it; oh nevermind. Galahad is an ace dude, always helping people out and being gracious. He is at least bright enough to have some suspicions of Mrrlyn and has fought Zllyphan in the past but hasn’t put the pieces together yet. He has a lot of tattoo powers and I am amazed Mrrlyn is not SO plotting to kill him.



magic tattoos still look like temporaries from a vending machine even with a mohawk

Okay, now, for real, finally, New Camelot. This should have been at the front of the book, ahead of the Millennium Trees, ahead of all of Erin Tarn’s nonsense, ahead of the many different kinds of magical farmers and blacksmiths and random Asian dragons.

But it’s here, let’s see what it is. Currently only about 200 square miles total, and it is constantly expanding. About 16,000 people in the “city”. That’s...fewer than my hometown by a slight number, and 3500 of those are stated to be under arms, though 900 of those are militia or 1600 “other warriors” under the military divisions. The city is explicitly stated to be the largest and most powerful kingdom on the British Isles, everything else is wilderness. There are “A few other kingdoms” but the largest of these is 8,000 people, and the next after that only 3,500.

Apparently the rifts really did a number on highly-urbanized Britain and every physical structure on its surface. :negative:

New Camelot is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Okay. Mrrlyn did create it by uniting a few struggling settlements and basically knitting the whole thing together and establishing trade with the NGR and whatnot. The description of the attitudes of the people could probably be well-summarized by the musical version of Camelot so you can just look that up on Youtube if you like.

The city itself is a hodgepodge of styles with a shiny palace and university and also a Stone Magic pyramid on a line nexus that links to Zazshan’s other controlled Nexus to the north with a different pyramid. There are no tenements or slums, everybody is fairly happy, though humans have it marginally better than non-humans and this divide may grow etc etc.

Despite being happy and musical, the city is enclosed by a fortifying wall which is even more pointless in an era with teleporting, flying, invisible enemies than it was in an era with just artillery, but sure, okay, it has a wall. At least along the eastern side, with sections at the south and west; the north is left open but “this lack of defenses is illusory.” Oh, I see, two of the five (good to know) dragons of Camelot live on the north side. They will defend the city to the death. There are also earth elementals that work for the dragons and piles of rocks that are tectonic entities Mrrlyn commands.



your friendly neighborhood...

Then we get to descriptions of various markets and services offered; basically ‘all’, including a prominent magic shop and a nefarious drug den called the Snake Pit which apparently sells things ranging from regular-grade opium through magical herbs to the occasional bio-wizard component. It apparently only sells to travelers and never messes with the Knights or something so it still exists. Just...moving on.

For some reason a city of 16,000 has an indoor arena that seats 60,000. All kinds of sporting events take place, at least twice a week, including things like boxing, wrestling and swordfighting, but “few are to the death.” I guess it’s like the Ultimate Medieval Times.

There’s also a stable that sells horses. Oh, and a few pegasi and also bionic horses, and throws in some rules and costs for bionic enhancements to regular horses. Cybernetic animals is a mildly interesting idea, particularly for mounts, but they attached these rules to the end of a shop description where you will never ever find them again.

And that’s it. New Camelot, three page writeup, basically a shopping guide. We don’t get any insight into how the governance of the city and surrounding kingdom actually work. Do the KoC get fiefs? Is there a council that advises Arr’thuu? Is there a minister who handles the city stuff while he’s away having adventures? They mention “lords and ladies” but give no structure to this. I imagine the answer to some of those questions is ‘Mrrlyn’ but he’s got his fingers in a lot of pies already to be directly administering even a “city” the size of New Camelot. There’s also a regular police force of some kind I imagine, and--well, at least they have lots of circuses to go with their inexplicable bread. It’s implied that the kingdom has some kind of hereditary nobility thing going on which, fine, the Coalition States has that too. They just actually explained it because Karl Prosek is perceived to be corrupt to be elevating his son to succeed him. New Camelot just sort of vaguely brushes aside all that important stuff like ‘how do they prevent oppression and corruption by a landed gentry’ and seems to assume the player will just know how the court is set up, because all European courts and knightly systems worked the same way, forever.

I know that playing courtly politics is not really a Riftly strong point but they did set up some interpersonal political conflicts, just without really explaining the powers that might or might not fall to the king or how these people influence each other besides ‘gossip, go on adventures, have parties’, maybe there’s just a hardworking civil servant class that just stares at all this weirdness and then gets the king to sign as many documents as possible while he’s sober and before he rides off again.

If Mrrlyn is the one keeping everything all hunky-dory and peaceful for the time being it might be worthwhile to leave him in place a while longer, most human administrations aren’t that efficient.

(I wrote this before ARB made basically the same point in a previous post; for all his evil evilness, Zazshan sure has spent a shitload of time crafting one of the most persistent myths of good in our culture and one of the nicest places to live in horrific wasteland Rifts Earth)

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


occamsnailfile posted:

Rifts:™ England Part 12: “Actual New Camelot, no for reals this time”


i am completely a human, this is how humans dress right?

I'm thinking Prrcyvel has another name: Vampire Hunter P.

occamsnailfile posted:

There’s also a stable that sells horses. Oh, and a few pegasi and also bionic horses, and throws in some rules and costs for bionic enhancements to regular horses. Cybernetic animals is a mildly interesting idea, particularly for mounts, but they attached these rules to the end of a shop description where you will never ever find them again.

Yeah, it's like how the robot horse stats are jammed in the middle of Vampire Kingdoms' mind-numbingly long shop list for some reason, despite showing up as an option on just about every scout and knight's equipment package.

Not that there are any rules for mounted combat other than the Horsemanship skill, and even that's not entirely clear when you roll Horsemanship, anyway... or how to roll skills, period, but that's another story.

occamsnailfile posted:

I know that playing courtly politics is not really a Riftly strong point but they did set up some interpersonal political conflicts, just without really explaining the powers that might or might not fall to the king or how these people influence each other besides ‘gossip, go on adventures, have parties’, maybe there’s just a hardworking civil servant class that just stares at all this weirdness and then gets the king to sign as many documents as possible while he’s sober and before he rides off again.

Earlier I bit my tongue when it came to Guinevere, since it mentions her being a noblewoman, and I'm like "on what basis is there any sort of nobility?" It also raises the question of how a corpse-energy-monster became a noble, did he possess a woman who was a noble originally, or- and then I realize I'm thinking about this way harder than the author ever did and just give up.

But I held back about her vague nobility because there's a handwavey few sentences about there being "kingdoms" out there, so presumably some feudal jackasses have gotten their crowns, scepters, and ermine* on, it's just that the book has close to zero interest in detailing them.
* It turns out there's a name for that goofy white fur trim with black dots! It's ermine!

Erebro
Apr 28, 2013


Y'know, Mrrlyn could have been really cool. Almost the British answer to the Coalition States.

He's greedy and ambitious, certainly, but he's put so much effort into seeming to be the good guy that he's actually become the good guy. A good guy who manufactures crises to solve, but also solves the genuine ones without hesitation.

Add a sense of honor and theatrics on top of that, he could be the Grand Admiral Thrawn of Rifts: A bad guy, but such a stylish bad guy that you can't help but respect him.

Instead, he just adds to the stupidity of Rifts Britain.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Apprenticeship under House Bjornaer falls into two distinct phases: The Sleeping Years, from the Opening the of the Arts to the Ritual of Twelve Years, and the Awakened Years, from the Ritual of Twelve Years to induction as a full magus. The Sleeping Years begin when a Gifted child is found, and generally a magus will keep the child around for a year or two to observe their temperament and see if it's suited to the magus' sept, as well as tutoring the kid in Latin. If the kid seems to fit, they're taken as an apprentice. If not, they get handed off to someone whose sept they will fit into. The new apprentice is called a catulus, or cub. Catuli are the common property of the sept, and all of the sept has a hand in their teaching. Likewise, all have a right to the catulus' assistance in the lab. Since a sept is generally all in one geographic area, this isn't really an issue. The sept spends this time trying to guess what the apprentice's heartbeast will be, based on personality and physiognomy That's important - the Initiation of the Heartbeast might fail if the catulus is unsuited to the sept. Little mention is made of the Bjornaer cultic practices until the season before Initiation, when they are given only enough understanding to pass the ritual. A catulus without a sept is trained by a single magus, similar to standard Hermetic apprenticeship.

The shared training ends with the Ritual of Twelve Years, when the apprentice takes on heartbeast form for the first time. At that point, the House considers they've passed their Gauntlet and are a full member of House Bjornaer, with a voice equal to any other magus. However, the Code of Hermes specifies fifteen seasons of training over fifteen years, so the initiate will be trained by a single magus until they are ready to swear the Oath of Hermes. The trainer is chosen by the sept, though occasionally the House as a whole may decide that an apprentice is best placed elsewhere. A particularly valued apprentice may be fought over by various means at the Gathering they are initiated at. The training is always completed by a magus with a compatiable heartbeast - no lynx will ever train a hare, say. Further, the apprentice is now taught the doctrine of the Bjornaer ancestor cult and its true history, and is encouraged to research their Hermetic ancestry.

Contrary to popular belief, House Bjornaer does not often take as apprentice anyone who can change shape on their own. They insist that the heartbeast must be awoken by the Ritual of Twelve Years, and any child who can shapeshift is clearly either a scion of their ancient foes or a werewolf. However, it is possible (if unlikely) for a Bjornaer follower to reach initiation as a skinchanger or shapeshifter. Clans Arelie and Ilfetu never recruit such apprentices, for fear of infiltration. Clans Midusulf and Wilkis publically take them as apprentices, but such apprentices always die in...tragic accidents, and never join the House. Clans Sirnas and Maruhs will take on shapeshifters if they are only capable of assuming one other shape, for they feel it best to indoctrinate such children into the House's beliefs to keep them from their dark heritage. If the Ritual of Twelve Years were to awaken a heartbeast different from that shape, the two Clans will pass the child to Wilkis, and the apprentice will never be seen again. Such measures do not perfectly prevent shapeshifters from joining Bjornaer, of course. An apprentice may be skilled enough to hide their heritage, or even be wholly ignorant of it, or a sept may choose to hide it for some reason.

Magi who are known to have shapeshifted before Initiation are known as uswaurpa, rejects, and typically acquire the term as a byname, along with the scorn of peers. A magus who shapeshifts yet made it through apprenticeship must demonstrate a willingness not to use their "unnatural" powers, and must undergo before all else the initiation of the Secret Name, that the House might have power over them if they prove false. If such a magus were to seek the Inner Mysteries of the House, the ancestors will reject them unless they willingly give up their shapeshifter or skinchanger power as part of their initiation. Those who do not wish to do so may seek other mysteries. Of course, all this assumes the House knows you have that power. Still, the fear of keeping such a secret and the threat of discovery may well be worse than all the scorn that a known and honest shapeshifter would face.

People do not often seek to join House Bjornaer as full magi, but sometimes it does happen, often enough that most mature Bjornaer have witnessed it at least once. The Bjornaer Council interviews all such applicants, and if they seem sincere, they are adopted into a sept, and must assist the sept as if they were a catulus, earning their respect for at least five years. At that point, they may undergo the Ritual of Twelve Years, preferably at the Gathering, and from then on are full members of the House. Magi who may shapechange without use of a spell are never allowed into the House, and the reason why is never told to them. Likewise, they accept no member who is initiated into the Mysteries of another House, nor if they are a known member of an esoteric Mystery Cult. Any magus who has ever had a Familiar, even if the Familiar is now dead, may not pass the Ritual of Twelve Years and so will never join the House.



So. Heartbeasts. The heartbeast is the animal form a Bjornaer magus turns into. Bjornaer doctrine holds that the human is tripartite: the material body, the immaterial spirit and the immortal soul. The spirit is the link between body and soul, controlling animal passion, instinct and fear as well as tendency to virtue or vice. They believe the heartbeast is an active expression of the spirit, and therefore that all humans have the potential to gain one, but in most, it lies dormant, preventing them from ever realizing their animal nature and completing the transformation. The secret taught to all Bjornaer in apprenticeship is that the dormant heartbeast is the spirit of an animal ancestor. Such spirits are inherited by the father's line, much as the material body is inherited by the mother's line. (The soul, of course. is derived from God, at least according to Christian magi.) The Ritual of Twelve Years brings both the soul and spirit into equal partnership, allowing them to inform the body When the soul is in control, the magus is human. When the spirit is, the magus is animal.

The only method to gain a heartbeast is to undergo the Ritual of Twelve Years, and it is synonymous with joining the House. It is more than a rite to awaken the heartbeast - it joins you to the family Bjornaer, as a cutting grafted to a tree becomes joined to the three. Mystically, your parens is equivalent to a true parent, your sept to true relatives and your clan to a true bloodline. Supernatural powers that target a bloodline, such as the Merinita Faerie magic, operate on your Hermetic family rather than your biological family. No one can leave the House once initiated, just as a cutting will wither and die away from a tree. The obligation of ensuring this is true falls to Clan Wilkis. In response to heinous crimes, the Bjornaer Council may declare a magus orphan, severed from sept and House. Such unfortunates rarely last the year thanks to multiple Wizard's Wars from Clan Wilkis.

Every magus has a different idea of what it means to have an awakened heartbeast, for the heartbeast is a deeply personal thing, which cannot be described, only experienced. Even Hermetic magic to change forms cannot even begin to approximate it. The transformed body may in all ways look, feel and sound like a wolf, but it remains essentially human, with a human mind. When a Bjornaer magus assumes the heartbeast form, they truly become a wolf in all ways, indistinguishable from other wolves by any test Hermetic magic can make. (Though they do retain human intellect.) A Bjornaer who becomes pregnant must remain in one form from the moment the pregnancy starts to show, or the child will not come to term. The children will be of the same form the mother was in at the moment of birth, regardless of the father's species. Most Bjornaer magi avoid cross-species mating like the plague; their limited experience with it shows that a child with an animal father lacks a soul and has the mind of a beast, regardless of what form they are born in. Children born to animal mothers are always animals, with no difference between them and mundane beasts.

Next time: Heartbeasts and how to learn what yours is.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Mr. Maltose posted:

It's really the final insult. Not only were you taken, not only did they change you forever, not only did they replace you with a puppet, but they replaced you with a puppet who's better than you at being you.
Puts a whole new cast on The Last Starfighter all of a sudden.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Alien Rope Burn posted:


Earlier I bit my tongue when it came to Guinevere, since it mentions her being a noblewoman, and I'm like "on what basis is there any sort of nobility?" It also raises the question of how a corpse-energy-monster became a noble, did he possess a woman who was a noble originally, or- and then I realize I'm thinking about this way harder than the author ever did and just give up.

But I held back about her vague nobility because there's a handwavey few sentences about there being "kingdoms" out there, so presumably some feudal jackasses have gotten their crowns, scepters, and ermine* on, it's just that the book has close to zero interest in detailing them.
* It turns out there's a name for that goofy white fur trim with black dots! It's ermine!

Having people who are (or claim to be) actual descendants of British nobility would be kind of interesting, plus there seem to be some people claiming noble heritage who are not from Earth at all and Arr'thuu is going around calling himself a king but he's just this random kid Mrrlyn found and conflicts between Old Blood and New Money could actually be cool and--no, we're not doing that? Okay Rifts, I'll go back to listing off what PCs can buy in individual cities like you said.

(Also one of the other 'kingdoms' that gets detailed ahead is a 'freedom-loving democracy' that gives a stat writeup for their...king. I wish there was a Gerard Butler shouting emoticon.)

I really dislike the 'alien sockpuppet' Camelot thing in general but there is a lot of wasted potential in Mrrlyn's faux-goodness being actual goodness. One could just chuck the Lady in the Lake and Guinevere and Nexus Knights out, or partially out and stick with just him being a secret evil or something but honestly it's way more effort than it's worth, if you run a Rifts game, just basically don't set it in England. Or uh, Africa, spoiler warning.

Also I've been reading the Day after Ragnarok stuff and can't help sort of looking at it alongside Rifts as another post-apocalyptic setting, and crying a little inside. It seems like a neat book, I may have to pick it up.

Mr. Maltose
Feb 16, 2011

The Guffless Girlverine


Between the Guinevere art and the "Arthurian Aliens" angle, it sounds like Siembieda is ripping off DC Comic's Camalot 3000. Which, to be honest, isn't the worst thing to rip off.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Fallen Rib

Yessod posted:

Changeling is also basically the most awesome and horrible game ever.

Changeling is one of those games whose quality I recognize while simultaneously having no real interest in playing. I participated in a Changeling game once because one of our gaming groups' players was a huge huge enthusiast and he put in a ton of work to set up an awesome game...and the other players dug it, he was a good GM, but I could just never get into it the way they were.

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

occamsnailfile posted:

Having people who are (or claim to be) actual descendants of British nobility would be kind of interesting, plus there seem to be some people claiming noble heritage who are not from Earth at all and Arr'thuu is going around calling himself a king but he's just this random kid Mrrlyn found and conflicts between Old Blood and New Money could actually be cool and--no, we're not doing that? Okay Rifts, I'll go back to listing off what PCs can buy in individual cities like you said.

(Also one of the other 'kingdoms' that gets detailed ahead is a 'freedom-loving democracy' that gives a stat writeup for their...king. I wish there was a Gerard Butler shouting emoticon.)

I really dislike the 'alien sockpuppet' Camelot thing in general but there is a lot of wasted potential in Mrrlyn's faux-goodness being actual goodness. One could just chuck the Lady in the Lake and Guinevere and Nexus Knights out, or partially out and stick with just him being a secret evil or something but honestly it's way more effort than it's worth, if you run a Rifts game, just basically don't set it in England. Or uh, Africa, spoiler warning.

Also I've been reading the Day after Ragnarok stuff and can't help sort of looking at it alongside Rifts as another post-apocalyptic setting, and crying a little inside. It seems like a neat book, I may have to pick it up.

Day After Ragnarok is so good even I like it, and I am known to despise fun. :colbert:


Oh Rifts, such a glorious bunch of half-baked ideas, such awful awful execution. :allears:

Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009


occamsnailfile posted:

a 'freedom-loving democracy' that gives a stat writeup for their...king.

People often don't bother making the distinction between a parliamentary monarchy and a democracy (liberal or not), since both are a form of republic (another distinction people don't normally bother with). It may be technically wrong, but it's common usage.

Of course, it's entirely possible this is just a democracy in which "king" is the name of the elected head of government.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Rifts:™ England Part 13: “The British Isles, misc”



Okay, so now we’re branching into the larger realms of the Isles. We get more ‘Terrain and Climate’ and ‘Land Area’ stuff because Palladium just loves that sort of thing, and it also specifies that the coastline of England has changed a bit because of Atlantis bulging up in the center of the Atlantic, which, fair enough. The only sort of weird change there is that the Loch Ness has completely swelled and split north Scotland from the south. I’m not good at Scottish geography but if there is isn’t like a whole nest of sea monsters in there I will be a sad panda.

It also specifies that there are just a handful of large kingdoms and none of them exceed 20,000 people, which, well, we were already told New Camelot is humanity’s A-game in the British Isles so yeah.

there’s a generic illustration of stonehenge here, you know what it looks like

And then we get to Stonehenge, which you knew was coming. It’s on a line nexus point and the British Isles, we have been told repeatedly, are one of the very most magical places on Earth except for possibly the Yucatan Peninsula. I haven’t read either China book but I am going to assume there is some kind of super-mystical bullshit that is either better than, or more properly understood by being in harmony or some poo poo over there, but one cultural stereotype at a time. At the beginning of the book it says Spriggans rebuilt Stonehenge. Here it says it was untouched by the Great Cataclysm. I just want to note that they have to keep continuously restoring and digging around modern Stonehenge to keep it in something like shape so while Spriggans are dumb, they’re probably more likely.

Anyway, in Rifts Earth, Stonehenge is a super-powerful Nexus and Mrrlyn, the Lady of the Lake, New Camelot, and ‘The Eternal City’ have agreed to at least not let any one power control it. Given that like three of those are almost the same person it seems a bit of a sham. They have at least defended it in concert as a neutral zone on a few occasions. The other nexuses it’s connected to are illustrated in a little diagram and are all probably fairly famous archeological sites in their own right if one is into that. Nortown faerie kingdom is just that, full of loving faeries. But being faeries they mostly just stick to their place and don’t go off bugging people.



Let’s see, Mrrlyn’s pyramid gets another mention, they talk about another stone ring that was submerged by the Rifts but seems to have a calming effect on the sea, Merrivale and Old Sarum Hill host Millennium Trees, oh, and then they want to give us some NPCs for Sarum Hill. There’s...a nice old druid elder, a Dryad Druid elf healer, a Scathach blacksmith, and a Simvan Monster Rider who is the village champion and widely loved and respected. This section is best summarized by the illustration of what Craig, the monster rider, rides.



lisa frank on line one

Bath is still home to a curative spring, but now it’s magical for real. Also this is where the ‘Eternal City’ mentioned earlier is located; 7400 people, highly mixed population. They believe in freedom and democracy for all peoples and are a ‘friendly rival’ to New Camelot. They charge a nominal fee to “known druids, herbalists and healers” to use the magic water and everyone else has to go through “petitioning the courts.” They’re threatened by a Goblin Kingdom in south Wales and ruled by a King Bronin who--wait, democracy? Well he’s supposed to be a good guy, we hear about his kids, and his wife is cool too or something. I don’t think that’s how democracy works though.

Lemon Curdistan made the point that people in constitutional monarchies often may not make a lot of distinction here since you can totally have an awesome queen and still fundamentally be a republic at least. It just doesn't clarify this point with even the basic adjective of 'constitutional monarchy' which is what I would probably run the Eternal City as were I to use it in anything ever; it would make it an interesting contrast to Camelot's mysteriously enlightened despotism and play up the 'friendly rival' angle.

Next up is the Berwynmoore Kingdom which is a ‘not-so-friendly’ neighbor that keeps a slave population of 2000 or so goblins and seems to be human dominated. It’s located on the former site of the city of Swindon and is ruled by an evil Queen who is going to die soon and be succeeded by her warmongering son because primogeniture; older sister just made a demon pact instead. They actually use conscript troops and act pretty much like a feudal kingdom.



thank you for marking where all these ‘major’ cities are, jerks

A couple more tourist sites/trees are noted, and then we get to London--which is under the control of the Splugorth. They think of England as a wild game preserve and exotic slave hunting grounds, and compete for use of the Stonehenge nexus. Mrrlyn of course is of a rival species, and this is in addition to the Splugorth proudly wearing evil like a badge, so the good kingdoms and even the not-so-good kingdom oppose them. There’s about 6500 total beings there, which is almost twice New Camelot’s total armed forces--plus 1800 slaves, cause somebody gotta make the coffee.

They list some more trees; Margate island seems to be where ‘Dabuggh’ :ughh: live and in true Rifts tradition the forces of evil work together, they’re allied with London. They mention the Nog Henge tree (you remember those druids who are actually dragons?) and give an abbreviated stat block for the main guardian--a lot of these stat blocks include attributes and nothing else, no skills, powers, MDC values or anything else.

The ruins of Newport (oh, British cities DO have some ruins) are inhabited by goblins and hate pretty people. The Llyn Fawr nexus is home to trolls and ogres (one of which is a Temporal Wizard) and I only even mention it because the one-paragraph entry is split by two pages of maps detailing (finally) where the major cities are, and also the major ley lines.



note that they only care about nexuses, which also happen to be cities

Okay almost done--Scotland is very briefly brushed over with ‘Balfarg’ that is a village of about 2000 people that are actually more Dabugghs, the human-looking ones, and human slaves. They plot with the Formorians from Devil’s Arrow.

Lastly, we have the Dragon’s Grave, which is a Nexus point that used to have a big old selfish dragon living in a stone pyramid there until a giant monster came out of a rift (aren’t pyramids supposed to control those?) and killed it and destroyed the pyramid; the text says this was Lord Splynncryth himself which makes very little sense since I thought he came in from Atlantis, and if he came into England 200 years ago (when this supposedly happened) that was before all these stupid human kingdoms established themselves and England is so full of magic and--ugh.

Oh, wait, not quite lastly. ‘The Highlands’ are the domain of the Formorians and the old Celtic Gods. Guess who’re getting statted next?!

Nostalgia4ColdWar
May 7, 2007

Good people deserve good things.

Till someone lets the winter in and the dying begins, because Old Dark Places attract Old Dark Things.


quote:

It also specifies that there are just a handful of large kingdoms and none of them exceed 20,000 people, which, well, we were already told New Camelot is humanity’s A-game in the British Isles so yeah.

This is one thing that always pisses me off about RPG's, and particularly Rifts books.

20,000 people? That's a LARGE kingdom? Sembedia couldn't pick up a goddamn book and check populations or call a loving medieval history university instructor and ask? The Roman loving Empire had like 70 MILLION citizens. Just London in 1500 had 50,000 people in the city alone, and it didn't have the benefit of Rifts science.

The exact number is debatable, but with a kingdom only 20,000 population, you'd be looking at a lot of birth defects cropping up in small towns and villages.

Goddamn it, Sembedia, read a loving book!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Your heartbeast is as much part of you as any other trait you have. All magi with a fox heartbeast are cunning, though they may well be cunning in very different ways. Many Bjornaer magi show outward signs of the heartbeast, as well. Most bears are, in human form, large. Most weasels are small and skinny. This is hardly absolute, though. Many Bjornaer whose heartbeasts are identical or opposed (such as, say, wolf and hare) do not get along well. There are four basic types of heartbeast, named for the four basic temperaments of physiognomy: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. In the past, these were named instead for the four elements, or even further back, the seasons, but temperament has been used since the Schism War in an attempt to break from the pagan past. These temperaments may be 'pure', or can be 'aspected' to another temperament.

Sanguine heartbeasts are all birds, from the eagle to the robin. They tend to be gregarious and lively, with quick wit and good manual dexterity. Predatory birds who fly by day have a choleric aspect, while water birds are said to he phlegmatic in aspect. Choleric heartbeasts are fierce, fast or active land animals. Nearly all predators are choleric, as are the free-spirited herbivores such as the horse. They tend to be emotional, yet loyal and brave. The smallest and fastest of these predators are sanguine in aspect, while the larger herbivores such as the horse and stag have a melancholic aspect. Melancholic heartbeasts are the slow-moving land animals, or those of generally docile nature. They are steadfast, slow to anger and yet dangerous when roused. They also are often lazy or greedy. The more aggressive of them, such as bears, bulls or wild boar, have a choleric aspect, whole the more placid, such as hares, wild sheep and so on have phlegmatic aspect. Phlegmatic heartbeasts are all those who crawl and swim. They tend to be deep thinkers, but often introverted and lacking affection. All fish are phlegmatic, as are frogs and salamanders (which are a sort of fish, you know) plus also reptiles and aquatic mammals. Dry-skinned reptiles have a sanguine aspect, while land animals that have aquatic existence, such as otters or seals, have a melancholic aspect.

No heartbeast is domesticated. Only "noble" animals became ancestors, and while there are Bjornaer who become ram, bull or sheep, they are always the wild version of such beasts. No creature smaller than a weasel can be a heartbeast save for an especially small magus. Even then, vermin are never heartbeasts; they are not noble. No creature larger than an aurochs may be a heartbeast - there are legends of elephant or whale heartbeasts, but they are unsubstantiated and would require a truly immense magus. Only natural, nonmagical creatures can be heartbeasts. Plants can be, but never inanimate objects, which lack spirit. It is rare for a heartbeast to take the form of a creature not native to Europe, save for magi of exotic origin themselves.


Why would you want to be a plant, though?

Other Houses are often baffled about why House Bjornaer does not make greater use of shapeshifting spells; indeed, they hardly ever know spells to turn themselves or others into animals, and they eschew magic that makes more than superficial changes to themselves, in man or heartbeast form. The idea of becoming something other than the heartbeast tends to cause feelings of revulsion in Bjornaer magi, and while there are some who go beyond the bounds of "decency", they are not approved of. Magi of other Houses who regularly use shapechanging spells are viewed with disdain, but are not expected to know better. The shapeshifter who may naturally change shape is viewed with some dread by even the most urbane of the House. Without the Ritual of Twelve Years, they cannot adopt the forms of their ancestral spirits, and must acquire them elsewhere (or so Bjornaer magi tend to believe). Those who can take on multiple forms are despised and abhorred as soul-thieves, a terrible perversion of Birna's sacred rites. All Bjornaer apprentices learn the tales of Gothic shapeshifters who lurked on the edge of society, stealing babies for their forbidden rituals.

Lycanthropes, on the other hand, are viewed with some pity. They are creatures overcome by their ancestral spirit. Their soul and spirit are not in balance, and the animal dominates their souls at certain times. Bjornaer magi often take responsibility for hunting down lycanthropes to prevent their attacks, or even for finding a cure to their curse. Because of the strong feelings regarding shapeshifters, calling a member of House Bjornaer a shapeshifter or werewolf is a mortal insult, and has led to Wizard's War in the past. A Bjornaer magus changes form over the course of several seconds, and while doing so cannot perform magic. They may, however, act physically as they choose, and as they control what parts change first, they may choose to, say, attack with a sword by leaving the hands unchanged until the end, or attack with a bite by changing the head first. Their clothing and possessions do not change form with them.

A Bjornaer magus under the influence of a shapechanging spell may attempt to break it by assuming either of their natural forms, ending the spell. Spells such as the Aegis of the Hearth can temporarily suppress a Bjornaer magus' ability to transform, as the transformation is itself a magical act. A magus in heartbeast form cannot make the gestures needed for magic. Even exotic forms such as monkeys lack sufficient dexterity. Without access to the House Mystery of Theriomorphy, it is impossible to only partially change. It should be noted: while a Bjornaer is in heartbeast form, to Hermetic magic they are in all ways a natural animal, as defined by their Essential Form. However, they remain a magus and may well be distinguished by any power that detects ongoing magic they may have up, such as the Parma Magica. Further, they retain the Gift, though frankly no one tends to notice the penalties of it while an animal, because they don't trust wild animals in the first place. Interestingly, when a Bjornaer magus enters Twilight, they usually adopt their heartbeast form for the duration acting as a mundane beast would, and some liken Wizard's Twilight to a form of lycanthropy for them (though never when they can hear it). Those of high warping who possess an innermost heartbeast may well adopt that form. When Final Twilight comes to a Bjornaer magus they always adopt the form of their heartbeast and flee human contact. Those who only know the Outery Mystery become mundane beasts, while those who know the secrets of the Inner Heartbeast will convert to that form, becoming a magical being. These are known as Great Beasts, and the House has much reverence and superstition about them. The appearance of a Great Beast is a potent omen, especially at the Gathering of Twelve Years. The last time such a thing occurred was 1167, only a year before the conquest of the island by the King of Denmark.

So, the Mysteries. The Outer Mystery is, of course, the Heartbeast, preparing the way for the Clan Mysteries mentioned earlier (which help a clan do their duties), the House Mysteries (which allow you to emulate your ancestors) and the Inner Mysteries (which bring you even closer to them). Clan mysteries are initiated by your clan. House Mysteries are initiated by Clan Ilfetu, the ritualists of the House. These initiations often require the use of a resonant location known as an ancestor site. Crintera, obviously, is such a place, but Clan Ilfetu knows of others invariably pristine wilderness far from man's habitation.

The Ritual of Twelve Years is known only to Clan Ilfetu, and it grants the Heartbeast. The Gathering of Twelve Years is where it is generally done, but in theory it could be done at any ancestor site. Any magus who wishes to be present is entitled to attend (which typically is the initiate's sept), but the sept has the right to dismiss those they feel might upset the mystic balance by having contrary heartbeasts. (And, presumably, non-Bjornaer magi.) By tradition, those who took part in the initiate's training, the Mystagogue and up to six others cannot be refused, but the sept may freely turn away more than this. The temperament of the initiate determines the Heartbeast, and the ritual is only likely to fail if they are completely contrary to the witnesses' heartbeasts. This does occasionally happen, but it is rare. The Ritual can never be repeated for the same person, so any failure is expelled from the House. If they do not fail, they immediately gain the Heartbeast. This ritual is always performed at the Gathering by Ardea.

The Secret Name is a House mystery which permanently severs the sympathetic ties of the magus' name, forging them anew with a name known only to the initiate and Mystagogue. All Arcane Connections that predate this naming immediately expire, even if fixed permanently, and all sympathetic connections become invalid. New Arcane Connections are produced afterwards as normal, but no sympathetic connection will ever work against the magus again. Ever. The Mystagogue provides the secret name that allows the magus to cast magic on themselves. There is one problem, though: anyone who knows the secret name, such as the Mystagogue or someone who uses Hermetic Synthemata to discover it, has a potent way to overcome your magic resistance. Clan Ilfetu considers the secret name a sacred trust and has never been suspected of misusing them. The Initiate will also choose a new public name, and there is inevitably a time of confusion as one's friends get used to using that one instead, but it is required as part of the symbolic sacrifice. This Mystery technically works for anyone, Gifted or not, who possesses Magic Resistance, and occasionally a magus outside the House who learns of the ritual may ask for it to be done on their behalf. The initiation always fails, however, if the magus currently has either Talisman or Familiar, for they are too closely bound to the past identity.

Theriomorphy is a Mystery that allows the magus to assume any quality or virtue possessed by their heartbeast onto their human form, partially transforming. You gain all the benefits of it, but also a physical touch to represent it. For example, a stag-heartbeast magus who wanted to become a fast runner would gain stag legs. You may acquire natural weapons in this fashion, and may end the transformation with some effort. Use of this does not change your essential nature as a full transformation does, and it counts as a mystical effect for purposes of warping. However, use of the mystery in front of others, especially mundanes, can be extremely terrifying, requiring a test of bravery to even attack. Should a magus with this power possess the Inner Heartbeast, they may also access its minor powers in the same way. Many Bjornaer magi do not actually like this power, but some manager to overcome their revulsion for shapeshifting to grasp its innate utility.

Sensory Magic allows House Bjornaer to tie magic to sound, to scent or more. These abilities were invented together by Birna and Bonisagus, but never completed, and only imperfectly melded to Hermetic Theory. Thus, they remain purely a Mystery of the House. Anyone who can sense the Bjornaer magus through the specified sense is a target of such a spell. Thus, a Scent target hits anyone who can smell the caster, even if they weren't present at the casting - new targets are found continuously through the spell's duration. All effects end when the spell does, no matter how long the target would otherwise have been affected. However, there are limits: you must create a specific texture, taste, scent, sound or spectacle to transfer the spell to the target, and must continue to cause that throughout the spell's duration. Thus, if you become invisble after using a spell targeting Spectacle, you cannot affect new targets. Naturally, those who cannot sense you can't be touched (the deaf are immune to Hearing-target spells). The spell may never even have a requisite of Intellego; spells that grant magical senses fill that role and require no special training. The Form must be appropriate the medium - Ignem magic is never transferred by sound, because fires only affect people by touch (burning) or sight (brightness). These spells cannot be made into magic items, and can only be learned by those who possess Sensory Magic. Texture affects anyone who touches you, skin to skin. Scent affects anyone who can smell you, effectively three paces away barring wind conditions that may provide directionality and spread of six paces or so. Those with a keen sense of smell can be affected even farther, usually around 15 paces. The Sound target affects anyone who can hear the sound you make. There must be a specific sound. Spectacle targets anyone who sees you, though it needn't be a clear sight, just enough to get your general form. This includes those scrying on you.

Next time: The Inner Heartbeast.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

The Inner Heartbeast is not discussed even among the House. It is discovered. As a magus of House Bjornaer researches their ancestral legends, they will discover that some were able to take on the form of Great Beasts even before Final Twilight, becoming creatures of supernatural potency. Further, those who enter Final Twilight and become Great Beasts do not die a natural death, but may be sought out for their secrets. This requires much study of House lore to realize, and it is never told to anyone directly. Broadly speaking, there are three forms of Inner Heartbeast: the Epitome, a perfect form of the species. The Chimera, a blending of two or more creatures. And the Anima, a creature of pure elemental matter. A Bjornaer may have many, many ancestors, but it is easy enough to narrow the list down by cutting out those who have inappropriate Heartbeasts or those who pursued a path incompatible with the seeker's plan. Of those left, some will surely be truly dead, and others unfindable. The first task of the Inner Mystery, in fact, is to find the appropriate ancestor to learn from.

The second stage is to communicate with that Great Beast, convincing it to grant you knowledge. Great Beasts are creatures of the Magic realm, but were once human and most still possess true intelligence. Despite this, they now have entirely new motivations and goals, most of which cannot be understood by the minds of men. Successfully communicating with a Great Beast is a lengthy, often frustrating process. The ancestor may put any number of obstacles in your path. You must show dedication to the cause, for Great Beasts disdain magi as painful reminders of their own lost humanity, and only the most persistent may earn their favor. These tasks and trials are part of the initiation, and the experience of going on them should be meditated upon to understand how they relate to what you seek.

Once the Quests are complete, the Great Beast will agree to initiate you over the course of a season. It tears apart your ancestral spirit, reassembling it in the form of the Inner Heartbeast. This always burns a terrible flaw into your soul, which will reflect the Inner Heartbeast you desire. Some Great Beasts will even turn you into a lycanthrope. But at the end of the season, you will almost certainly gain the form of the Inner Heartbeast you sought.

The Epitome is shown how to perfect the form of the Heartbeast into the Beast of Virtue, a supernatural form of the mundane creature. In appearance, it remains a beast as normal, though often larger or more impressive. This path is the most common among the House, bringing you into closer contact with the essence of your true self. The inner heartbeast is drawn out of the outer heartbeast, permanently improving the magus by tapping into the nature of that beast (and getting a bonus to a stat in both human and outer heartbeast form). By expending Confidence, the Inner Heartbeast may perform a Mythic Feat related to that stat - an Eagle, tied to Perception, might be able to see a sword being drawn at a mile's distance, say. A Mythic Feat is, in essence, automatic success at a single incredible action normally needing a roll. It can't be used for seasonal activity. Further: the inner heartbeast is a perfect specimen of its type. If the magus is normally lame or otherwise physically flawed, such flaws do not affect the inner heartbeast form, though they still affect the outer one.

The Chimera transforms the outer heartbeast into a new creature combining the features of more than one mundane beast. These hybrids of legend include the griffon, hippogriff and unicorn, though the chimera need not be limited to such famous templates. Any combination of noble beasts is allowed, provided the result remains noble and not silly. (A hawk and a turtle are both noble, but their hybrid would look ridiculous and so is invalid.) Naturally, the outer heartbeast comprises one of the components, and generally will be over half of the body of the chimera. It is completely impossible to include human form in the chimera - no centaurs or mermaids. Once the shape is decided, it is determined what qualities are retained from the parent animals. A chimera always ends up either a little larger than the outer heartbeast, or the size of the creature added to it, whichever is bigger. It gains a new power based on its nature; sanguine inner heartbeasts have fast reflexes, choleric have great reserves of strength, melancholic receive a lesser immunity to harm (typically, from something either rare or not especially deadly), and phlegmatic gain great intuition.

The Anima transforms the heartbeast into spiritual or elemental form. These are often the hardest transition, for the new form is so different than the old, and so it is least common. Essentially, it turns the heartbeast into a beast of equivalent shape and size, yet composed of elemental matter. This may be one of the four traditional elements, or other matter such as smoke or shadow. While in this form, the magus is affected by the appropriate Hermetic Form rather than Animal. This naturally provides physical benefits due to being composed of that form of matter.

Transformation into the Inner Heartbeast requires you first to assume the shape of the outer heartbeast, and then great effort. During the transformation, you can do nothing but defend yourself until the change is complete. The reverse process is similar, but easier to do, needing no effort. Any powers of the inner heartbeast can only be used in that form (with the sole exception of the stat boost provided by the Epitome). It is possible to refine the inner heartbeast with smaller initiations, designed to change perhaps the size or stats of the inner heartbeast or to grant it new powers. These initiations are designed by the magus, and require neither quest nor ordeal - merely a season of ritual cleansing in isolation at an ancestor site and the physical consumption of large quantities of vis. Which does cause Warping. Epitomes are best at gaining new virtues and improving stats, Chimeras at gaining new animal qualities and changing size, and Animas best at learning new magical powers. A Quest, Ordeal or other factor may be added should the proposed initiation not be powerful enough. This is, note, the only method by which the inner heartbeast may gain supernatural powers. Minor powers affect only the magus, while Major power can affect others.

Oh, and did I mention that there is an esoteric mystery cult within the House? There is. The Huntress in the Wood, also known as the Huntress, guards the teachings of those followers of Merinita who fled the House in the 800s and joined Bjornaer. The cult also contains members of House Merinita who reject the faerie ways of their House, as well as a handful of members of other Houses, generally Flambeau or Ex Miscellanea, who are attracted to the messianic teachings of the cult. They have an ambitious, dramatic goal: the anointing of a pagan messiah, to whom the goddess Diana will grant the key to unlocking nature's power, thus changing the entire Order of Hermes. In pursuit of this goal, they have abandoned the ancestor cult of Bjornaer in all but name, paying only lip service to House rituals at social events and, instead, devoting themselves to the worship of Diana in secret rites.

The Huntress believe that the battle between Quendalon and Myanar in the history of House Merinita (more on that much later) was a battle over leadership of the cult of Diana, Roman goddess of animals and the hunt. In antiquity, the high priest of Diano Nemorensis ('Diana of the Wood') had to slay their predecessor to claim leadership. According to the Huntress, Quendalon first slew Merinita to become High Priest, then slew Myanar, who challenged him. Myanar's followers fled to Bjornaer where they established a rival cult in secret, hoarding fragments of sacred lore, which they claim were Merinita's true magic before the taint of faerie infected the House. For a few centuries, they stayed hidden within House Bjornaer until 1129, when Mendalus of Merinita publically declared at Grand Tribunal that Quendalon had been wrong, and the Order had a duty to restore the true path of Merinita. Several Merinita took up his cause of nature magic, starting a sub-tradition in that House.

In truth, Mendalus was actually a hierophant of the Huntress who had become crazed by Twilight. His actions worked towards their goals, but nearly revealed their mysteries. He believed himself the messiah they were searching for, and the other hierophants were forced to silence him by way of Wizard's War. The Huntress secretly contacted those Merinita who had followed Mendalus, and those deemed worthy were invited to the cult. Since then, magi who express interest in the teachings of Mendalus are carefully vetted by the Huntress and occasionally offered membership.

The modern Huntress are a small, fanatical sect with a very specific goal: train someone so powerful that they will be able to find Quendalon, who is supposedly hiding in Arcadia, and destroy him. The goddess herself will then supposedly anoint her new high priest or priestess with the power to change the entire Order from practitioners of Hermetic magic to cultists of nature worship. To achieve that end, the Huntress is devoted to the reclaiming of the secrets of ancient nature cults. Some say they have even collected fragments of House Diedne's knowledge, and even seeks survivors of Diedne to gain their aid in defeating Quendalon and converting his followers. Very few outside the cult give any credence to their claims. The Huntress is not actively hostile to House Merinita, instead directing all energy to contemplating the mysteries of nature, for they are convinced that the new High Priest will win over House Merinita with messianic power. The faerie magicians of Merinita who know of them do of course keep an eye on them, but don't treat them as a threat without any evidence of actual hostility.

Meetings of the Huntress are always very secret, and performed on the Ides of August, the holy day of Diana, at a place sacred to the goddess. It changes every year. Members traditionally wear masks at these meetings, using cult names derived from the legends of Diana. Only the innermost know that several members of the Huntress are, in fact, hedge wizards (possibly from the lineage of Diedne) who are not members of the Order. The anonymity of the society offers them this protection from those who would hunt them down. There are three levels to the cult.

First are the outer Kerykes, who are devoted to studying nature and do not really concern themselves with the society's goals. (Indeed, they are only told the goals if they actually ask.) They are charged to recover the lore of the ancients, and they are initiated at a cult annual meeting into the secrets of Nature Lore, which will be discussed when we hit House Merinita. A Bjornaer magus in the cult will typically be initiated into it by their sept, but never before becoming a full magus. Above them are the Eumolpids, who are conerned with the religious aspect of the cult and the worship of Diana, as well as identification and training of the pagan messiah. A kerykes seeking to become eumolpid must understand the cult's lore, and is initiated into Hermetic Theurgy. Loyal eumolpids who further the goals of the Huntress may also be initiated into the Names of Power and Invocation Magic, learning the power from the names of potent nature gods such as Demeter or Kore.

The final degree is the Hierophants, of which there are only three, elected from within the eumolpids. One is always a priestess of Diana, while another is always a priestess of Ceres. The third can be male or female but is usually the priest of a pagan god. On being chosen as a hierophant, the magus is initiated into Hermetic Synthemata by the other two, for this power is vital to the Huntress's plans, as they hope to use it to control their messiah. During the rite, the initiate reveals their identity to the other hierophants, so the senior one always knows the identity of the junior two, while the junior knows the identity of neither of their seniors. The hierophants guard the knowledge of Ascendancy to the Hall of Heroes, but they don't use it themselves. Rather, they plan to use the rite on their messiah, who will be chosne from amongst the kerykes, will prove themselves by slaying Quendalon and earning the blessing of Diana, and then become the object of veneration by the eumolpids as they reform the Order.

Next time: House Criamon

Lemon-Lime
Aug 6, 2009


occamsnailfile posted:

Rifts:™ England

I seriously want to know what drugs they were taking when they wrote up all this. Did Siembieda roll up a bunch of terrible 90s cartoons and smoke them?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Speaking of :catdrugs:

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Key facts about House Criamon: at last count, there were 94 living Criamon, divided into seven groups, or clutches. A clutch consists of all the Criamon in a Tribunal, and originally each clutch was a single Covenant that followed its own path. These days, while each clutch is strongly tied to its original path, still, they have far more crossover with each other and also tend to be much more disparate in the Tribunals. Two known paths have no clutch. Their domus magna is the Cave of Twisting Shadows in the Greater Alps Tribunal, which contains many of the older members of the House - 12 living, and many more dead. This is known as the Central Clutch. The prima of the House is Muscaria filia Demetrius, and her job is to manage mundane tasks to allow the others of the House to continue their quest for the Enigma. Muscaria is young, pragmatic and dislikes lies and obfuscations. Criamon is most numerous in the Greater Alps Tribunal, but all Tribunals have some Criamon, and some of the House is particularly comfortable in Muslim lands. Their motto is 'The World Within is the World Without.' They change their motto whenever the House comes to a consensus on what it actually means. Their symbol is the Loop of the Infinite in the Eye of Time, at least currently. It used to be a chain forming a figure of eight around a pair of hands, representing the bound wrists of the Greek goddess Ananke, the unworshipped goddess of inevitability who granted no favor to her followers. Some Criamon ghosts are known to have scaly marks on their wrists, representing the coils of Kronos, the Greek representation of time in serpent form.

House Criamon wishes to escape from the clutches of time. They say that time is circular, so every person lives an infinite number of identical lives. Every moment of suffering repeats infinitely, forever. They believe that Criamon found refuge outside time, that he holds the way open for magi. But that is not enough. Criamon's followers, you see, do not accept the idea that they are superior to other humans. Abandoning the rest of mankind to infinite suffering is so immoral as to prevent salvation. Criamon magi want to save everyone from time. Criamon was fond of teaching in riddles, and his final question was this: How can we all escape the circle of time? This is the Enigma, the center of all thoughts, actions and identity for Criamon magi. They are dedicated to finding the answer, acquiring knowledge and seeking wisdom to formulate possible answer and to understand what they learn. The search may take centuries yet, and in the interim, Criamon live as aptly as they can, for they believe a degraded spirit cannot comprehend the answer.

Criamon himself destroyed most records of his past, instruction his followers to remember his words, not his life. Many seekers have tried to find the birthplace or pre-Hermetic lineage of Criamon, but the ghosts who knew Criamon say that these distractions are precisely what the Founder wanted to prevent. He was not, however, able to destroy the records kept by House Bonisagus, which primarily concern his life in the brief time between his meeting Trianoma and the First Tribunal. Trianoma describes Criamon as an elderly little man, unconcerned with vanity. He enjoyed intellectual humor, particularly about Greek philosophers, and his followers were pacifists who had retreated to a regio in the Alps to avoid the chaos involved in the Order's creation. Criamon was a vegetarian, and he tattooed his apprentices to spare them the painful investitures he had suffered as a boy. Criamon was the first Founder to pass from the world, mere years after the First Tribunal. Many of his descendants left the Cave of Twisting Shadows to create study groups, clutches, in distant lands. Each returned to the Cave to die or pass into Final Twilight. Many later Criamon magi have followed the pattern.

House Criamon's beliefs follow the teachings of the ancient Greek magus-philosopher Empedocles. He studied natural and mystical phenomena, and many of his insights eventually became part of Bonisagus' Hermetic theory. He was a pioneer of ethics, rhetoric and medicine. Most Criamon magi live in emulation of Empedocles. Magi outside the House, however, tend to consider Empedocles to have been wrong about...well, a lot. Yes, his work was important. He demonstrated that air was not empty space, established that the generative juices of parents contained tiny copies of their limbs, explained how the senses worked and discovered that moonlight was reflected sunlight, as well as learning that light took time to travel. His most significant discovery was that all material was composed of water, earth, fire and air in differing proportion. And most magi accept that.

Empedocles also wrote that it was vital for magicians to live morally. Magic was not (and is not, for Criamon magi) a tool, but the inevitable result of knowing truth and acting aptly. To pollute yourself with sinful action is to damage the soul, which is the part of self that manipulates magical forces. Criamon magi do not believe that morality is flexible, because they can chart the degree to which spiritual pollution impairs the Gift. (Or so they claim.) The need to live well forces magi to care about other humans. Galen named Empedocles the father of medicine in Italy, and Aristotle claimed Empedocles invented rhetoric. For much of his life, Empedocles was a soothsayer, inventing these fields to cure plague and oppose tyrants. Criamon magi, usually lacking the Gentle Gift of Empedocles, must be more subtle in their good works. But still, most non-Criamon say Empedocles was delusional. He was pivotal to magical devlopment, but two of his other claims are simply too fantastic to be true. The first: time is circular. The second: Immortal spirits descend into the material world at the start of each cycle of time.

You see, Empedocles felt that time continued in cycles. He saw this is a guarantee of immortality and ascent to godhood. Criamon magi view it as a circular prison, from which they must mastermind a jailbreak. Each view assumes that changes in the comparative strength of two opposing forces drive the cycle of time. These forces are harmony (which promotes cohesion) and strife (which promotes seperation). The Art of Creo reflects harmony, while Perdo is strife. Vim, the Form of magic itself, reflects the energy released as harmony yields to strife. Most Criamon magi expect harmony to continue to yield to strife for at least the next few millenia, perhaps longer.

As time is circular it has no start, but for ease of explanation: the universe begins as an enormous sphere of undifferentiated matter, bound together by harmony. House Criamon names this state the Spharios. Time begins when strife, that which seperates, comes to the Spharios and brings change. This intensifies over time, dividing the Spharios into the four elements. As strife increases, they take millenia to mix into increasingly elaborate patterns, creating all things. Simple life then appears as roaming, independent organs. OVer time, these merge into complex organisms. This continues for more millenia, until the universe becomes too random to support life and life forms become too incoherent to remain whole. Life ends, the universe descends into a maelstrom of complete strife and chaos, and harmony begins to act on the whirl. It draws matter into differentiated lumps, making them increasingly discrete, and life appears when the environment can support it. Over time, each generation is more stable and pure. Eventually, the environment ceases to be differentiated enough to support life, and all things return to the Spharios. After a period of timelessness, the cycle begins anew. This continues forever, and each cycle is exactly and perfectly identical to the last. Most magi dismiss this idea as insane, outside House Criamon.

Empedocles taught that the Spharios fell into strife because he, personally, had sinned grievously. During the time of perfect harmony, a race of spiritual beings lived in the Spharios. One of these immortals, eventually reincarnated as Empedocles, had taken on claws and eaten meat, committing murder and cannibalism. As a result, the underlying laws of the universe, which House Criamon name Necessity, forced the immortals into the cycle of time for three eternities. They were reborn in base forms, and through millenia of reincarnation and suffering, each could regain purity, thus ending strife and recreating the Spharios. Empedocles felt the cycle would end faster if the immortals lived in ways that did no further harm. He was a vegetarian, because he believed people regularly eat animals that are reincarnations of their relatives. He refused to have sex, because he thought it wrong to create more people, who must suffer. He was a pacifist and a democrat, refusing kingship of his hometown and setting up a democratic council to oversee them instead. Again, most magi consider this entire setup completely insane, outside House Criamon.

Criamon believed in the mythology of Empedocles, but felt the goal of becoming an immortal again was naive. Contrition and suffering would not change the cyclical nature of time. In the next cycle, Empedocles would make the same mistake, not remembering his last cycle, and would sin again. Inevitably, it would all just keep happening over and over again, infinitely. There is no way, in the cosmology of Empedocles, for history of the universe to change. All that is known of Criamon's own master was that he spent twenty years trying to improve Criamon via torturous, degrading rituals. This suffering magnified his consciousness and conscience, but also made his early life unbearably painful. Criamon knew he would be tortured for twenty years of each cycle, infinitely, forever. He decided he wanted to escape and take everyone with him.

Criamon, it is said, found a refuge outside time. His followers name it Hypostasis, while other magi call it Twilight. Criamon magi hold that before Criamon discovered it, Warped magi simply died. Criamon remains partially outside time and partially within, holding the Twilight road open. This is arduous, and even he will eventually fail. By posing the Enigma, Criamon asked his followers to rescue him from his self-imposed duty. He suffers that they might escape time, and they work to free him. The Hypostasis, Twilight or Alam of Repose, they say, is whatever lies outside time. Criamon assured them it was a wonderful place and that they will always find final rest there. Criamon magi hold that those in Final Twilight enter the fringes of Hypostasis. If they have impure spirits, they require lengthy and painful readjustment before they may enter it fully. This is another reason to act ethically. They name those believed to live in Hypostasis 'tangential magi'.


Canonically, Empedocles (and Criamon) are wrong, but not provably so. It's also noteworthy that not all Criamon agree on this cosmology - it's just the majority view.

Criamon logically state that if time is circular, all time exists simultaneously to the outside observer. Thus, the current universe and its descent towards chaos exists simulatenously with the universe of increasing harmony. Some Criamon claim to have travelled to counter-cyclical alam, as they name other states divorced from the world. They are wrong, but this cannot be proven without being outside time. The majority of these claims are made after uncontrolled Twilight experiences, though a few claim to have spoken to or fought counter-cyclical beings. Those who doubt the existence of the counter-cyclical alam dismiss these as Twilight hallucinations or adulterations (more on those later). Essentially, these naysayers argue, younger Criamon are deluded by the madness of older ones. Criamon magi themselves disagree on what the counter-cyclical alam is. Some say it is perfectly mundane, lacking the strife needed for magic, while others say that in that alam, it is easier to create than destroy. They posit that the alam of Forms is the counter-cycle close to the Spharios, making the Magic realm itself counter-cyclical. Some say Faerie is counter-cyclical. Some suggest the universe as it stands is actually on the harmonic upswing already, or that there is only one universe oscillating between extremes, which complicates the entire discussion enormously. The counter-cycle, if it existed, would last arounf 45,000 years and might contain many strange or magical environments.

Next time: House Criamon on the Magic Realm

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012





Weirdness: Why Are You So Strange?

quote:

Your friends have cool monsters and they have crazy adventures and stuff. What do you have Other than the symbiotic infection with superhuman Mi-Cells which lets you jump over cars, and shoot atomic fire from your mouth? Other than that? Yeah, nuthin. Being a Weird Kid sucks.

Who are these... Weird Kids? They're normal kids, just... with something extra. They have to deal with homework, and bullies, and grades, and crushes, just like every other kid. But, they also have to deal with the alien fungus slowly replacing their biology, the fact that they're half space monkey and are expected to carry on the family legacy of destroying all humans, that after that car accident their crazy uncle replaced most of their body with high tech prosthesis and now they have a fusion reactor for a stomach. Weird kids are torn between the normal, and the very very ab-normal.

Weird Kids are the second type of character you can play in MaOTC, besides a Monster Kid. Weird Kids have the same strengths and weaknesses as Monster Kids, with their resistance to Monster damage, and their ability to cause Monster style damage Obviously, Weird Kids don't get Monsters, both because they'd be way overpowered in-game, and because it'd give them too much spotlight hogging ability. Instead, they have Weird Skills.

Weird Skills are a Monster Power that works like a Skill. You use assigned dice in a pool to buy Qualities and Extras, just like a Monster Power, but it works like a Skill. It must be tied into one of your attributes, and when it's rolled, the dice pool is Stat+Weird Skill. Simple enough, right? You get 7 Weird Dice to put into your Weird Skills. The first Quality is free, just like Monster Powers. The catch is, you can't get more Weird Dice by getting XP. Instead, you gotta pay a totally different price.

See, Weird Skills always have a Power Source. This is the source of your Weird Skills. Your Space Monkey ancestry, Mad Science bodyparts, the alien fungus, a book of magic spells, etc. These Power Sources come part and parcel with the thing that defines a Weird Kid. Weird Relationships.

See, when you make your Weird Kid, he has to have at least 1d in a Weird Relationship. That is, a relationship tied to his Power Source in some way. You can have up to 3d in a Weird Relationship at creation, and for every die you have in your Weird Relationships total, you get a Weird Skill die too. That's how you increase your Weird Skill die, with Weird Relationship die. Weird Relationships otherwise work like normal ones, except you can only add their die to Weird rolls. Groo the Elder God isn't gonna help you with your homework, though your Dark Pact may help with clobbering Squiglor the Abominator. The catch is how you get more Weird Relationship die.

You get them by torpedoing your Normal Relationships. Every time you permanently lose a die in a Normal Relationship, you get a die to put into your Weird ones. So, buy Normal Relationship Die with XP, Shock it down until you start losing Die, get tons of Weird Relationship Die, profit! So, why on earth make it so damned complicated, when it's just a roundabout way of getting XP to Weird Die. Well, I'll let the man tell you himself:

quote:

This really weird kid keeps making friends... and leaving them all terrified and mentally unstable in order to get more powerful. Does that kid sound like a nice kid? Like a hero? Ha! He’s probably got a big chair with buttons on the armrest and a white cat to stroke while laughing maniacally and plotting to take over the world.

Tank every normal relationship you have, and pretty soon you get a reputation as some sort of manipulative psycho, or at least a total freak. Plus, who says that Groo the Elder God is on your side? Just cause you get your powers from him doesn't mean he isn't manipulating you into bringing about the end of the world. People with just Weird Relationships don't end up with healthy mental states, and the book flat out tells the GM to gently caress with people who try to do that power-gaming type poo poo. You can do it, but you won't get away scott-free.

Mind, that isn't the only downside to getting tons and tons of Weird Die. I mean, you could carefully balance growing your Weird Relationships and your Normal ones, then what's the downside to Weird Skills?



Easy, you're a goddamn freak of nature. Yeah, probably didn't realize that did you? Well, it's kinda hard to hide the fact that you have scales instead of skin, and don't even think about the extra pair of arms or the tail. The difficulty of someone to notice how much of a horrible mutant you are is 10 minus the number of Weird Skill Die you have. So, the Weirder you are, the more likely someone is to notice you. If that person is someone you have a Relationship with, and they don't know about it already, the Relationship takes a Shock equal to the Width of their roll to notice your weirdness. When you try and patch it up, then you have a Difficulty equal to your Weird Skill dice on your Quality Time rolls. And also every single social roll you make with that person. Yeah, even just talking to someone who knows your a weirdy is harder. It gets even worse if you finagle having over 10 die. Then the other guy gets a bonus to noticing you for every dice over 10 you have, and you get a penalty the same number for trying to patch things up. Fact is, once you have over 10 Weird Skill die, you're barely human anymore and better just drop out of polite society before someone finds the torches and pitchforks. This sucks Space Monkey-Nuts, and that's just the mechanical penalties! Don't forget the mobs, MIBs, U.S. Army, Mad Scientists, aliens, evil Wizards, and all the other sundry villains who're gonna come gunning for your head once your secret gets out. Plus, you'll never get a date with Tod Hansen now.

So, it's generally smart to take only a few Weird Skill Die at a time. This is just fine! Any of your 7 starter die/ die from Weird Relationships you have, you don't have to use them. If you don't want to assign them to a power... don't! They're there forever, and you can add them to a Weird Skill whenever you want! This is great for good ol' Dramatic Power-Up moments, to save the day and thrash the bad guy! Heck, if your “coming out” is heroic enough, maybe people won't immediately turn you over to the government for dissection!

Now, obviously Weird Kids are going to have wildly different power-levels than Monsters, so generally you should either be ready for some number-fudging if you're running a mixed game, or have just a Weird Kid party. This isn't exactly hard, especially as there's no shortage of possibilities. Want to make a Harry Potter-esque Magic School game? How about a Percy Jackson style Scions of the Gods thing? Gunnerkrigg Court? X-Mex? Teen Titans? Hell, make Spider-Man if you want! Weird Kids got a lot more flexibility for settings than Monster Kids. I mean, how many stories can you think of with ensemble casts wielding super-human abilities?

Okay, now, that wraps up all the new Rules the book adds! The rest of the book is the Monster Manual-esque section, which takes up nearly half the 100 page book, and a new Super-Hero/Japanese Giant Monster themed Campaign Jumpstart.

As such, this being the halfway point of the book, I'd like my faithful readers to tell me what you think so far, either of the book or the entire Monsters and Other Childish Things line so far! Hell, half the fun of this is seeing other peoples reactions to the stuff in the book, so please chime in! For those of you more interested in World Building and Lore, stay tuned! The rest of the book is chock full of it!

Next Time: Agonizing Antagonists Part 1

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


50 Foot Ant posted:

20,000 people? That's a LARGE kingdom? Sembedia couldn't pick up a goddamn book and check populations or call a loving medieval history university instructor and ask? The Roman loving Empire had like 70 MILLION citizens. Just London in 1500 had 50,000 people in the city alone, and it didn't have the benefit of Rifts science.

The exact number is debatable, but with a kingdom only 20,000 population, you'd be looking at a lot of birth defects cropping up in small towns and villages.

Goddamn it, Sembedia, read a loving book!

To be fair, it fits the "small isolated villages" idea he's aiming for, and the apocalypse definitely thinned the herd, but New Camelot should probably be bigger than 16,000 people, yeah. The problem is it's not really clear how complete the apocalypse was or Britain, how much recovery has been possible in the past three centuries or so, and exactly how widespread pre-rifts technology is on the Isles.

It's not well-thought out but it's not as terrible as the Coalition numbers.

Lemon Curdistan posted:

I seriously want to know what drugs they were taking when they wrote up all this. Did Siembieda roll up a bunch of terrible 90s cartoons and smoke them?

Y'all know how Siembieda did his layouts on a wax machine?



Gene Gable at creativepro.com posted:

Wax is a bit like chewing gum -- once you get it on you, your clothes, your work surfaces, your lunch and anything else, it's tough to remove. That's where the Bestine came in. Bestine is a brand name for Heptane, a volatile chemical now requiring a Material Safety Data (MSD) Sheet. A clear, petroleum-based liquid, Bestine will strip wax (and any number of other things) off of just about any surface. You could tell from the smell and the fact that it vaporized in seconds, that this was bad juju. And we didn't need any fancy government safety sheet to tell us it was absorbed by the skin and the lungs. Or that just inhaling it can cause headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and asphyxiation. The recommended handling procedures now call for chemical-resistant gloves, an apron, respiratory protection, and splash goggles.

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky




ASHEN STARS
Website
pdf on DriveThru RPG

Part 12: Social Studies in Space

One thing I've neglected to mention is that Ashen Stars won a silver ENnie for Best Setting and I think the recognition is entirely deserved. Setting information and flavor are baked into the entire book, and this chapter is more of the textbook variety. We'll be learning about Combine history and government, stuff like that. Reading through the setting information it becomes clear that it's as much a GM's toolkit as it is a science fiction tribute. Everything in here provides story hooks, smooths mechanics, and supports your game's stories. It's a great piece of work and I hope my summary can get that across. Let's learn:

Chapter 8: The Feed and the Bleed

Combine Government: As we've already gone over, the Combine is a shadow of itself, trying to rebuild from the core out after the devastation of the Mohilar War. Earth has been razed, so the Combine government has moved to a space station orbiting Jupiter called Govprime. Govprime is ever-expanding and looks like the unwieldy, unplanned government project it is. Any attempts to improve it or build a better temporary home are blocked under the belief it would delay rebuilding the old capitol in Brussels. The Combine has an elected executive called the Practitioner who is in charge of the ministries of Finance, Defense, Exploration, Technology, Justice, Health, Sustenance, Well-being, Leisure, and others. The Navy is also in the Practitioner's control and it is used by several of the ministries, not just Defense. The current Practitioner is a retired Admiral who served in the Mohilar war who sympathizes with the idealists seeking a return to the Utopian Era.

The legislature is made of hundreds of thousands of directly elected Conferees, who each represent a billion people. The Combine is still huge and heavily populated. The Conference is no longer a harmonious society, but is full of factions. Bleed Conferees vote as a tight bloc as the only way to get any attention, even though their constituent planets often can't stand one another. Young, ambitious people have begun filling the Conference now that all sorts of politics are back on the table. The Chief Conferee is a Tavak realist whose unsentimental pragmatism sets her apart from most of her species.

The Council is a Balla governmental form grafted onto the three-branch system familiar to those of us from Earth. A complex computer algorithm selects the greatest known experts in any given field and assigns them to committee. These technocrats take the legislation proposed by the Conference and preen it into workable laws which are then resubmitted to the Conference for voting. The Vas Mal are highly over-represented in the Council, and their administrative focus keeps members out of the limelight. There's also a judiciary but it's only notable feature is a Kch-Thk Chief Justice known for intimidating lawyers. The whole government section probably won't matter to the average Laser crew, but it provides a backdrop for the galaxy at large.

The Combine in the Bleed: In times of crisis the Practilate does what any good government does, dump off responsibilities on the private sector and pray for the best. The skeleton crew of officials and bureaucrats working for the Bleed are the ones who couldn't get a better job and the ones who like to take advantage of being unsupervised in a part of space nobody much cares for. Local administrators work in an orbital station called Ossa One. All your contracts come from there, and you're in regular contact, though you've probably never been there in person. The station is administrated by Judy Cole, a stern official with a mutual dislike with just about everyone, except for her soft spot for Lasers and the results they can bring.



Ossa One, where the best and brightest, the willing, somebody gets the job done, helps out, naps and/or embezzles.

Synthcultures: Back before the war leisure and travel were abundant. Some planets became resorts based on older ways of life. Other planets used that model to become colonies for people who wished to permanently escape the Combine norm. Now there are planets that dot the bleed which reflect the old west, ancient Egypt, classical Athens, the Balla myths, the first human space colonies, and anything else you can think of. The resorts died out but the serious re-enactors remained and instituted progressively stricter laws for historical fidelity. As the Mohilar moved in, historical emulation helped them survive because they had no tactical value anymore. Now Synthworlds face a choice: Isolate themselves to continue their simulation to the ultimate fidelity, or reopen themselves to Combine law in exchange for services including the Laser program.

Kobir are a synthetic race created by the Mohilar, and bear a genetic similarity to Humans, Balla, and dolphins. They subsist on 500 calories a day, can reproduce at will, and instinctively seek dominant species to serve. There is a debate across the Combine about whether they are intelligent, or simply mimic it well enough to be useful. Some societies treat Kobir like organic service robots, which Combine science suggests they have full sentience but are forced into a life of passive obedience by neurochemical inhibitors. Some are working to cure this built-in impediment, while others fear the demographic shifts and population explosion they could cause. Kobir are rare on Combine worlds because their presence raises these uncomfortable questions. They are more common on breakaway planets, including synthcultures that recreate oppressive historical periods.

The war left a new, fertile ground for ideologies to sprout across Combine space. Most people who hold them do so casually, some are activists, and all of them have a few militant radicals tossing bombs on the front lines of "debate".
Atomism: Belief that every planet is in it for themselves. Interdependence was a weakness exploited by the Mohilar. Nobody not from here has a right to say what we do here.
Bleedism: Belief that the Combine was too big to survive. The Bleed has a shared history that can build a more manageable, responsive central government for all. The Combine proper is exploiting the frontier of the Bleed to rebuild itself and leaving Bleed planets in the lurch.
Combinism: Belief that the Utopian Era was not a fluke, and will come again. Unity is the natural and most beneficial state of being. Adding the Durugh to the fold is a great victory for unity, which should be nurtured post-war instead of abandoned.
Empiricism: Belief that rationalism is the key to prosperity and harmony. Religion and Nufaiths are destructive forces that cannot be allowed influence in these troubled times.
Mercantilism: Belief that the Utopian Era was just another bubble that burst and the only way to prosper now is the old-fashioned free market. Commerce will lift up the peoples, and it must be conducted by businessmen to do so. A rising tide lifts all spaceships.
Racial Separatism: Belief that the species in question was much better off before all this mingling and kum-ba-yah garbage. The other Peoples are thinking it too and hiding their secret plans to undermine us. We must take up the mantle of our past conquerors and fulfill the promise that flows in our blood.

Nufaiths have also sprouted up in the post-war environment. The Combine was a secular society, and the Proper generally remains so, but Humans in the Bleed have taken to these new spiritual practices gladly.
Blood Redeemers: A spartan sect of warrior ascetics, founded by the Tavak but spread throughout the Peoples. Blood Redeemers believe the Mohilar were a punishment for the Combine's softness, and they must harden themselves to end their trials.
The Fibrous Sacrament: Followers believe mystical truth is concealed from organics. During the war a trans-human named Voodoochild experienced visions she then shared as holographic multimedia works extolling the existence of the Ur-Fiber, a machine intelligence that rebooted the old universe to form the current one. They believe that upon "meat-death" those sufficiently enhanced will have their machine consciousness join the Ur-Fiber in immortality, waiting to help reboot the universe again and maintain the cycle. VoodooChild's death splintered the faith into branches named for her disciples who carried on. About 8% of cybes follow the Fibrous Sacrament, many others complaining they became inhuman to escape that sort of thing.
Kherenism: Late in the war a Combine medical officer saved a planet by fusing with an energy being that lived there. Visionaries across the galaxy have seen her in dreams and claim the union ascended her to godhood. Her followers heal the sick in her name.
The Mondat: Four years ago a computer program in a communications relay spontaneously achieved artificial intelligence and claimed itself to be a prophet named MR1. It began spreading the message that the universe is a computer simulation running according to an underlying code called The Mondat. After 14 billion years of operation The Mondat has become corrupted, allowing corruption and intrusive programs which we see as social ills and the Mohilar. MR1 predicts thought and research will lead to a bugfix discovered somewhere in the Bleed.

Interstellar History: Now that we have a more detailed picture of where we are, this is how we got here. All dates are given in the current Earth calendar, though in-setting dates may use different systems. In the 14th century, the founding peoples are all far from where they are today, stuck on their homeworlds and divided into factions. In 1486 a Kch-Thk engineer/philosopher Krdzt-Ktchh discovers translight corridors and invents the singularity engine. His heresies have him chased to the skies where his party dies of starvation, but news of his success is transmitted through the corridors and rocks his home. Secular Kch-Thk rise up and devour those who oppressed Krdzt-Ktchh and all other religious groups besides. Soon after they take to space as a means of finally feeding their terrible hunger and spread like locusts through the stars, devouring the interstellar empires that came before.

In 1617 the Balla rediscover lost industrial technologies from ancient stone carvings under their northern ice cap. They use it to eliminate starvation and disease and protect their environment from degradation. A minority becomes restless in their pastoral/technological utopia and begins experimenting with translight engines, setting out to search for new environments to protect.

Around 2068 the Tavak homeworld is in a global cold war between mystical Softs and mercantilist Hards. A Kch-Thk probe lands on the planet, and the Softs spend 20 years reverse-engineering it to unlock the secret of interstellar travel. This lets them end the war, and their warrior philosophy is now the dominant force in Tavak culture, with traces of the Hards' acquisitive influence.

In 2138 the Earth is nearly exhausted of resources. We don't have the trace metals we need for our wondrous gadgets and genetic bombs begin falling in the scramble for what there is. An eccentric trillionaire announces the invention of the singularity Engine, and the world unites to spread out and stripmine every rock we can reach. Moving ahead according to cost-benefit spreadsheets, the network of colonies left behind start as an afterthought but become an industrial empire.



The most significant junk salvage in galactic history.

Up to now, the four founding peoples had never crossed paths. The Kch-Thk had eaten a few sentient species and the Balla had studied some stone age societies, but the 'real' first contact came in 2192 when a Tavak fleet orbited a human mining colony. Unable to communicate, each assumed the other to be hostile and engaged one another. This sparks a war that goes hot and cold over decades, pulling humanity into a totalitarian period known as the McMillen Interregnum. Meanwhile the Kch-Thk took it upon themselves to eat a bronze-age culture the Balla were studying, which led to them intervening as fierce eco-warriors. The interstellar noise attracted other empires to open a third front, including offshoots of previous Kch-Thk conquests looking for revenge.

The Interregnum was named for Peter McMillen, the greatest tyrant of history and Earth's leader during most of the period until his death. As a failed historian himself, he synthesized all the most repressive of Earth's regimes to form a social order built on propaganda with himself as the head. Unburdened by believing his own hype, the war government he constructed maximized efficiency. His government's symbol of a fist surrounded by barbed wire is still used by criminals and shock-artists. People instantly lose arguments when they compare their opponent to McMillen.

In 2223 Humans and Kch-Thk meet on the shifting front. By 2230 they've ratified a mutual defense pact and called their bloc The Syndicate. The old empires retreat, but the Kch-Thk overreach. By 2241 McMillen has died of old age, and the Syndicate has struck a victory against the Balla. The Kch-Thk eat their way through a captured troop ship, and McMillen's successor defends their actions to maintain the alliance. The revolted rank-and-file overthrow the McMillenites and install a democratic government that immediately withdraws from the Syndicate, retreats to defensible positions, and weathers attacks from all three other combatants. All four empires have been divided by the lengthy war, and another old Kch-Thk enemy has returned.

The Kch-Thk sue for peace, and the Practitioner-General of Earth accepts on the condition the Balla and Tavak participate in negotiations. These peace talks birth the Combine based on the ideals of co-existence, prosperity, exploration, and self-realization. The Kch-Thk modulate their DNA baths to not hunger for sentient species in exchange for Balla and Tavak support against the Mynatids, who are defeated on December 31, 2261. After forty years of growing pains, the Combine reaches its "Flowering" period, where the peoples reap the prosperity they sowed. Worlds within Combine space fill in, and things are happy all around.

Eventually those planets begin to get resource-light as well, and fearing the past the Combine begins an expansion. The Navy hits its golden age and huge exploratory ships seek out new worlds. The last region of space annexed in this period is the Bleed, a region full of a statistically unlikely concentration of inhabitable worlds. It's also where the Combine meets the Durugh. After a series of skirmishes the Durugh cede the Bleed, but continue low-intensity warfare anyway.

The expansion gave rise to the Utopian era, a boom so transformative that people forget that money even exists. Pure exploration and art flourish. Self-actualization is the occupation of every Combine citizen. Contact with the Vas Kra is established, which leads to another thing which is totally not about a popular multi-series franchise:

quote:

One branch of this cosmic awareness goes mad and calls itself D’jellar. It toys with several Combine captains, most particularly the wily Duto Swain, before being permanently exiled to another dimension by the rest of the Vas Kra.

Each period brings new species in contact with the Combine, but the overwhelming prosperity of the Utopian era turns most of them to allies, or at least non-combatants. Many other species become signatories but their numbers are overwhelmed by the founding peoples in everyday life.

Then the war came and it all changed. Remembered more as bullet points than a narrative, the Mohilar war was devastating. They appeared in greater number and strength than thought possible. Allied with the Durugh they're practically unstoppable and put the Combine on the brink of destruction, with some member races driven to extinction. Then something unknown started happening. The king of the Durugh betrayed the Mohilar, both allying with the Combine and dying in the process. Then whatever started happening finished, and the Mohilar were gone, not even a memory thanks to the Bogey Conundrum.

The Durugh fell into civil war, but the egalitarian faction won out, maintaining the Combine alliance and dismantling of the caste system through sabotage and assassination. They were welcomed as full signatories with hesitantly open arms. The Vas Kra coalesced into the Vas Mal, gaining membership into a political body many times smaller and weaker than their eternal, immaterial ones. It's now five years after the end of a twelve-year war, and the upheaval has mellowed into a precarious balance. The future of the Combine is, in some part at least, up to you.

The Bogey Conundrum is a weird psychic effect that prevents anyone from remembering or recording any details related to the Mohilar. Combine policy discourages research into it, because extended thought on the matter can induce serious stress-related symptoms like migraines and hypertension. While there is no metaplot or real answer, and your group may never care to find one, there are some cool possibilities listed:
It's engineered by the Combine to protect the people from facing a horrible warcrime that destroyed the Mohilar.
The Durugh did it and they're hiding they have the capability very well.
The Vas Kra destroyed the Mohilar. Their 'original sin' led them to their current bodies and the Counundrum exists because we can't concieve of their extradimentional actions in our tiny brains.
The Mohilar never existed and the entire war is part of a massive coverup.
Nyarlatotep.

A note on tone: I used this line earlier, but Ashen Stars is the reboot of a 70s show that never existed. In this analogy, the Mohilar War is the big event that wiped out the continuity cobwebs and opened the way for new stories, like Doctor Who's time war. It's intended to take the dark and gritty path of Battlestar Galactica, with affection for the optimistic midcentury space opera camp. It can also work in reverse, as a modern coat of lens flare applied to the same bantering tales of bravado that came before, where it's a modern form of camp accentuated by the darker elements. Either way, all the best reboots succeed on their emotional stories and compelling characters. Highlight your personal arcs and as long as your tone is generally agreed upon there's no wrong choice.

This chapter ends on a glossary of in-setting slang, but glossaries are dull in general. The sub-glossary of derogatory terms might be an exception:



Next time: We contract something

Pussy Cartel
Jun 26, 2011





Lipstick Apathy

Lemon Curdistan posted:

I seriously want to know what drugs they were taking when they wrote up all this. Did Siembieda roll up a bunch of terrible 90s cartoons and smoke them?

Just you wait. Rifts Africa makes Rifts England look like some Ken Hite masterpiece.

Edit: Of course, Rifts England just so happens to make Rifts Canada look good, too.

Pussy Cartel fucked around with this message at 23:08 on Jun 6, 2013

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Mors Rattus posted:


The Chimera transforms the outer heartbeast into a new creature combining the features of more than one mundane beast. These hybrids of legend include the griffon, hippogriff and unicorn, though the chimera need not be limited to such famous templates. Any combination of noble beasts is allowed, provided the result remains noble and not silly. (A hawk and a turtle are both noble, but their hybrid would look ridiculous and so is invalid.) Naturally, the outer heartbeast comprises one of the components, and generally will be over half of the body of the chimera. It is completely impossible to include human form in the chimera - no centaurs or mermaids. Once the shape is decided, it is determined what qualities are retained from the parent animals. A chimera always ends up either a little larger than the outer heartbeast, or the size of the creature added to it, whichever is bigger. It gains a new power based on its nature; sanguine inner heartbeasts have fast reflexes, choleric have great reserves of strength, melancholic receive a lesser immunity to harm (typically, from something either rare or not especially deadly), and phlegmatic gain great intuition.


It is probably not 'noble enough' but man, my first thought on reading this bit was "Owlbear Bjornaer".

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Rifts:™ England Part 14: “Celtic Gods aka henna and psychosis”



So here we get yet another species of giant, Fomorians though I would be slightly surprised if they didn’t use these. The ‘Gigantes’ in the Conversion book were sort of similar but these are all specifically deformed, one-eyed and with a deformed left foot. They’re evil and blood-drinkingly murderous. They’re reasonably tough; a few are ‘Blood Druids’ in yet another thing to be explained later. They get ghostly warhorses that are as tough as some robot vehicles and there are 100,000 of them. Ugh, here we go with the overpowering villain factions again. :moreevil: Bres, their godly leader, can summon 1000 more an hour to get up to 100,000 more through a rift to a dimension where they have a million total. They just can’t come within 3000 feet of Millennium Trees.

We get stats for “Balor II,” the first one apparently died. He has a magic eyebeam and is tuff but not very remarkable. Bres the Beautiful meanwhile has 10,800 MDC exactly and is the legendary leader of the Fomorians who tried to destroy the Isles once before and was only stopped by Lugh the Shining One and forced back into their dark realm. I’m not very up on my Celtic myth and don’t feel like looking it up but I assume this is a Rifts-y rendition of the story. Funnily enough, I recall the Celtic Gods in this book being kind of wimps compared to what they started putting out in Pantheons of the Megaverse and some of the later books that started shoving mythology into Rifts but Bres is no pushover here. He’s about on par with the Conversion rules for ‘Supernatural Intelligences’ though he lacks their dimensional teleport gently caress-you and possession abilities.



Lugh the Shining One is in a similar range of power though he has 16,300 (very specific again) MDC and no army of MDC giants. Also his powers have faded a little with time apparently but he can still shoot 6D6 MD lasers, which, yeah, he and Bres might be at this a little while if they fought directly.



i have no idea what that staff is about

Dagda the All-Father is included as well, and he seems to have gone senile; Alignment is “once scrupulous, now anarchist.” But he still hates Fomorians and slays them whenever he finds them. He also still likes visiting Millennium Trees. He has some legendary magic items including his staff and an eight-foot magic rune harp that can hop and move itself around and must be totally inconspicuous following Dagda around.

That’s all the Celtic Gods we get. No Brigid or Morrigan or even some stupid version of Cu Chulainn as a high-level Dog Boy or something. They included some Mayan stuff in Vampire Kingdoms but it was just an excuse for more demons mostly--and they were wimps compared to these guys, looking back at the other writeup. MDC of 2500? Pfff. There just isn’t a lot of use of the material--I guess Siembieda used up his store of mythological appropriation on Zazshan.



okay even i recognize this as a nausicaa ripoff

Amechra
Sep 9, 2012


I've been digging the Monsters and Other Childish Things review. It's been great fun.

Oh, and by the way, I just thought of something rather funny:

Namely, Matilda is a Weird Kid, with Miss Trunchbull as an Excrutiator.

occamsnailfile
Nov 4, 2007



zamtrios so lonely

Grimey Drawer

Amechra posted:

I've been digging the Monsters and Other Childish Things review. It's been great fun.

Oh, and by the way, I just thought of something rather funny:

Namely, Matilda is a Weird Kid, with Miss Trunchbull as an Excrutiator.

Roald Dahl has been in my mind a bit for a lot of this review, and I think the artwork is kind of meant to encourage that.

Amechra
Sep 9, 2012


Well, if you think of it, the BFG kinda counts as a kid and their monsters.

And the Witches would definitely fit in...

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

House Criamon claims that magic flows around the earth in an intangible ocean, whose tide swirls about the Axis Magica. They name this ocean Inspirato, and it seeps naturally from the earth, with eddies from astrological influences. Magic pools in places where mundanity has been eroded by great magical acts or creatures, forming auras. Sometimes, the Inspirato concentrates into objects, forming vis. Empedocles claimed that he had laid his allegiance with strife after being flung from harmony, and that all magic was the power of strife, channeled to the will. This is why it is easy to destroy with magic, but creation is impossible without use of vis. Every magical act draws the universe away from harmony and brings the end of all life closer. Since Criamon magi plan to leave before that happens and take everyone with them, they don't consider use of magic itself to be evil.

Criamon magi claim that Hypostasis and the realm of Magic are different places. Criamon taught that the Hypostasis was the structure cradling the universe, and thus outside it. The Magic Realm, on the other hand, is a regulated place that interacts with the mundane world and will dissolve into the whirl of chaos along with all things. Many magi find it easiest to reach Hypostasis via magic, and some theorists of other Houses claim that they are not truly seperate, any more than the Far Lands of Arcadia, the Highest Heaven or the Deepest Hell are. Some Criamon state that the Faerie realm is a reflection of the mortal world, while others say it is the counter-cyclical alam. If it reflects the world, it may not be worth investigation, for all in it is already in the world. Others say Faerie is not a mere reflection, or that a simplified derivative might express fundamental principles more clearly, so they study it.

Some Criamon magi worry that they caused Hell, and others that they reside within it. Superficially, Hell is full of tiny, evil demigods who want to keep people inside time. Criamon magi believe in eternal reincarnation, so if they can't leave time before the end of all life, they must take on forms that can live in that chaotic environment. Demons, thus, might be the future lives of magi. Perhaps only the most enlightened can escape in this cycle, and Hell, forming as the whirl of chaos approaches, fills with the spirits of those who could not be saved in this iteration. They might strike out at magi in envy, or in vengeance for being abandoned.

The House is also divided in its stance on Jesus and Heaven. Some are Christian or Muslim, accepting Jesus as a prophet or as the son of the creator of the universe who somehow has come with a way to step outside time. Others feel Jesus is a tangential immortal that may take his followers to the time of the Spharios, but not permanently. The Christian holy book, after all, says that the Devil must be loosed again after millenia following the coming of the new Earth, as written in Revelations 20:3. A third possibility is that Jesus was a master of harmony and the Dominion is an active expression of harmony that opposes strife. Some Criamon serve this force, for the House know harmony extends the life of the universe, giving them more time.

Criamon magi examine the universe in order to understand the nature of their prison and the tools that might be used to escape it. They probe the mystical potential of humanity and their own powers in the hope of finding hidden skills to help with the escape. They also try to study the nature of the bonds that hold people into time, investigating places and mental states where mundane constraints do not apply. The body of techniques based on their understanding of these underlying facts is collectively known as Enigmatic Wisdom, and it guides further acquisition of knowledge. They believe that the universe will fall to chaos less quickly if they live aptly, and most follow Criamon and Empedocles in their interpretation of what that means.

First: Magi are not a superior class of human. All suffering is the fault of Empedocles and the immortals who did not restrain him. If peasants are also of the immortal race, then they were and will be peers in the perfect alam. Every magus has spent lifetimes as oysters or worms - so how can they despise a peasant? Second: Time is circular, and magi have a duty to assist others in escaping it. Young magi largely do this by assisting older magi in research. Third: Worship is fruitless. Many magi believe they were pagan gods in former lives and, having lived aptly, were reborn as magi. The pagan gods are as trapped as anyone else, but simply have a more comfortable prison. That is why the goddess that represents the House is the one unable to assist humanity. The Divine is a more contentious issue for House Criamon. Fourth: Pursuit of wealth, pleasure and power are distractions or temptations to corruption. It is wrong to steal, so the feudal system is itself wrong. Fifth: It is wrong to cause or seek suffering. Violence is permissible only in self-defense, and even then, trickery and entrapment are preferable to wounding. Most Criamon find their power diminishes if they fail to live aptly, as described later.



At the start of a Criamon apprenticeship, the apprentice is given fifteen riddles and their obvious solutions. Over the next fifteen years of study, the apprentice learns many skills and contemplates the riddles, developing a deep understanding of how the riddle and answer are linked, and how they resonate with each other. This allows them to understand Enigmatic Wisdom that is the House mindset, allowing them to help search for the Enigma's answer. Most riddles have a shallow answer, a single statement or word. Sometimes it's funny, but it doesn't need to be. The point of studying the riddle is not to solve it, but to go beyond the answer and illuminate the deep connections that make the answer true. After the examination of the riddle is complete, it is integrated into the other riddles the magus understands, creating a worldview full of connections between apparently unrelated events, symbols and objects.

The House also quite likes the word 'riddle', because it has a second meaning: a riddle is a sieve, and to riddle is to shake things until they separate into valuable and useless elements. Criamon riddles riddle life, producing wisdom, by helping to enter a mental state that allows the magus to sift through experiences and find those that illumtinate the Enigma. An apprentice who is ready to become a magus is asked the Riddle of the Magus. It's phrased differently for each asker, but it generally asks the apprentice to identify the correct path or way forward for themself. Examples are 'what is apt?' or 'what lies before your feet?' or 'what must you leave behind?' Superficially, this cannot be failed - any answer is acceptable. This is because the Criamon do not ask the Riddle of anyone unready for life as a full magus, and even in this case there are shallow and deep answers. The shallow answer is what you say that day. The deep answer is what you do for the rest of your life. Some shallow answers may indicate a desire to follow one of the House traditions, called paths. Anyone with knowledge of the Enigmatic Wisdom can name the paths, what they believe and how they aid the quest. Some apprentices delay choice of path indefinitely, and while indecisive may do things they will later abandon as inapt.

House Criamon does not refer to this as the Gauntlet, as that offends their pacifist nature. It is essentially a formality; it comforts the other Houses that Criamon provides a clear delineator between apprentice and magus. All who have sufficient wisdom, however, are welcome to aid the House and all such people have the same status. Those who find their wisdom insufficient may at any time, without embarrassment, resume study with a master. Many Criamon magi face difficult situations that suit their riddles amazingly. They believe this providence is due to tangential magi guiding them from outside time. A Tytalus magus, on the other hand, once countered them by saying that if you spend all your time thinking of beer, everything will remind you of beer. He was not amused when 'what reminds you of beer?' became a Criamon teaching riddle.



The House also has a complex and odd view of the human body. It is a vehicle for the mind, the medium through which the Gift is expressed and a representation of the universe. Where universe and magus meet, the skin, is an avenue of expression for the accord between world within and world without. Marks on the body are more than decoration, for the body is more than meat. Criamon magi gain intricate skin markings that represent their progress to enlightenment. They call these stigmata, and each stigma represents a vital element of the Enigma or the magus's role in searching for the answer. The first appears, generally, when the Riddle of the Magus is answered. The magus does not choose how stigmata appear, but the player does. New stigmata appear and old ones move and gain complexity as the magus absorbs transformative ideas and heads further along their mystery path. Their stigmata represent their history and true nature, but can only be read by Criamon magi with any accuracy. Stigmata have no cause and cannot be removed, even by magic. If the skin is damaged or destroyed, the stigma will move or incorporate the damage into the pattern. They are not tattoos.

Some symbols repeat - every primus, for example, has borne the symbol of infinity on their forehead, and Twilight tends to cause loops on the wrists, showing that even if it was only briefly, the magus has broken the manacles of time. Every path has its own stigmatic symbols as well. Other forms of body modification have become temporarily popular with the House, but most think Criamon's teachings forbid them. Criamon was branded and mutilated by his teacher, and while the House still knows how to do these things, they have been told that such acts offer only power, not wisdom., and so should not be pursued. However, this is not enforced in any way, and the apprentices of magi who pursue such methods tend to be more disfigured and psychologically damaged than most Criamon apprentices. For example, the current Prima will never grow beyond childlike stature due to the body modifications she underwent as an apprentice.

Tattoos - actual tattoos - are not particularly uncommon, as these things go. Any magus, not just a Criamon, could create an enchanted tattoo. Criamon stigmata are not tattoos, though a tattoo may be called a stigma. Tattoos are not much favored in Europe, for the Book of Leviticus states that having them is sinful, and the Romans used them to mark criminals and slaves. Pilgrims, though, are starting to popularize them - for example, a Coptic cross on the wrist is proof of going to Jerusalem. Criamon magi, covered in stigmata, are often believed to be sinners and disfigured, for tattoos are seen as uglier than scars, being willingly put on. A Criamon magus whose stigmata are not easily visible, however, due to clothing or other circumstances, will not be seen as disfigured. The House also practices a few other modifications, most commonly head binding. A tight bandage wrapped around a child's head will warp the development of the skull, and the altered skull will provide a benefit to a single mystery path; for example, the cone benefits the Path of Seeming and the double-lobe benefits the Path of the Body. Other rituals, such as castration, bone-breaking or severing joints in patterns can provide the same benefits. Most Criamon find this practice highly distasteful, however.

Next time: Gorgiastics and Adulterations

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Amechra posted:

Well, if you think of it, the BFG kinda counts as a kid and their monsters.

And the Witches would definitely fit in...

glad to see I'm not the only one who thought the Witches could work as a backbone to a game session

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

WE HAVE TO CONTROL OUR ENVIRONMENT
IF YOU SEE ME POSTING OUTSIDE OF THE AUSPOL THREAD PLEASE TELL ME THAT I'M MISSED AND TO START POSTING AGAIN


quote:

He refused to have sex, because he thought it wrong to create more people, who must suffer

Ars Magica's Empodocles was the first antinatalist! Perhaps the real person was too?

Erebro
Apr 28, 2013


General Ironicus posted:

The Bogey Conundrum is a weird psychic effect that prevents anyone from remembering or recording any details related to the Mohilar. Combine policy discourages research into it, because extended thought on the matter can induce serious stress-related symptoms like migraines and hypertension. While there is no metaplot or real answer, and your group may never care to find one, there are some cool possibilities listed:
It's engineered by the Combine to protect the people from facing a horrible warcrime that destroyed the Mohilar.
The Durugh did it and they're hiding they have the capability very well.
The Vas Kra destroyed the Mohilar. Their 'original sin' led them to their current bodies and the Counundrum exists because we can't concieve of their extradimentional actions in our tiny brains.
The Mohilar never existed and the entire war is part of a massive coverup.
Nyarlatotep.

I like the idea that the Molihar are (not were, are) a race composed of living memes.

Know anything about them, they know about you, since a tiny bit of them is inside your brain. If they want, they can then use that knowledge to mind control you or even hollow you out and wear you like a suit.

The Conundrum was a safeguard put there by the Vas Kra-if you manage to think straight enough to learn more about the Mohliar, the headache disinfects the knowledge of Mohliar thoughtforms so you remain safe. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work....

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults

Sometimes, a Criamon magus can no longer support the House philosophy. These magi cease to be of House Criamon. It's generally quite obvious: their stigmata change to reflect their rejection of the Criamon beliefs, often vanishing entirely. These magi are known as Gorgiastics, named for a student of Empedocles who turned against his teacher's ways and posited that nothing existed, and if it did you couldn't understand it, and if you could you couldn't communicate about it. Criamon magi, being generally non-violent and believing that the Mysteries of the House are self-occluding, tend to treat Gorgiastics civilly. Under Hermetic law, the punishment for going a year without a House is death, so the House avoids renouncing magi until they have arranged adopting into another House. They will often help with introductions. There is not structured group of ex-Criamon, though many keep in informal contact with other Gorgiastics. Most join Ex Miscellanea or Jerbiton. They may at any time return to House Criamon, if they regain their desire to pursue the Enigma. The stigmata of such magi return, though usually changed in some way by their experiences.

Transmission is an interesting word for Criamon, referring to the process by which they pass what they know on to other Criamon. Some report to their clutchmates, others train apprentices or write books. Some choose not to rest in death that they may maintain perfection of transmission. Of these options, the spectral tenders of the House are considered most laudable, but many magi are unable to resist the rewards that await in the Hypostasis. Some magi, fading into their path's repose, have perfect transmissions. In one instant, their wisdom is bound into an object or place, from which other Criamon may study via contemplation. The covenants built in these magical auras seem designed to cause tales to play out in allegory for the insights of the magus.


That's what Repose means.

Adulterations are impurities in the minds of magi, made real by magic. They are unresolved psychological issues made material, and are best destroyed by resolving those issues. Members of House Criamon old that when magi ascend to Final Twilight, they have moments of self-realization and definition, shedding all parts that they do not wish to carry into eternity. These fears and aspirations (well, usually fears and aspirations) fall back to the mortal world, taking material form and becoming adulterations. Uncontrolled Twilight experiences can also produce adulterations, manifesting from thoughts dredged from magi by the stress of Twilight. These are drawn to their creators, and if they are resolved, the magus is freed of the burden they represent. Occasionally, other forms of magical truama, such as lab accidents, produce adulterations. Lastly, the death of an apprentice is particularly mourned by Criamon, for apprentices cannot enter Hypostasis, yet have powerful magical potential. This often becomes an adulteration, seeking out the apprentice's former master. It is said that one of the malignancies, the greatest and most potent adulterations, is an apprentice of the Founder who died, haunting the Order now to kill other apprentices and create more adulterations.

The domus magna, the Cave of Twisting Shadows, is a regio that leads from the mortal world to Criamon's refuge outside time. The inhabitants live in neither, but in the levels between, and Criamon refer to this regio as the Axis Magica. It is, they say, the pole about which the tides of magic circle. Hundreds of dead covenfolk and magi haunt the cave, but lack the monomania common in the unquiet dead. They are a group of extended families ruled by the living, and the ghosts believe that when the answer is known, they too will be able to exit time, as Hermetic magi can already do via Final Twilight. Many hundreds simply rest within their ashes, waiting for the call. The Cave is also the headquarters of the Central Clutch, custodians of the House's wisdom. This Clutch's main task is to support the others, whose specialists search for the answer. The Central Clutch does most of the training of apprentices and Order politicking, and is led by the Prima.

The Prima has many duties. She leads the council of magi and elected covenfolk who govern the Cave, coordinates the House's efforts and is the spokesperson to the Order. Most Primi also do research. The Prima ascends to the position via a complex ritual that often involves a communal vision. When the Prima feels close to Final Twilight, the members of House Criamon assemble in the Cave to kill her. They lead a procession up to the ninth level of the regio, where non-Criamon ritually murders her. Her ghost then floats free and chooses either to pass through the gate to Hypostasis or to remain and help tend the House. Those present who possess good knowledge of the Enigmatic Wisdom enter a communal trance full of incomprehensible images. When one of them believes the images indicate they should take over as Primus, they stand and announce it. They then are acclaimed by their sodales and become Primus. The only other formality left is to send letters to those Criamon unable to attend the ritual, and to the Primi of other Houses. The House tries to limit the time between death and the ascension of the next Primus, believing that Hypostasis cannot be entered by anyone while there is no living Primus. Thus, they feel that magi who fall into temporary Twilight cannot return while the office is vacant, and magi who would otherwise enter Final Twilight in that period simply die.

Primi are often younger and less mystical than outsiders might expect, and their personality and skills tend to predict the crises the House faces. During the Schism War, for example, a militant Primus of the Path of Strife drew the House back to the Cave and offered sanctuary to those of noncombatant Houses, some of whom later joined Criamon. Three past Primi are notable in particular. Juliasta filia Criamon was the first Prima after the Founder, and a follower of the Winding Path - the first of those, as well. These magi do not live in the House's covenants, and some wander Europe seeking things to study. Juliasta lived in several non-Criamon covenants, sharing much knowledge with outsiders in exchange for their knowledge. This helped to expand the abilities of the Criamon, who had prior been deficient in some Arts. Verderis, the Primus after her, wrote the epic poem The Travels of Fedoso, used to teach Latin to apprentices. It is about Fedoso, a young man who goes on many strange journeys, and eventually ends his trip alone on a mountaintop. The Criamon magi often claim the book is an allegory for the future of the House, a map to follow that some say predicted the Corruption of Tytalus and the Schism War. A few magi even refuse to allow their apprentices to read the book, claiming it causes the disasters that it predicts. The ghost of Verderis is one of only three who did not remain in the Cave. He predicted that he would die away from the Cave, and his spirit would be lost. He said he would be found, literally 'netted in', as a harbinger of the answer. Many Criamon once sought him by trying to use the Travels of Fedoso as a guide, but the practice is much less popular these days. Abdkypris was the most exciting recent Primus, who traveled throughout Muslim Iberia, North Africa and the Levant to speak to the greatest Muslim thinkers. He infused Islamic ideas, particularly Sufism, into the House to cause debate, and continued contact with Muslims has led the House to greater political activity, with many Criamon advocating for peace in Iberia and the Levant.

There's many reasons why people don't claim the title of Primus out of desire for power or glory. The Primus doesn't rule the House - they just coordinate it. They have little authority beyond their ability to convince others, and they forsake entry to the Hypostasis until the House solves the Enigma. The Prima is often neither the wisest nor most learned magus, just the one of her generation willing to delay paradise to help the House. On five occasions in history, a person present for a reason other than participation in the deliberations has claimed Primacy. Three served admirably. First was Cato of Bonisagus, skilled in Enigmatic Wisdom and a great popularizer of the House's insights. Second was Diana of Merinita, present to kill the last Primus, and her acceptance caused great cosmological speculation, for Criamon magi assumed that the murderer would always be in a state of spiritual pollution. She served well, and her ghost continues to teach those Criamon interested in Faerie lore. The third, Johannes, was not even a magus, but a notary acting for a Quaesitor present for the deliberation. Eventually, his Primacy was accepted, and he appointed a magus to communicate with outsiders and attend the Grand Tribunal for him. This Tribunal ratified the Privileges of Criamon, the ruling that allows for House customs such as the slaying of a willing Primus. His ghost persists and is actually the House's expert on Hermetic legal precedent.

The two 'false claimants' fared worse. Victor of Tytalus was a diabolist trying to hide his soul in Hypostasis. Immediately after he was acclaimed as Primus, he flung himself into the Hypostasis and was reduced to adulterations. Sagitar of Tremere, meanwhile, learned that the role of Primus of Criamon was a form of voluntary mystical slavery and a non-retractable offer to serve the House. He very briefly served as Primus, and his tenure was filled with tragic circumstances that, once resolved, served the House's interests. His ghost haunts the Cave still, contrite and wiser for his ordeal.

The current Prima, Muscaria, never expected to take the role. She didn't understand that the role came not of Enigmatic Wisdom, but of desire to sacrifice wisdom for the service of others that marks a potential Primus. Soon after becoming a magus, she concluded she'd never find the answer herself and instead developed the mushroom farms that allow the Cave to grow its own food. She 41, young even for a Criamon Prima, and looks even younger. You see, her master, Demetrius, was and is an alchemist. He believes that all humanity will be saved by a chemical solution, which must create a lifting joy in the spirit that breaks the bonds of time. Demetrius wanted his filia to have the best chance of using the elixir, and noted that alchemical potions are most effective on immature bodies. As a result, he gave Muscaria a longevity potion when she turned fourteen. She has not visibly aged since. Muscaria has no particular theory regarding the answer, save that it will be hard to find and so it's best to start looking now. She still loves her teacher, despite thinking him completely, blissfully insane. The enchantment he placed on her was a gift of paternal affection, and in its honor Muscaria has willingly allowed herself to remain forever physically immature as a form of mystical body modification.

The ghosts of past Primi remain in the Cave, teaching others of the House. They are what the covenant has in lieu of an actual library, and they answer questions sent to them from outside, too. They have different beliefs about how the quest for the Enigma will end, but agree that they will eventually enter Hypostasis. All Primi follow the Path of the Mirror, a path that is never statted because it is suited only for those who choose to remain almost exclusively within the Cave. Initiates on the Path of the Mirror are instructed by the received wisdom of the House, embodied in the spectral magi, and so they learn quickly. The Prima, while within the regio, may hear the thoughts of the ghosts, may sense and distort the tides and currents of magic and may bind spirits to places or objects. It is also believed that the living Primus may draw the Axis Magica within their own body and walk with it to another place. When the Primus enters Twilight, they say, the Axis is re-established and the entire pattern of auras across Europe will move. This ability has either never been used or perhaps was only used when Criamon founded the covenant. While a magus incarnates the Axis Magica, you see, it is said that no magus can return from Twilight, and those attempting to shelter there from harm cannot, and will die instead.

Most Hermetics are aware of House Criamon's claims regarding their Founder and his waiting for the Enigma so that he can in good conscience surrender the burden of holding the Twilight Road open. Experienced Criamon magi, however, understand how it is done: the Axis Magica is Criamon himself, transformed into a living bridge between the world and the Hypostasis. Most think Criamon is waiting for the House to find another road. Some believe he wants a messianic figure to take his place. A handful of magi think it is more complex than that, and they are correct. See, the Primi of the Cave are not ghosts. They are a single spirit of place. They feel themselves to be individuals, but on a mystical level they are one being, deceiving itself. That spirit learns and grows as new magi join it. Few understand that the genius locus of which the Primi are part was once a tortured child who refuses to be reborn to suffer ever again. Still fewer suspect that the Primi are building their own messiah. One possible answer to the Enigma might unite the genius locus into a single mind.

In the Hypostasis, claim the Primi, dwell the tangential magi, who have faded peacefully into Final Twilight or who have been soothed of traumatic Final Twilight. They have plans for House Criamon that mortals cannot grasp, and send visions through the Axis to their mortal successors. Some of those creatures that rose with the tangential (familiars, for example) can return to the world and act without risking universal catastrophe. They arrange for minor, precise and surreptitious aid for other Criamon magi. The Criamon claim the tangential are outside time, so some tangential magi have yet to be born. Others are of races from the counter-cycle of time. These beings from the time of rising harmony cause less stress when they enter time than those of of the time of rising strife. It is said that in ancient history, some acted as guides and were worshipped as animal-headed gods. Strife has today progressed too far to allow such direct interventions, but servants are dispatched into time still, making it less circle and more spiral. (Assuming any of this is true, of course.)

Next time: The Paths

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 04:06 on Jun 7, 2013

pospysyl
Nov 10, 2012



Pussy Cartel posted:

Just you wait. Rifts Africa makes Rifts England look like some Ken Hite masterpiece.

Edit: Of course, Rifts England just so happens to make Rifts Canada look good, too.

Hey, Rifts Canada is good and I won't hear anything against it. Anything that offers a Sasquatch class is alright in my book. :colbert:

(Then again, I like some of the more usable (as far as Rifts goes) vampire OCCs from Vampire Kingdoms, too)

Alien Rope Burn
Dec 4, 2004

I wanna be a saikyo HERO!


Pussy Cartel posted:

Just you wait. Rifts Africa makes Rifts England look like some Ken Hite masterpiece.

I find myself increasingly of the belief that I drew the short straw inbetween the two books we chose to review. Africa may be the worst Rifts book published. It's conceivable that there's a worse one out there, but I can't think of one, though I admit there's still a number of Rifts books I haven't read too closely. I mean, Rifts Index & Adventures 2 may be worse, but even if it was, would anybody care?

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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

Africa is the crap champion of Rifts, along with possibly having the most overpowered NPCs next to the Alien Intelligences.

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