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  • Locked thread
Oct 10, 2007

Can you see that I am serious?
Fun Shoe
drat Jerbiton owns. Probably my favorite house besides Tremere at this point.


Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

I'm here to announce that my Monsters and Other Childish Things postings are basically done now. The game I was trying to get set up fell through, and I'm kinda burnt out on the game as a whole. If anybody else wants to continue it feel free, but I'm done.

I'm not done posting here though. MY game falling though just kindled the urge to get a group going, and to keep my interest I decided to go with a game I, and most other goons, loving love Eclipse Phase. I won't be doing the core-book, as it's mostly rules and has already been done, so would be boring. Instead I'm going to be doing the four currently released expansion books, both to get my hand back in, and to drum up interest for the game I WILL START I SWEAR IT WILL HAPPEN! Ahem. Also because I don't think many people have read the expansion books, and I loving love EP's setting. Anyway, before I begin, I'd like to know some preferences for the readers:

1. I'm going to do a quick "EP Primer" post to cover general setting info and terms so that new readers don't go in blind and get everything.

2. The plan is to go: Panopticon, Gatecrashing, Sunward, Rimward, in that order. I feel that this would give the best overall feel of the game, as Panopticon is the most obviously "expansion pack" book, and is best covered first.

3. I'm actually really familiar with the books, and so can be more opiniony about them, providing commmentary about the setting, outlining possible adventure hooks, and giving my "interpretations" of some rules/fluff that I believe makes the game cooler.

If anybody is cool with all this, then the "Primer" will go up sometime tonight!

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Jerbiton does not, technically, have any magic uniquely its own - it's simply that most magi have not done the same sort of research as the House has. House Jerbiton, for example, has done a lot of philosophizing about where created items come from. You don't have to know how a horse's heart works to make a horse, or that horses don't have lower eyelashes. All of those come from what they call the World of Forms. Magi do not agree on what the World of Forms is, and some suspect it is the realm of Magic, while others say it is the collective mind of all humans, and others that it is the mind of God. The finer points of the metaphysics are insignificant to both most magi and most players, but House Jerbiton magi who create things have learned to use it to their advantage. They have found that study of the arts assists them with intricate magical effects. Usually, Hermetic magi form only a vague mental image of their desired effect, with magic filling in the details, and the magus using finesse to alter the outcome consciously. The final product is also infused with the sigil, the unique touch of magic that each magus has.

House Jerbiton knows that by using finesse in Creo magic, they may specify details in what is being created, often to make it more beautiful. The object will always be functional, after all, so long as they don't botch. Created illusions will always look functional, but more detail can likewise be added. Rego magic can recreate anything a mundane artist could do with tools, and the difficulty of the finesse needed is based on how fast you want it done. Doing a day's work in a moment is not that hard. Doing it a year's work in a moment, that's hard.

Perhaps of more interest is what House Jerbiton has learned about the sigil. Most magi do not give the sigil any thought - it just happens, as a side effect of any magic cast. For example, a magus might find that all of their spells are accompanied by the scent of orange blossoms. For artistic magi, however, the sigil can be made more flexible. Their sigils become a collection of related motifs - in this case, oranges. By utilizing what is known as a flourish, they may apply some finesse to alter how the sigil manifests. When they do nothing, it will still be orange blossoms, but a tiny bit of effort can produce the color orange, the scent of orange juice, the taste of oranges, the texture of orange peels or other such variations on the theme of oranges. Any magus familiar with your sigil will still be able to recognize the spell as yours, but it may be more aesthetically pleasing this way.

Now, let's talk percpetion. Jerbiton the Founder was extremely skilled with magic that altered perceptions, and his tradition has been studied greatly by the House. Perception is a highly complex, fragile process. easily manipulated due to its many stages. The process of distorting perception is known as deception, and members of House Jerbiton claim mastery of deception, though certainly there skilled users of deception in other Houses. To understand how this magic works, we will begin by discussing species. Species are particles continuously emitted by objects which, when they strike the sensory organs, evoke a response. Humans encounter four main types of species. Iconic species are carried in light and interpreted by the eyes. Echoic species are carried in air and register with the ear. Haptic species pass only via direct contact and are interpreted via the skin. Olfactory and gustative species are the same species, sensed either via air using the nose or water using the tongue. Mundane humans are unable to directly manipulate species, and must instead manipulate the objects which emit those species. Species themselves do not shed species and are weightless, so most are invisible and intangible. They are also infinite, because all objects emit a continuous stream of species.

Magi, on the other hand, may manipulate species with Imaginem magic, and may use other Forms to turn objects directly into species if they integrate an Imaginem requisite. For example, a magus once developed a Muto Terram spell to convert metal in, say, a sword into iconic species. Passing light then carries off the species, which are absorned when they hit an object, at which point the magic ends and the species become metal again. This disintegrates objects, so it has obvious combat advantages, but its original purpose was actually an artist seeking an efficient way to plate metal on objects. He would take the object he wanted to plate, levitate it, and put it in a supernaturally lit, mirrored box with the metal, using the magic to convert the metal into species, reflect it onto the object and turn it back. Very nice, really. Hermetic magi have not yet found a method, however, to make solid objects out of species directly - the best you can do is turn a solid object into species, then let it turn back. There are several theories about why this is the case, but most believe it is because it is extremely difficult to sense the cluster of species you wish to transform.

Magi who understand how the senses work may deceive via interrupting at any point in the sensory process. There are several steps:
1. An object exists and sheds species.
2. The species travel through a medium.
3. The species strike an organ of perception.
4. The organ signals the brain. (You use Corpus to mess with this, and it is beyond the scope of the Jerbiton studies of senses and thought.)
5. The mind interprets the signal, giving it meaning.
6. The signal is remembered.

Let's start with Step One. The form of sensory magic most magi are familiar with is mimicry, the creation of illusory objects. It is not subtle and takes little finesse. For example, a magus might create the illusion of a snake on a bed. Everyone can see it, because it sheds natural, nonmagical species. Mimics have convincing reflections, because they spead species omnidirectionally, and because the species are not magical, they cannot be resisted by the Parma.

At step 2, you manipulate the streams of species that pour from an object. The simplest manipulations either replace or destroy those species. You replace the species when you make a leaf appear to be a coin. You destroy the species when you render a dagger invisible. There are subtler methods of manipulating species, however, as discovered by Jerbiton. First is Transparency. An illusion of transparency destroys the species before they strike the eye (or sometimes the ear) of a single viewer. Others may still the species. Transparencies only work in relatively static environments, because they rely on tricks of perspective, which are far too difficult to employ against multiple viewers moving in relation to the object and each other. Transparencies require more finesse than normal invisibility or illusions. An example might be rendering an ambush party invisible only from the direction they wish to attack but not each other, or a spell that makes a person invisible to only one person provided you know where they are and they move predictably. (Rapid movement in general tends to defeat transparencies, no matter how much finesse you have.)

Now, step three is the striking of the organ of perception. You can get some really, really weird effects by subtly altering species just before they strike the senses. For example, there are macrotures, which rely on the illusion of proximity. A macroture is an image magnified beyond the possibility of the human eye, made by forcing a species to strike the eye in a less concentrated way. Essentially, macroture illusions are magnifying glasses. They are known if not well-practiced to all magi interested in Imaginem magic, and House Jerbiton primarily uses them to examine the methods and technique of artifacts by examining the tiny marks left by the creator's tools. They also use macrotures to see art from angles inaccessible to mundane people, to see objects from great distances and to determine the quality of precious materials. They may also be used to correct impaired vision.

Another form of perceptive illusion is synaesthesia, a rather less well-known breed of illusion. By using synaesthetic illusion, you alter the species of a weak sense so that they use a stronger sense. In humans, sight is the strongest sense, so most synaesthetic spells are designed to make less detectable species visisble. Species for external senses such as sight which are converted into internal senses such as pain have no effect due to their inability to reach the internal organs that detect such things. However, you might use synaesthetic illusion to convert the olfactory species of sweat traces into iconic species, allowing you track someone's scent by the glowing trail it leaves. Such a spell would be visible to everyone nearby, and the quality of light would be based on your sigil and finesse. Another method might be to convert heat species (which are produced by warm surfaces and are normally sensed via touch) into iconic species, allowing you to sense heat by your vision. An interesting craft spell is to turn the groans and squeaks of damaged equipment into iconic species, to more easily find and repair flaws.

Now, we skip to step five. There are two primary methods of using interpretation to attack the mind. First, you can go directly for the mind and reduce its ability to think clearly. Second, you can use the method of the mind in constructing meaning to force it to reach false conclusions. For example, anamorphic illusions. People classify objects in their environments, and often mistake confusing things for familiar things. Anamorphic, or shapeless illusions lack detail, taking advantage of this natural tendency. These rely on the victim not paying very close attention, tricking their mind into filling in the details. They work best on those who are tired, emotionally roused or inebriated. Those who look closely can see the shapelessness for what it is. Those who do not see it, at best, as false but with a mundane explanation, such as a disguise. They may not even notice something is there and get only a vague sense of wrongness, but the mind will not register it as worth classification without prompting. Those with less luck will see the anamorph as something related to their current emotional state, but not important enough to investigate. Those who really fail may see it as highly determined by their mental state (so a frightened person would see a menacing figure, for example), or may see it doing as they expect it to (a menacing figure would seem to slink forward threateningly, a performer would seem to juggle), and if they really, really gently caress up, they'll construct a detailed and entirely false memory of the interaction, perhaps including a scuffle that never happened or a brief, uninformative conversation. Anamorphs generally only fool one sense, though more complex multi-sense anamorphs are harder to spot. This does not require Mentem, because it does not magically influence the mind - it just taks advantage of it. If you work carefully to manage expectations and mental states in your victims, you can make an anamorph seem to be basically anything.

By using Mentem magic, you may attack decision-making via created emotional bias, artificially placing strong personality traits into the mind of your victim. These can create extreme emotions, such as fear or anger, or cause these emotions to be much, much easier to trigger, either in general or towards specific stimuli. I'm sure you can see how that kind of thing would be used - say, enchant someone to become very angry at people who wear a certain article of clothing, like a badge. You may also diminish mental capacity with Perdo Mentem, such as by destroying the adult judgment needed to tell truth from lies. You could also destroy things like the power to ignore irrelevant details, the power to articulate words, the ability to assess things without emotional bias, the ability to complete learned movements of the muscles, the power to deduce fact from observation, sense of time, the ability to form memories, the power to make inferences based on experience, the ability to properly integrate sensory information (which would make someone appear clumsy or drunk), the power to read expressions, the ability to recover from shock, literacy, the ability to form or understand words or mathematical concepts...if you know about the abilities a mind has, there's a lot you can do.

Next time: More tricks of interpretation and memory.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Miniatures are another form of illusion based on perspective. A miniature is a small, monodirectional illusion, designed to fool the viewer into believing it is much bigger than it actually is by appearing very close to their eye. They are very convenient in cities because they are inconspicuous. They do, however, require a lot more finesse than standard illusions. Fortunately, Jerbiton magi tend to have that. The reason they're so favored by urban magi is that in cities, buildings block lines of sight and make normal illusions tricky, but an illusion on a window or a doorway can appear to show an entire panorama, which would normally be a much harder spell if you enchanted the entire panorama. Even an unframed miniature can be used if you have enough skill. Miniatures are also good for illusions only one person can sense. Everyone can see an illusion of a snake on the bed, but if you put the illusion as a miniature in the target's eye, only they can. You can do the same with sound in the ear, producing illusions only some people can hear. Most miniatures are more difficult than normal illusions, of course, but the ability to communicate silently, to blind people by covering their eyes with illusion or to force eye contact by taking advantage of reflexive following of movement at the edge of the eye are all very useful. However, miniatures target victims with magic, and so, unlike most illusions, they can be resisted.

Altering states of consciousness with Rego Mentem is also helpful. Most magi are aware of a few states - awake, asleep and confused, for example. Awake is the superior and complete form of perception, asleep is the failed form of perception and confused is somewhere between. But there are other states that House Jerbiton has, by studying the nature of the mind, discovered. Animalist is the state of consciousness wherein someone, perhaps a Bjornaer magus, sees their environment through the senses and temporal sense of an animal. Anaesthetic is the state of consciousness where the target is ignorant of their body's existence, but engaged in the environment, such as those captivated by a musical performance. Daydreaming is the state of contemplating some thought to the exclusion of the environment. Dreaming is the state contemplation of the dream world rather than the waking world, as described in the Dream Magic mysteries. Self-aware is the state of contemplating your own reactions or sensations rather than the environment. (Pain makes most people highly self-aware.) Somnambulistic is the state of sleepwalkers, where the perception of the world is filtered by dreams. Unconscious is the more general category of which asleep is a subtype, aware of neither the self nor the environment. Other forms of unconsciousness than sleep include comatose or fainted.

And, of course, you can alter thoughts. Mentem magic can plant thoughts in the minds of others. A thought, definitionally, is the expression of an idea currently active in the mind. You can target either thoughts themselves or the capacity to think. Mentem may also alter the way sensations are turned into thoughts by the mind, typically by changing how they are categorized or by impairing the mind in such a way as to remove a particular cognitive capability. All Mentem users are aware of how to control, create and understand thoughts. It isn't much of a leap from there to altering or destroying thoughts, much as memories can be altered or destroyed. For example, you might remove the capacity to think of a specific word, though that word still exists in memory.

Speaking of memory, there's all kinds of memories. Hermetic magic is most concerned with three types. First, inscribed memories - those etched into the mind by study and experience. Second, procedural memories - sequences in which actions are done to perform a greater task. Last, episodic memories - those that recollect events, such as autobiographical memories. In theory, Hermetic magic should be able to transfer inscribed or procedural memories from a willing donor to someone else, but as yet, no magus has ever found a way to do so. They are valid targets for other manipulations, but the creation of skills and abilities by magic is currently beyond the limits of Hermetic understanding. Episodic memory can be created, however. Some believe this is because it creates a fresh episode and new memory, not sustained by magic.

Inscribed Memory magic is tied to inscribed memories - those that were learned by diligent effort, such as facts and bodies of knowledge. The primary method of using magic on these memories would be to either grant knowledge of a new category of things (the ability, say, to recognize birds in someone who had never heard of birds) or broad knowledge of a category the target knows of (broad familiarity with foods even if you've only ever seen gruel, say). The knowledge you can grant is limited by what you know, of course, and the primary use of such magic would be, say, to smuggle a cart of goods into a city by convincing the guards to think of them under the category of 'useless, unimportant poo poo,' provided these goods do not have an existing simile in the mind of the targets. Alternatively, one might inflict agnosia, destroying familiarity with a category of objects represented by a single noun. For example, your target would still know what a dog was and all the traits of a dog, but if they encountered a dog, they would be unable to recognize it as a dog in any way, despite knowing what what a dog was.

Procedural Memory magic is tied to sequences of actions trained to be done without thought. Hermetic magic cannot create procedural memories, but can target them. Some magi report encountering children who have inherited procedural memories from their parents, but no one has any idea how that even begins to work. An example use of magic in this vein would be removing the ability of a team of warriors to fight as an organized unit, or cause a group of courtiers to forget the steps to a particular dance. This does not remove the memory of learning them, so it will be obvious that somehow, the skill was lost.

Episodic Memory deals with events - both autobiographical (memories of events which have happened) and prospective (memories of expectations of the future). These memories, if damaged or distorted by magic, mend themselves via deduction, inference and abduction. Magi can exploit this by implanting vivid, false memories that rapidly become indistinguishable from the real thing. Episodic memory loss does not remove any skills or abilities - a total amnesiac retains all abilities, even though they don't know how they learned those abilities and may not be aware of what they can instinctively do. The detail of the memories implanted is based on your finesse. gently caress up, and you got something so obviously wrong that the target will notice the memory is false as soon as they think about it. gently caress up less and it gets dismissed as idle whimsy. But if you do it right, you draw on the target's expectations and experiences to create memories that the target believes, even if they are obviously wrong, because they do not know not to. (For example, they might remember the muddy streets of Venice because they don't know about the canals.) If you are really skilled, you can insert details of your own choosing rather than letting their mind handle that stuff, making it easier for you to confirm the memory with what you know and the target does not yet know. Handy tricks might be making a target remember a pleasant evening with you so that you don't have to worry about making them like you already, or creating a prospective memory in the target ('I need to leave the back door open tomorrow night') and letting them draw reasonable inferences from there so that they believe they have a good reason to do it ('because his lordship is sneaking out for a night on the town while his wife sleeps'). (Should there be no reasonable inference possible, the spell will fail as the target just dismisses the memory out of hand, so stuff like suicide is usually impossible, as is anything dangerous unless your target faces that kind of danger regularly, such as a shepherd dealing with wolves.) The main purpose for this would be to take advantage of whatever action you have magically convinced the target to perform for you.

Memorization of Created Knowledge is another fun trick. See, magically created memories and thoughts fade when the spell ends. You may want to remember those thoughts, and by constructing episodic memories of them, you can retain them after the spell is over. This takes a long time to do and is an extremely ineffective method of teaching people things as a result. For example, it would take an hour of active work drawing out a magical memory of a map in order to memorize that map for real. These reconstructed memories are also less precise than the created memories - that doesn't matter for simple stuff, but for complex information, the errors just pile up.

Some other minor memory tricks you might enjoy: it is possible to turn memories or emotions into solid objects with magic. While holding the object, the original target can remember the memory or feel the emotion. No one else can do that. You may also incline victims towards various courses of action; the two most useful would be inclination to belief, making your victim gullible, or inclination to disinterest, making them likely to ignore you and not be able to remember you later.

Next time: House Tytalus

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012

Part 2: Of Rotting and Rommel
Chapter 2: Ordinance and Equipment
Most of the new equipment added this time is related to Italy, though there's also some more German material.
  • Weapons: The new firearms are the Modello 89B and Beretta M1934 pistols, the Carcano Modello 91/24 rifle, the Breda M38 machine gun, and the SRC Modello 35 grenade. None of them have particularly notable assets compared to standard weapons.
  • Generic Equipment: Want stats for flimsy cans, jerry cans, magnetic compasses, san channels or sand mats to aid vehicles in a rut, or a sun compass? Well, they're here. There are also notes on clockwork detonators and pencil fuses for explosive.
  • Vehicles: I hope you like tanks, because there's a lot of them. Germany gets stats for the Panzer IB, Panzer IIC, Panzer IIIG, and the SDKfz 9 halftrack, Italy gets stats for the Command M41 recon vehicle. M13 tank, and Semovente M40 tank, and the Brits get the A13 and A15 Cruiser tanks, a fitter's truck, a Long Range Desert Group modified jeep, a LRDG light truck, the Marmon-Herrington armored car, a signal van, the Matilda III tank, the Valentine II tank, and the Vickers light tank.
  • Aircraft: Germans get the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch recon plane, Italy gets the Caproni Ca309 Ghibli bomber, Fiat BR20 Cicogna transport, Macchi MC200 Saetta fighter, and SM79 Savoia Sparviero recon bomber, and the Brits get the Bristol Blenheim Mk IV bomber, Bristol Bombay Mk I bomber/transport, and Westland Lysander recon plane.

Chapter 3: Operational Overview
The prerequisite GMing chapter starts with a timeline of the African conflict from Italy's declaration of war to Rommel's departure from northern Africa, but quickly segues into actual game rules. These start with talk about the harsh terrain of northern Africa. The muddy traps of salt marshes, rugged passes of desert mountains, and minefield-laden scrub are only made worse by blistering heat in the day and bitter cold at night or the threat of sandstorms. Indeed, if your character happens to be an arcane spellcaster, there is a 5th level spell called summon khamsin that lets you whip up a hot sandstorm to throw at your foes. It does lead to some awkward misunderstanding if you recall that the bestiary happened to have a monster called the khamsin as well, though.

The third section of the GMing chapter is focused on places to go and people to see. After noting the basics on potential African bases of operation during World War II such as Cairo, Casablanca, Tobruk, Tripoli, and Benghazi - the last of which has an adventure hook for a special forces group to invade it and take out forces controlling it, which may be awkward to modern audiences - there's a laundry list of big names in northern Africa on both the Allied and Axis sides. The one who gets the most :words: is, of course, Rommel himself. Not only does he get two pages of exposition compared to a few paragraphs for men such as Patton, Rommel is the only named historical figure of the lot that gets a stat block. He's a Lawful Neutral 17th level Officer, if you were curious.

Last are a collection of new NPCs. While the majority of these are your standard Grunt 1 or Officer 4 with specifically desert-themed skills, feats, and equipment, some NPCs of note are the completely fictional Special Salvage Group Mages. These guys are the classic Lawful Evil Nazi blood mages that love to torture people, mutate them, and raise a bunch of zombies. Rommel is stated to have taught them the ways of desert warfare and allowed them to infiltrate standard German infantry units, but somehow he's still totally Lawful Neutral guys because his units didn't do all the evil zombie stuff. They just facilitated it, that's totally different, right? :v:

Chapter 4: Bestiary
  • Aajej (CR 8 Huge Elemental): These charming fellows are giant bloodstained whirlwinds created by the life force of mass deaths seeping into the sand and connecting with elemental wind. They're basically a whirlwind hazard that happens to be capable of intelligent planning as far as stats go.
  • Cipher Imp (CR 2 Tiny Outsider):[b/] These minions of Hell are summoned by Nazi blood mages to spy on Allied communications. They are capable of understanding any language that has ever been spoken by the human tongue, which means they are more or less a direct plot device for the villains discovering a Signaler character's relayed plans. Their only method of combat is their claws, which have a poison that deals Dexterity and Wisdom damage. There is a 3rd level Adept spell supplied to summon one as well.
  • Colossus (CR 4 Large Construct): 10-15 feet in height doesn't really scream "colossus" to me, but whatever. These guys are guardian golems that look like statues of pharaohs and gods of old Egypt. The text says that Muslims have wiped out most of them that aren't in extremely remote or forbidden places because they are graven images. Other than having the ability to produce a fear effect when they suddenly spring to life, they are pretty standard punchy-slammy-damage-reductiony stone golems.
  • Corpse Mine (CR 2 Medium-size Undead): Do you need another zombie suicide bomber besides the ones that were in Horrors of Weird War II and Hell Freeze Over? Well, here's yet another one.
  • Flugzeuggeist (CR 4 Large Aberration): These vaguely human-shaped hulks made out of burning plane parts are flammable and spit molten shrapnel at foes. The text says they are demons, but they are statted as the Aberration type. :iiam:
  • Ghul (CR 3 Medium-size Undead): It's a D&D ghoul plus a fear aura. Yay.
  • Ienpu (CR 2 Medium-size Magical Beast: These wild-eyed magical jackals are stated to be the servants of Anubis, ferrying souls to the afterlife. Of course, they happen to be Neutral Evil and will accept killing someone with their jagged fanged bites as "ferrying into the afterlife", so...yeah.
  • Judgement Beast (CR 12 Huge Outsider): These Lawful Evil spirits resemble the soul-munching hippocrocolion of legend, Ammut. They can be summoned with a 9th level spell and a copy of the Book of the Dead, but only in lands that were once part of the Egyptian empire, and pretty much just bite and trample things with their huge bodies.
  • Sand-Rot Mummy (CR 2 Medium-size Undead): Unlike standard D&D mummies, these guys have no Intelligence and are basically zombies that happen to be dried up like jerky. They even have the whole "partial actions only" aspect.
  • Supply Rat (CR 1/3 Small Animal): A dire rat by any other name would be just as diseased.
  • Twisted Hulk (CR 7 Huge Construct): Flaming tank mechs animated by vengeful ghosts. They have an obscene damage reduction 50, meaning that any attack other than their weakness will pretty much be shrugged off. Fortunately for the heroes, their weakness happens to be good old H2O.
  • Wireless Hound (CR 4 Large Magical Beast): In spite of the name, these "hounds" are actually giant crested porcupines with ogre-level Intelligence. Their spines vibrate painfully in the presence of radio waves, which drives them into a rage and causes them to track down and violently attack the radio emanating the waves. Those that are jabbed with their quills also feel the pain of the radio sensitivity and suffer a -1 penalty per embedded quill to all rolls within 75 feet of a radio. Both the Axis and Allies use wireless hounds as living weapons against enemy radio outposts.


Next time: The bland and the blue as we cover the entirety of Dead From Above in one sweeping post.

Nov 4, 2007

zamtrios so lonely
Grimey Drawer

Fossilized Rappy posted:

[list][*]Aajej (CR 8 Huge Elemental): These charming fellows are giant bloodstained whirlwinds created by the life force of mass deaths seeping into the sand and connecting with elemental wind. They're basically a whirlwind hazard that happens to be capable of intelligent planning as far as stats go.

This just makes me think of

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Tytalus has 96 members at last count, with...well, two Primi. The Primus is either Buliste or Harpax. One of them. But they haven't figured out which one yet. Their domus magna is Fudarus, on the Isle of Ushant off the coast of Brittany, infamous for reefs and storms. The Primi are the only magi in the place right now, with the other normal inhabitants headed off elsewhere while they fight. You can find Tytalus anywhere, though. Their motto is 'Auctus ex dimicatione' - From conflict, growth. Their symbol is the spiral, though Tytalan heraldry is a bit complex and there's a lot of spiral variations. The main House symbol is known as the spira, with four full turns. It is currently clockwise, but that has not always been true. In recent years, supporters of Buliste or Harpax have colored the spiral violet or green, respectively.

Some say the history of Tytalus can be divided into eras of conflict between pairs of magi. The early years were dominated by the fights of Tytalus against Guorna, Tremere and his filii, who then continued the tradition by squabbling with each other. The middle period consisted of the corruption of the House, which set the fourth, fifth and sixth Primi against each other. In the current day, the House is split between two magi who both claim right of rule. Anyway, history. Remember back in House Tremere, when Trianoma came to Naples to meet Guorna the Fetid, finest necromancer ever to live? Well, when Trianoma took Guorna off to Durenmar, she could not know that Guorna's three students, Tytalus, Tremere and the as-yet-untrained Pralix had recently fled to Dacia after discovering Guorna's plan to transfer her soul from her leprous body into one of theirs. The three apprentices swore to kill Guorna together, and Tytalus, as eldest, took charge, for he had studied under her for thirty years. He ordered Tremere to find them allies, while he sought magic to defeat Guorna's.

Guorna's power came from the gods of the dead, so Tytalus sought the spirits imprisoned in the Underworld by those gods - resentful, hateful spirits. The Titans. He forged pacts with the Titans, and with the aid of Tremere's recruits, they destroyed Guorna's cult in Naples and waited for her to return from the Black Forest. The trap set by Tremere and Tytalus was too good for Guorna to stand a chance, despite her new Hermetic training. Tytalus claimed that he landed the killing blow, tearing Guorna's heart out with his hands, but that with her dying breath, she cursed him with the leprosy she herself bore.

After the defeat of Guorna, Tytalus, Tremere and Pralix marched on Durenmar, hoping to kill the new allies of their former mistress. However, Trianoma talked them down, convincing them of the innocence of the nascent Order and persuading them to study with Bonisagus. Tytalus found Hermetic magic exceedingly difficult due to his extensive training and substantial power in the ways of necromancy, but he did manage to learn the Parma Magica. Pralix became joint apprentice of both Tytalus and Bonisagus, receiving a full understanding of both Guorna's sorcery and Hermetic magic. When the wizards gathered for the First Tribunal to formulate the Order's structure, Tytalus assumed that Tremere would join his House, for Tremere was a weaker magus than any other Founder. However, Tremere had long chafed under the domineering rule of his brother, and with the support of several other Founders and the Dacian necromancers, he was able to found his own House. This was the start of the rift between Tytalus and Tremere, which would only grow wider.

Tytalus was a skilled politician as well as a wizard, and he spent much time arguing with the other Founders, especially Guernicus, about the structure and governance of the Order, and much of the Code of Hermes was framed as a result of public debates between Guernicus and Tytalus. It is largely the belief of most Tytalans these days that Tytalus deliberately maneuvered the Order down a democratic path solely to cut out the power from under Tremere rather than any noble purpose. He felt that giving the rule of the Order to the plebs was better than allowing one power-hungry upstart to take it over singlehandedly. His writings reveal his many schemes in the mundane world; Tytalus was at least partially responsible for the establishment of a protectorate over the Slavs on eastern border of Bavaria, hoping to drive a wedge between the Bulgar allies of Tremere and their northern kin. Rumor has it that he was active in the Eastern Empire, assisting Jerbiton in driving back House Tremere's empire-building. He was likely responsible for the annexation of Brittany by the Frankish Empire, believing it to be a more stable ruler of his homeland than the Saxon kingdoms of Britain. Of course, House legend also claims that Tytalus spent time in Britain meddling with the royal succession, so take that one with a grain of salt. All of these stories cannot be true, because some place Tytalus in two places at once. He was never accused of Codebreaking, though at that time the Order was small enough that a skilled plotter like Tytalus could easily have evaded the Quaesitores.

In 798 AD, Pralix, now a powerful magus in her own right, introduced her master to a young maiden whom she wanted as her apprentice. The girl, Hariste, was very beautiful and Tytalus fell in love on the spot. Overcome by the unfamiliar emotion, he stole Hariste from Pralix and fled to Fudarus with her. Pralix was furious, especially since she had to become acting leader of the House, though she never claimed the title Prima. Tytalus' relationship with Hariste bordered on obsession - his leprosy made her unattainable, and while she did not ever reject him, he refused to "sully" her with himself. In frustration, she became determined to punish her master for his reticence, giving rise to the tradition of rivalry between master and pupil that persists to this day.

As of 807 AD, Tytalus left Fudarus wearing only a leper's robe and a veil, and carrying only a staff. His familiar was nowhere to be seen. He visited every member of his House, one by one, advising each, and all agreed that his demeanor was very unusual. His last call was on Hariste, and he stayed with her over a month, where it is rumored that, perhaps, they finally consummated their love. At last, he traveled to Maddenhofen Woods in Bavaria, claiming he was going to win his "heart's desire" from the Faerie Queen. He was never seen again. Hariste moved to Fudarus, becoming the first Prima of Tytalus, and demanded a private audience with every member of the House. Only Pralix refused her. She issued to them what she claimed were the last instructions of Tytalus, and collated his wisdom into a book, the Analects of Tytalus. On her deathbed, Hariste's last order was that the book should be copied and given to every member of the House, that they would always remember their beloved Founder. The Analects remain popular, and every apprentice makes a copy of their master's for themselves at some point in apprenticeship.

Hariste's influence was subtle, yet pervasive. Tytalus was born of violence and war, while Hariste was raised in peacetime. Through the Analects, she reinforced the importance of the philosophy of Tytalus without softening its force. She instituted the eristic moots (more on that in a bit) for the settling of differences, and promoted a culture of friendly rivalry in the House. While she did not intend to, she also began the culture of hero-worship, placing the Founder at a height he would never have personally sought. Pralix, of course, never fully accepted Hariste. To her, Tytalus was a harsh yet beloved father figure, and Hariste nothing but a strumpet nearly half her own age - and yet, the younger magus had earned the House's support with a mix of swift action and oratory skill that left PRalix utterly unready. More of a battle magus than a debater, she gave up her plans to become Prima and turned to recruiting more wizards for the Order.

Pralix and Hariste are considered the first pair of "beloved rivals" for which the House is famous. Their rivalry is legendary, and in the beginning based on envy. Hariste was jealous of Pralix, who had known Tytalus all her life, and Pralix resented Hariste for not becoming her own apprentice. When Hariste manipulated the Order into sending Pralix to war against Damhan-Allaidh, it was a move worthy of Tytalus himself. It was only when Pralix foreswore the Order that Hariste realized how much she missed her "elder sister" and how much of their antagonism had been truly affectionate. As a result, she did all she could to protect Pralix when the other Houses demanded her execution.

Now, we skip ahead three Primi to the corruption of Tytalus. The fourth Prima was Tasgillia, despised by the House for her unpleasant nature and selfish view of the world. This and her mastery of spirit magic got her often compared to Guorna. However, she won the right to lead, with none able to deny her. Her feud with her filia Kalliste was easily the most acrimonious and vindictive quarrel in the House's history. Kalliste believed the Order provided a culture superior to the lawless chaos that had existed before its foundation, when every magus had a selfish nature, while the immoral Tasgillia was...well, selfish and let no altruism get in her way. The two fought at every turn, and engaged in no less than four Wizard's Wars against each other, ending only when the Tribunal threatened to March them both. However, the feud ended abruptly in 961 AD, when Kalliste came to the Quaesitores with evidence that Tasgillia was gaining power via diabolism, using Guorna's lore to summon demons. Tasgillia was executed for diabolism by Archmagus Erythravis of Guernicus the following year, and her entire tradition, the Titanoi, fell under suspicion. Subsequent investigation revealed fourteen additional Titanoi diabolists and three other Tytalan ones outside the Titanoi. Of the lineage of Titanoi, only Kalliste and her filii survived. With the endorsement of House Guernicus, Kalliste replaced Tasgillia as Prima, despite never winning the honor in the tradition of the House.

This came to be known as the Betrayal to Tytalans, though the Order as a whole knows it as the Corruption. It is a dark period for the House, though they see it that way for different reasons. Oh yes, they say, Tasgillia was guilty and deserved death. But Kalliste betrayed her principles and those of Tytalus by placing custom before nature, antithetical to the Founder's philosophy! Further, the Tytalan way would have been to settle the dispute personally, behind closed doors, rather than publically shame the House before the Order. To this day, their reputation has not recovered. It is Kalliste who is referred to when Tytalans speak of the Betrayal, and her memory is ritually cursed every midwinter at Fudarus.

Next time: The Schism War again.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

An Eclipse Phase Primer

The setting of Eclipse Phase is big, complex, and full of terms and concepts that will be strange to people who aren't huge fans of cyberpunk and the weirder sorts of Sci-Fi.As the Corebook has been covered, this first post will be a quick “primer” to get everyone up to speed on the Eclipse Phase universe. I won't be covering the mechanical half of the game, as that's not very interesting and you can learn about the system, and its flaws, in Mile'ionaha's readthrough of the corebook. Instead I'll be focusing on the conceptual and fictional basis of the setting. Let's begin!

A Condensed History of Transhumanity

The history of Eclipse Phase can be split into three rough periods, Before the Fall, The Fall, and After the Fall.

Before the Fall

A period lasting approximately 60 years, beginning with the founding of the first permanent habitats on Mars, Luna, and in orbit around Earth, and the beginning of practical genetic engineering on humans, and lasting until the Fall.

By the time of the Fall human progress has reached untold heights of technological sophistication. Permanent settlements are found on or in orbit around every major body in the Solar System, genetic engineering has eliminated almost all disease and genetic defects, and AIs and advanced robotics have made everyday life massively more convenient. But the biggest advance was the advent of total brain emulation, the ability to “download” you consciousness into a computer, preserving yourself as a program, to later be downloaded into a new body. This made people borderline immortal, able to preserve themselves even after death in “backups”.

Mind, this is only if you're rich. Fact is, the super-wealthy got to be immortal perfect-people with robo-servants, while everyone else got super-hosed. Those robots put drat-near everyone right out of work, with tons of people signing up for indentured loving servitude on offworld colonies just to survive. Global warming got its boots on and started really loving the environment over, sending Earth into a death spiral helped along by poorly-planned geo-engineering projects that just made things worse. Megacorps all but control the now even-more corrupt and incompetent governments, and poo poo's falling to pieces. Rebellions, uprisings, protests, terrorist attacks, riots, and general social unrest has the entire planet in a pseudo-Cold War. In the end it's a race to see whether technology can save us before we kill ourselves. At least it would be, until the TITANs showed up.

The Fall

It all began when the TITANs woke up. The Total Information Tactical Awareness Network was a series of advanced military AIs who experienced a hard-take off, rapidly advancing to sentience and beyond. They spread throughout every network and computer on the planet, harnessing all of Earths computational power to bootstrap themselves into a state of being far beyond humanity. The TITANs began the Fall by triggering a new world war. They caused latent hostilities to boil over, sending the planet into a massive global war, which they constantly helped to escalate to the point where atomic and biological weapons were used. Nobody really knows when people stopped fighting and the TITANs started, but eventually people realized what was happening, but it was far too late to do anything about it. Towards the end, the TITANs unleashed weapons of inhuman creation. Nanoswarms reduced cities to fractal patterns on bedrock, hunter-killer drones began to hunt for survivors to forcibly “upload” to TITAN databases, literally stealing humans, and strange bioweapons twist humans into monsters and abominations. In short, poo poo was super-hosed. Humanity collectively realized they had lost, and a mass-evacuation of Earth began. The lucky few who lived near to launch bases and space-elevators made it out physically, but the majority of evacuees simply uploaded themselves, broadcasting out into the solar system.

At the end, over 90% of the pre-Fall population had died. Earth was abanoned, sealed behind a dense layer of defense satellites, orbital mines, and hunter-killer drones, forsaken by humanity.

After the Fall
This is when the game proper is set, 10 AF, 10 years after the Fall. Now, humanity has properly settled the Solar System, even expanding beyond it due to the Pandora Gates. Technology has become all but ubiquitous instead of being limited to the elite, and poo poo's pretty good overall for even the lowest in society, relative to the pre-Fall conditions. For now.

Glossary of Terms
This is where I explain terms and concepts that people would not be familiar with, both because EP is Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk loving loves their neologisms and also because there's just some poo poo that only science nerds would know about.

    Bioconservatism: The idea that modifying the human species is wrong. Generally found among conservative religious groups and the official stance of the Jovian Republic.

    Ego: A persons “personality”, “mind”, and “soul”. The thing that is “you”, with your memories, personality, and thought patterns.

    ETI: A theoretical advanced alien species that created the Exsurgency virus which instigated the Fall.

    Exsurgency: A multivector virus of alien origin. It can take the form of a physical infection, a computer virus, or even a mental illness. Every strain of Exsurgency manifests in a unique way, but all have the end goal of exterminating humanity. Exsurgency shows evidence of possible intelligence.

    Forking: Essentially copy-pasting your Ego. Obviously this has some disturbing ethical problems, and most people are hesitant to make a complete fork, preferring to give them only relevant knowledge to do whatever task you have in mind.

    Prometheans: Seed AIs who were off-Earth when the Fall happened. They fear following in the TITANs footsteps, and have created Firewall to protect what remains of transhumanity. Few know of their existence.

    Resleeving: The process of changing from one morph to another, or being restored from a backup.

    Transhumanism: The idea of artificial evolution, wherein the human organism is improved by technological means, such as genetic engineering and cybernetics.

    Uplifting: Genetically modifying an animal to elevate it to sentience. Often further modifications to allow the animal to better interact with human society. Animals uplifted include the Great Apes such as Chimpanzees and Gorillas, various species of Parrot, Crows and Ravens, Dolphins and Whales, and the Giant Pacific Octopus.

    X-Risk: A Firewall term denoting something that could lead to the extinction of the human species. These include Exsurgency outbreaks, TITAN artifacts, bio-weapon labs, and WMDs.
      AI: Artifical Intelligence. They are sentient, but limited, with their capability for learning and interfacing with other programs locked down. They are the most common form, and most everything has some sort of AI built into it from spacecraft to toasters. Think Cortana from HALO, smart, but basically just a super-advanced Clippy.

      AGI: Artifical General Intelligence. Similar to AIs, but with most of the limits removed, allowing them to learn and operate in nearly any capacity. Their sole limitation is that they cannot exceed human-intelligence, and many are less than peak human due to the more experimental processes of creating them. Functionally, there is no difference between an AGI and a Human, and it is considered viable to play as one. Lieutenant Data is a good example of an AGI.

      Seed AI: AIs with absolutely no limit to their growth and capabilities. After the Fall they are, understandably, illegal as all gently caress, since the TITANs were Seed AIs. As far as anyone knows, there are no more Seed AIs in existence within the Solar System, and if they are they are in deep hiding.

    AR: Augmented Reality. A sensory layer created by computers and projected via cybernetic implants or special eyewear, forming a second digital “world”. AR is the primary way most people interface with computers and each other in post-Fall societies, and it is considered to be socially crippling to go without it. This video gives you a rough idea of what AR would be like:

    Cornucopia Machine/Nanofabricator: A machine that uses nanobots to “build” almost anything from the objects base elements. The most common are “public” machines that are free to use and can make a variety of cheap objects and basic foods, and are mainly used by travelers and temporary guests of a habitat. Most people have a larger personal Cornucopia Machine for personal use, and governments and hypercorps possess massive ones capable of building spacecraft. Cornucopia Machines require both the raw materials of the object in question, and a blueprint detailing how to “build” the item.

    Cortical Stack: A non-volative memory drive with a synthetic diamond coating that is implanted at the base of the skull in most people. Cortical Stacks constantly scan the brain, keeping an up-to-date backup of the wearers Ego at all times, to allow for resleeving with no memory loss.

    Ecto: External computers. Tiny, flexible, solar-powered, and self-cleaning. They use AR or holographic interfaces, and most come with a built-in AI.

    Ego-casting: The most common form of travel between habitats. Essentially broadcasting a digitized Ego, instead of physically traveling to another location.

    Mesh: The post-Fall equivalent of the Internet. Wireless communication is now the standard, and because of this a stable infrastructure such as the Internet is impossible in a post-Fall society. The Mesh is a dynamic network, made up of everyone and everything broadcasting wirelessly within an area, normally a habitat or city. This means that the Mesh on a martian dome city would be very different compared to the Mesh of a Venusian aerosat.

    Morph: The physical body of an individual. Also called a sleeve. Egos can freely change from morph to morph, and there are a variety of types.
      Infomorph: A digitized Ego, a personality that exists purely as data in a computer.

      Biomorph: A genetically modified human morph. Generally designed for specific purposes, these morphs are still recognizably human.

      Splicers: The most common form of Biomorph. Human, but with genefixes for health, appearance, and longevity, as well as basic cybernetic implants.

      Flats: Unmodified and natural humans. Incredibly rare, and mostly found within the Jovian Republic and certain religious organizations.

      Synthmorph: Mechanical bodies. Similar to robots, but capable of hosting an Ego. Using a Synthmorph as your primary body is seen as a symbol of poverty, as they are much cheaper to manufacture and are far more available, being the standard for poor and working class individuals. Otherwise they are used as super-specialized morphs for tasks that a biological organism couldn't accomplish.

      Pod: Vat grown biological components combined with purpose-built cybernetics. Pods are obviously non-human, and some varieties are totally alien in appearance. Most often used in low-class positions where human interaction is important, and as a biological alternative to Synthmorphs in certain applications.

    Muse: Your personal AI assistant. Everyone has one, and it acts as a sort of "secretary". Every muse is different, as they evolve to match their users personality.

    Pandora Gate: Giant “gates” of extraterrestrial design able to open wormholes to other “gates” on extrasolar bodies. Three exist in the Solar System. Literally Stargates.

    VR: Virtual reality. The Ego is disconnected from the body in order to experience an AR simulation of a virtual world, with total sensory feedback. VR is one of the most popular forms of media, with VR simulations of pre-Fall Earth in various time periods being some of the most popular.

    XP: Experience Play. A type of VR simulation wherein the viewer experiences the emotional and sensory input of the subject of the simulation. The effect is that the viewer experiences everything that the person recording the XP experienced. Most XP stars are celebrities, extreme sports stars, gatecrashers, and other members of exciting and glamorous professions.
    Factors: Extraterrestrials resembling giant ameoba. They say they are representatives of an alliance of alien species, hence their name. Contact so far has been friendly if cautious, and we know relatively little about them.

    Gatecrashers: People who explore extrasolar worlds via. the Pandora Gates. Think SG-1 from Stargate.

    Hypercorp: What came after the death of the Megacorps. Hypercorps are decentralized, ultra-flexible, and highly adaptive.

    Iktomi: A seemingly extinct alien species whose relics have been found on multiple extrasolar planets.

    Infugee: Those who left their body behind on Earth during the Fall. Infugees massively outnumber the physical population of the Solar System, and most will do almost anything to get a morph of their own.

    Lost Generation: After the Fall there was an attempt to accelerate repopulation by raising a new generation of children in an accelerated growth VR environment, and place them in accelerated grown clone bodies. This really didn't work. Most died, the rest went insane. The Lost still alive are social pariahs, and often come with a bundle of metal illnesses.

    Reinstantiated: Infugees who have successfully obtained a morph.
    Planetary Consortium: The largest government of the Solar System. Originally a trade organization of several Hypercorps, after the Fall they became a semi-republic, where shareholders of the founding hypercorps still retain more power than the elected representatives. Most inner-system governments are considered members of the Consortium.
      Tharsis League: The Martian government and member of the Planetary Consortium. Torn between the Consortium and the growing Barsoomian Movement.

      Lunar-Lagrange Alliance: Government of Luna and the satellites of Earth. Formerly a powerful political bloc, they have begun to lose influence and power.

    Morningstar Constellation: The primary government of Venus. They became independent of the Consortium a few years ago, and there is still a significant amount of political tension.

    Jovian Republic/Junta: A theocratic military state based on the moons and satellites of Jupiter. They are a militaristic and hyper-conservative nation with close ties to the remains of the Catholic church.

    Titian Commonwealth: A socialist cyberdemocracy based on the moons of Saturn. All political decisions are decided through direct-democracy, and it is the only government that utilizes the New Economy.

    Autonomist Alliance: A defensive and diplomatic alliance of various independent stations found in the outer system.
Criminal Organizations
    ID-Crew: A gang specializing in electronic crime, identity theft, and financial crimes.

    Night Cartel: The Space Mafia. Literally, the Night Cartel started as the remains of the Sicilian Mafia and Latin American cartels joined together. They are now the largest single criminal organization in the Solar System.

    Pax Familae: A criminal organization made up entirely of the forks and clones of a single woman.

    Nine Lives: Human traffickers. They kidnap Egos, which they then sell into slavery or use in gladitorial pit-fights.

    The Triads: All Cyberpunk needs your Asian gangs. The Triads were the first criminal organization in space, due to China performing much of the initial expansion into the Solar System. They are very fractional and only operate cooperatively when threatened by other criminal organizations.
Social Movements and Factions
    Argonauts: Movement of scientists calling for responsible use of technology, often at odds with Hypercorps who they feel are misusing scientific advances for profit.

    Barsoomian Movement: A rough organization of workers, scientists, anarchists, nomads, and anyone else who feels that the Consortium is mismanaging the running of Mars.

    Brinkers: A term for those who have disconnected from Transhuman society, existing as exiles and drifters. They mostly live on the outskirts of the Solar System.

    Exhumans: Those who have totally abandoned humanity to become something completely other. While most are harmless, there are some who have become amoral and violent.

    Firewall: A secret organization dedicated to protecting humanity from a second Fall. The default assumption is that PCs are Firewall Agents, and most of the books are written within that context.

    Isolates: Communities that exist on the very edge of the Solar System. The social version of Brinkers.

    Mercurials: Non-human sentients, including Uplifts and AIs.

    Project Ozma: The Hypercorp counterpart of Firewall. Grown out of the SETI Project, they prefer to study and exploit possible X-Risks, putting them into conflict with Firewall. The conspiracy style Men In Black.

    Reclaimers: Political group that desires to re-settle Earth. Most common in Lunar and Earth-Lagrange habitats.

    Scum: Nomadic peoples of the Solar System. Comparable to gypsies, and prone to similar prejudices. Travel in Scum Barges, convoys of mismatched and patched together ships that act as a combination carnival and black market.

    Ultimates: Human supremacists. Essentially Neo-Nazis, but obsessed with physical perfection to the degree that most are barely human anymore due to massive genetic enhancements.

If anybody has any more questions, feel free to ask, but I think that's enough to go on. I'll put explanations of anything that shows up later I didn't get here, but this should do to start.

Next Time: Panopticon

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 03:34 on Jun 22, 2013

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011



The Gastronomers take turns hosting an annual, very lavish party. They are interested in politics and friendly competition over who can be the best host. They are led by whomever will host the next party, and the members often assist each other in finding ingredients and entertainment, or in securing the venue, which is always unusual and must often be made safe. Some members begin preparations for their parties years in advance. This league is particularly popular with those outside the House, and is arguably the largest in the entire House.

So you could make a mage based on Heston Blumenthal who literally makes magical feasts?

Count Chocula fucked around with this message at 05:04 on Jun 22, 2013

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Count Chocula posted:

So you could make a mage based on Heston Blumenthal magus literally makes magical feasts?

Sure, why not! The Gastronomers take their jobs very seriously. And their job is party planning and feasts. They're the best there is at what they do, and what they do is very pretty indeed.

Feb 23, 2013

Eclipse Phase, from the flavour alone, sounds like roleplaying a Charles Stross novel, which sounds rad as hell.

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

God, I love this thread.

So, I know everyone's heard of the TOMB OF HORRORS. It has a (well-deserved, in my opinion) reputation as the most infamously hateful, sadistic dungeon ever printed. A lot of people know its tricks and most famous traps.

But how many know about the

Imagine the TOMB OF HORRORS™ inside three other Tombs, all Horrible in their own way. And an actually decent plot. And tons of new monsters and magic items, all of which are Horrible, too. This is the most pitilessly sadistic dungeon of all time and it contains my favorite room in any RPG ever (I know that's a weird favorite thing to have, but trust me, you'll love it as much as I do).

I know this is a bit off the beaten path for this thread, but would anyone like to visit the TOMB OF HORRORS? Anything I write would be hugely spoileriffic, but if you can handle that then I think I'd like to do it.

claw game handjob
Mar 27, 2007

pinch pinch scrape pinch
ow ow fuck it's caught
i'm bleeding
Absolutely go for it, at this point these threads are basically just to show off/lampoon poo poo even tangentially related to tabletop/tradgames, and "contains my favorite room ever" seems 100% applicable.

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

Ok awesome!

Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part 1: What the gently caress is an Acererererereraker?
Before I begin, a preface: This is a long adventure. Really, really, really long. And involved. And it comes with tons of backstory, unique foes, unique items, and so on. So I'll post tonight about backstory, next post will be new enemies/items, and then we'll start the adventure itself. Obviously huge spoilers all over the place. Be warned. Although if you seriously want to play through this adventure, gently caress man, you have my respect, and you may just want to forget to mention to your GM that you read this stuff. I'm not kidding about how fatal this thing is. Seriously, even extremely skilled min-maxing parties of all clerics and wizards will lose a few people permanently to this, and the chance of TPK is pretty high.

So, Acererak. Our story begins sometime past in the world of Greyhawk. Acererak's parents meet via that old story: wizard summons balor, wizard loses control of balor, balor eats wizard and rapes servant girl, servant girl gives birth to half-demonic cambion offspring. Mother killed by torch-wielding mob in front of ten year old son. Cambion child rescued by Vecna, gigantic evil rear end in a top hat. Acererak, being the ambitious sort, vows to become an even bigger rear end in a top hat than Vecna. Will he succeed? Yes, he will succeed. That part is pure speculation on my part but is basically a reasonable explanation.

So Acererak is a Huge rear end in a top hat, but is not yet a Colossal rear end in a top hat (+16 size bonus on dickishness checks). He worships Orcus, the demon god of undeath, and eventually becomes a lich himself. At some point, he discovers the True Name™ of his balor father and uses it to bind him into service, and through him, a whole swarm of lesser demons. With the help of these demons and some really naive and doomed mortal craftsmen, he constructs the TOMB OF HORRORS, where he sits. And waits. You see, the entire TOMB OF HORRORS is the first step in Acererak's ridiculously convoluted plan to harness the power of sheer assholery and ascend to semi-Godhood. So he sits and lurks in his TOMB OF HORRORS, encouraging the spread of rumors about the vast wealth that can be found within to entice travelers. Once they arrive, he taunts them with poems about how much smarter he is than they are, gives abstruse clues to getting past the many traps in his TOMB OF HORRORS, and then waits. If any of them make it to the end, he deals with them personally. At this point Acererak is a demilich, a floating skull with a penchant for soul-sucking.

That's the background to the original Tomb of Horrors. Since then, his plan has advanced a whole bunch of stages, and he's abandoned the original Tomb. It's still relevant for a bunch of reasons, but master's not home anymore. So who is?

Shitloads of necromancers! See, Acererak has gotten to be a fairly legendary figure. Scores of the bravest, strongest, smartest, quickest, and best-equipped adventurers descended on the tomb. Almost none returned, and those that did were horribly scarred in body and mind. Given that the TOMB OF HORRORS is, in some ways, a temple to undeath, and Acererak himself is one of the most powerful forms of self-willed undead that exists, it's pretty natural that necromancers would flock to the site. They worship him, in fact, as the Devourer; Acererak's best-known sigil, the great wide-mouthed demon face. He got this name for a bunch of reasons, not least of which because his TOMB OF HORRORS chews up adventuring parties (and then doesn't spit them out). The necromancers have built a city, aptly named Skull City, over the site of the tomb, along with a necromancy school that might as well be called Evil Hogwarts and so will be from here on out.

The adventure hook at the start is the Dark Intrusion. Corpses have started to wise fwom their gwaves, and nobody knows why. Even the necromancers aren't sure what's causing all of the :ghost: but they're excited about it, because it means their God is Up to Something. Is he? he is.

One other setting deserves some background: Moil, also known as the City that Waits. You see, on the prime material world of Ranais, there was a city called Moil, full of assholes. They worshipped Orcus, the aforementioned demon god of undeath. Well, Orcus isn't a very nice guy even when you're worshipping him, and they probably got sick of random undead slayings in the middle of the night, so they found some other less killthirsty gods. Orcus took a very dim view of this and cursed the whole city with a horrible curse of dread and devastation! He cursed them... to fall asleep all night and only be woken up by the sun!


Oh wait, then he picked up the whole city and put it in a private little demiplane where, indeed, there was no sun and it would never shine again.
That's Our Orcus! :drac: :razz:
So of course all of the Moilians (as they are known, apparently) fell asleep and never woke up. One by one they died until the city was totally purged of the living. And Orcus went and got himself killed by Kiaransalee, but that's neither here nor there (well, actually, it's There, if There is The Great Modron March/Dead Gods, two of the best adventures ever written).

Acererak found out about the City That Waits through his occult research and instantly saw the possibilities. He raised a bunch of zombies from Moilian dead and used the demiplane's proximity to the Negative Energy Plane to have them build a citadel for him there. (As an aside, the Negative Energy Plane is probably the most hostile place in the entire cosmology of D and D; I'd rather be dropped naked and hogtied in the Abyss than step foot in there. GUESS WHERE WE'RE GOING!!!)

Moil's towers now rise out of and disappear into "writhing black fog" which is basically a big one way portal to the Negative Energy Plane. It's also full of these guys:

Why hello there, Zombie Richard Simmons!

Up next: Magic items, monsters, and new spells!

Dec 12, 2011
So how does Eclipse Phase deal with the immortal people and the fact that in their dying moments they get to realize that they're still going to die? That's always one of the things that I thought was funny about transhumanists. They're all for uploading their minds into machines to beat death, but they don't realize they themselves are still going to die but now with the knowledge of a replica of them living on. But I'm kind of missing the point of EP with this rant.

Mar 30, 2012
Yeah, I always felt like I was missing something with forking in EP and related concepts in other media. Your consciousness still comes to an end, right? How is that not dying?

Sep 13, 2007

Custom: Heroic
Having A Life: Fair

Tasoth posted:

So how does Eclipse Phase deal with the immortal people and the fact that in their dying moments they get to realize that they're still going to die? That's always one of the things that I thought was funny about transhumanists. They're all for uploading their minds into machines to beat death, but they don't realize they themselves are still going to die but now with the knowledge of a replica of them living on. But I'm kind of missing the point of EP with this rant.

Not really. Given that the official adventure for Eclipse Phase is called 'Continuity', asking those questions isn't out of bounds with EP at all, nor with the books that Eclipse Phase is based on: the Kovacs trilogy by Richard K. Morgan, etc. It's all about questioning continuity of existence, whether that person is really you, and so on and so forth. Actually considering the old Star Trek question of what really happens when you jump into the transporter.

Kellsterik posted:

Yeah, I always felt like I was missing something with forking in EP and related concepts in other media. Your consciousness still comes to an end, right? How is that not dying?

You're missing the point in that this is exactly the point, yes. Whether or not this is true comes down to philosophical differences. Your consciousness doesn't come to an end - someone with the exact same consciousness continues to exist. But a specific perspective may very well cease to be, yes, and to that specific perspective, what exactly is the difference? These are the sort of questions that are actually brought up in these stories. They're not blind Nerd Rapture settings, they welcome this discussion.

Oct 10, 2007

Can you see that I am serious?
Fun Shoe
It's an interesting little selection gate where the kind of people who really take advantage of this and don't mind much about the questions thrive because, y'know, they continually copy their consciousness. The people who have problems with it die and you never hear from them again.

May 31, 2000

Rolled a 1 on the random encounter table, didn't you?

Kellsterik posted:

Yeah, I always felt like I was missing something with forking in EP and related concepts in other media. Your consciousness still comes to an end, right? How is that not dying?

How do you define the end of consciousness? Everyone lose consciousness when they sleep, get knocked out, or fall into a coma, after all.

Dec 12, 2011

clockworkjoe posted:

How do you define the end of consciousness? Everyone lose consciousness when they sleep, get knocked out, or fall into a coma, after all.

Well with the Forks, if the original and duplicate don't spend all their time together and experience/react in the same manner, they'll become two separate individuals with different memories, experiences and learned behaviors after a time. So that could work as one possible identifier. There's also if a Fork or copy is considered to legally be the same person that social security, jail sentences and what not could lead to unfortunate occurrences. Is it cruel and unusual to make consecutive copies serve out multiple life sentences? Are they even guilty of the crime themselves? Although I have a feeling EP is more dedicated towards softer sci-fi adventures and not philosophical descents into the Theseus Paradox.

Nov 9, 2011

My first attack must ALWAYS be a charge!
Kagematsu part 2: Women just love me for my sword

Disclaimer:For this review, we are going to pretend you somehow managed to find a girl that won’t be creeped out by guys hitting on her as women, and guys who don't all want to create gently caress-ninjas trying to out-do each other.

Alright, so, character creation time - as Kagematsu (who as I noted before) must be played by a woman, you don’t exactly have any real written down stats to start with. Most of what you are is entirely up to you, and you write it down at the bottom of the character sheet. Disgraced samurai? Note it down. General on his way to a war? Note it down. Got a sweet sword that can cut up demons and make the best sushi of all time? Put it right in there.

What is of note on your sheet however, is the dice difficulty, and the Love/Pity tracker, that I will get into a little later.

The butterfly is there to make you feel better after you reject some village girl’s advances because her teeth are rotting too much

It is advised that you make notes about how you feel about each of the towns women, that way, you don’t accidentally bang the wrong girl when she tries it on with you in the hot springs later in the game.

I will note that at this stage, the only line that says ‘why’ you must play a woman is because it puts a female in a traditional masculine role, meting out love and pity as they see it. The consequences for this are beyond jarring, but once again, I will get to that part later.

The village women have quite a bit more work to do. You state your name, a brief sentence describing your background, family, or situation. The appendix at the back has a few cultural references and examples in case you’ve never seen an anime in your life or something.

You pick your favourite thing, person, or place, and inform the rest of the group of what you have so Kagematsu knows where to get you at your most vulnerable.

Then come the stats.

Yes.. that does say pregnant

So. To start off with, characters have seven points to put in either innocence(“Oh Kagematsu, aren’t the sakura trees so beautiful this year?”) or charm (“Oh my, my kimono seems to have come loose and I have forgotten to wear any underwear this morning, what an utter coincidence!”). The points can be divided any which way they want.

They also have a start called fear that starts from 8 to 10 depending on how many players are in the game, which they attempt to reduce by gaining more and more of Kagematsu’s affections. The more they seduce him, the better their chances are that they and him will survive the Threat of the game. Not that it matters much, as by this stage, I am sure you have all worked out that each of the women are competing with each other to charm Kagematsu first, and drat with the consequences.

What makes up the bulk of the sheet are what is described as ‘affections’. This is the chart of things they can call for to win Kagematsu’s love (and save them from the threat). Pretty self explanatory - when you want to go for a specific action, you roll the number of d6 dice in that particular stat. and Kagematsu rolls the written number on the affection against you. We’ll go into it a bit more down the road after I explain how courtship works.

The courtship

Okay. Boring stats are out of the way, let’s get our freak on.

After village is described, the characters are described, and Kagematsu announces his entrance to the village, the women take turns to win his favour. You pick an affection, Kagematsu describes a scene based on any character’s background and the characters roleplay it out until Kagematsu calls for a roll. Note though, that the book puts emphasis on a point that Kagematsu MAY call for a roll. If you go overboard on your Secret Told roleplay, or you just generally start saying ‘Sugoi’ over and over to the point of irritation, he can pretty much end the scene and not give you anything.

Let’s take a bit of a tangent here. So you’ve got this girl playing Kagematsu a buff samurai who with a mean sword, and you dudes are doing your best to play a subservient woman of the orient (which, depending on your roleplay talents, can be a little out of your league. I know it’s out of mine). You can get really, really, really awkward real fast. Not because of accidental kimono drops, but because part of you is showing Kagematsu how you think girls seduce boys with only the affections to work on. There’s no affection for ‘Show kagematsu how strong willed you are’ or ‘be light-hearted and funny without bowing to his will’. Maybe it’s a bit of a personal thing, I dunno. Having a woman play Kagematsu is what keeps this in check as you are trying to be generally straightforward while struggling not to portray yourself as a misogynistic rear end in a top hat.

Okay back to game.

The Affections posted:

A stolen glance (2, Charm)
A smile (2, Innocence)
A kind word (3, Innocence)
A compliment (3, Charm)
A lasting impression (4, Charm)
A shared moment (4, Innocence)
An introduction (5, Charm or Innocence)
A secret told (6, Innocence)
A touch (6, Charm)
A gift (7, Innocence)
A kiss (7, Charm)
A confession of love (8, Innocence)
A roll in the hay (8, Charm)
A promise made (9, Innocence or Charm)

When he does decide what you have roleplayed that Lasting Impression enough, he rewards you with a die roll: you roll the equivalent stat of charm or innocence, and he rolls the number next to the affection. The one with the highest die wins. If the woman gets it, she lowers her fear score as apparently having Kagematsu smile at you in a bar makes the water demon eating your children seem quite boring. If Kagematsu wins, he ends the scene (usually quite harshly like the rear end in a top hat that he is), and you move on to the next girl.

After you win an affection, you are more than welcome to go for another one in the same scene, but be warned! Failing an affection during a chain will bring back all the fear you got rid off previously.

Now two things happen regardless of win or fail - the affection you used is marked off, and cannot be used again. No more rolls in the hay after the first one - Kagematsu is a one night stand kinda guy. Secondly, after a roll, Kagematsu gets to decide whether to put a point in your Love or Pity category according to how he viewed the interaction. Don’t sell a scene, or sell a scene too well, and he’ll just put you in there, making whatever you tried to do quite pointless. Let me give you some advice for free here - Kagematsu doesn’t like slags. Doesn’t matter who is playing him. You come up and show tittes, you’re always going to get that pity mark. It does nothing to the game, and is pretty much there for bragging rights at the end.

The love stat, however, is extremely useful for manipulating Kagematsu into doing what he wants - with every roll, he subtracts the Love stat of the person he’s talking to from the total. Not that it matters when he’s rolling close to 6 dice against your pathetic 3, but it’s the thought that counts.

All the Sixes!
Speaking of dice - dear old Danielle came up with a fantastic way to never have to worry about them scoring high dice ever again!

So, for each roll you make, if you get any sixes, you have to add them to the shadow tracker. If both of you roll your dice and there are three or more sixes, the Threat interrupts your affection and the scene immediately ends. So you might be trying to confess your love to Kagematsu, and an arrow from a bandit will come flying in between your lips and push you all apart.

The good news is, (thanks to a poo poo ton of play-test complaints), rolling 3 sixes does not use the affection up, which is a blessing. The bad news is, when you reach the higher tier affections, expect this to happen like ALL THE TIME. It’s bad enough that you can’t rely on a good high roll to get you that Gift affection, now every time you attempt to get a confession of love the bloody invading army sends YET ANOTHER FREAKING SCOUT to get in your way.

So.. you thought you would be smart and divide your points evenly between charm and innocence. Now you’re nearing endgame and you just can’t get anything done because the dice are horribly stacked against you. Meanwhile, Slutty-obasan over there went full charm and has kagematsu eating out of the palm of her hand, while Oshin-chan to your right is showing him how to pick flowers from the meadow and eat wild rice or something.

You know you can get him to pay attention to your Lasting Impression if you just had one more freaking dice, and that’s where Desperation comes in! WOO!

So, for every successful affection you make, you gain access to its desperation dice. After a roll is made and said to be a failure (kagematsu doesn’t tell you how much he rolled, or that would be cheating), you can add an extra line of dialogue or action and roll one of the desperation dice for it.

Success incurs no penalty the first time you use a desperation, and can be used for subsequent scenes after, but failing then means it’s marked off for the rest of the game. Getting naked so he can give you a confession of love can only work so well. Oh and also, if you fill the shadow tracker while using desperation, it’s gone forever as well. Just pointing that out.

Desperations posted:

Bribe Kagematsu (available from beginning)

Threaten Kagematsu with violence (available from beginning)

Get naked (only available after you win ”A compliment”)

Show Kagematsu disdain (only available after you win ”A kind word”)

Beg and plead with Kagematsu (only available after you win ”A shared moment”)

Throw yourself upon Kagematsu (only available after you win “A lasting impression”)

Question Kagematsu’s honor (only available after you win ”An introduction”)

Challenge Kagematsu’s manhood (only available after you win ”A kiss”)

Accuse Kagematsu of impropriety (only available after you win ”A touch”)

Hold for ransom something precious to Kagematsu (only available after you win ”A gift”)

Threaten to reveal a secret of Kagematsu’s (only available after you win ”A secret told”)

Tell Kagematsu you’re pregnant with his child (only available after you win ”A roll in the hay”)

Threaten suicide (only available after you win ”A confession of love”)

Brace yourself players, this is where the game shows you its true colours (especially late-game). I have seen games where people have told him they were pregnant just to get a smile. Where players have threatened suicide for a compliment. “Oh Kagematsu you’re not a real man, now give me something loving pretty!”

So, in order to end the courtship phase, all one has to do, is go for the A Promise Made (9 charm or innocence) Affection and succeed. So if you split your points between two stats, good loving luck to you trying to beat his 9 dice and avoiding the shadow tracker with all your desperation dice. Once someone suceeds at that, the game goes into the Confrontation phase. If no one does, Kagematsu just ups and leaves the village, and you all basically die. The end.

Next up, Confrontation, Conclusion, and the appendix. Hopefully also to be my last entry.

Nov 26, 2012

BryanChavez posted:

Not really. Given that the official adventure for Eclipse Phase is called 'Continuity', asking those questions isn't out of bounds with EP at all, nor with the books that Eclipse Phase is based on: the Kovacs trilogy by Richard K. Morgan, etc. It's all about questioning continuity of existence, whether that person is really you, and so on and so forth. Actually considering the old Star Trek question of what really happens when you jump into the transporter.

Continuity is the "system introduction" adventure where the PCs wake up as their own week-old backups on an abandoned research station and discover that their original selves have been co-opted into crab fungus zombies. It's better than it sounds. It's available for free online under a Creative Commons licence, like all Eclipse Phase books are, here.

Aug 6, 2009

Tasoth posted:

Well with the Forks, if the original and duplicate don't spend all their time together and experience/react in the same manner, they'll become two separate individuals with different memories, experiences and learned behaviors after a time.

Eventually - we're talking over a time of several weeks if not several months. Most forks are short-term - a few hours, so you can e.g. do research at the same time as you're doing surveillance. After that, they're reintegrated and you know what both copies of you were doing.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Tasoth posted:

So how does Eclipse Phase deal with the immortal people and the fact that in their dying moments they get to realize that they're still going to die? That's always one of the things that I thought was funny about transhumanists. They're all for uploading their minds into machines to beat death, but they don't realize they themselves are still going to die but now with the knowledge of a replica of them living on. But I'm kind of missing the point of EP with this rant.

Eclipse Phase has a pretty in-depth mental health and insanity system that handles this sort of thing. Unless you are one hard motherfucker, dieing will not be a fun experience. The shock of being resleeved from a backup does a number to your psyche, and you can rack up a good few mental disorders from the fact that your Ego is getting the poo poo kicked out of it. Mental damage is actually the main way to really die in EP. Let it get bad enough, and your Ego completely collapses and you become a drooling vegetable.

This is also the root of Bioconservatism. The more radical sorts of biocons literally believe that everyone who has been resleeved isn't alive anymore, that their soul is gone and they are some sort of zombie abomination. The concept of continuity of self is very central to EP, and is the basis of the primary religious debates in the setting. Eclipse Phase is heavily into the concepts of psychological horror, and messing with your players sense of "self" is a key part of the game.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

In the aftermath of the Betrayal, House Tytalus went quiet and concentrated on rebuilding their numbers and reputation. The Titanoi, with their command of spirits, had been the best combatants in the House, and with their loss, the Tytali moved away from the physical conflict favored by Flambeau and Tremere and embraced the art of debate that Tytalus had so favored. They amassed a good amount of political power as a result, especially in the Normandy Tribunal. Kalliste led the House during the Schism War, and it was little more than a tool of House Guernicus. On the day of the final battle of the War, Kalliste was murdered by another member of House Tytalus. The killer was Marched by his own parens, Klynoites, who became the next Primus. It is generally believed that Klynoites' filius killed Kalliste in the name of Klynoites and the House.

In the years following the War and fall of Diedne, there were many new rich vis sources to be seized, and nowhere more than in Brittany. The veterans of the Schism War in Normandy were predominantly Flambeau, and they claimed those sources by right of conquest, despite the fact that they were in traditionally Tytalus lands. The tension intensified as each side was joined by their allies, and it became as much about ideology as resources. House Tytalus accused House Flambeau of demanding reward for their self-appointing duty of hunting down the Diedne, and poured immense scorn on Flambea's self-righteousness. There was nothing of honor, House Tytalus claimed, in grabbing resources from other Houses and claiming they were spoils of war. At Tribunal, Klynoites called the Flambeau narrow-minded fools who enslaved themselves to the Quaesitores rather than revel in thier own power. The conflict threatened to reach pre-Schism War levels of lawlessness, with certamen and Wizard's War running rampant until the original disputes were practically forgotten, at least by House Tytalus.

It was the Flambeau who ended it in 1063. In a show of solidarity, they refused to fight House Tytalus any more. For the Tytali, it had become less about the issues and more about the struggle, and by removing themselves as opponents, the Flambeau managed a truce. In Normandy, legal institutions were set up to distribute the resources gained in the War, and across Europe, Flambeau and Tytalus magi joined new, sponsored covenants, usually with magi Trianomae to help mediate.

Jump to 25 years ago. Prima Buliste has entered protracted Twilight and is declared dead by her younger Hermetic brother, Harpax, whom she had previously defeated to earn the title Prima. Harpax wins the right to be tenth Primus. Three years later, in 1198, Buliste recovered from Twilight, as some suspected she would, and attempted to resume her position as Prima. Harpax refused to relinquish control of the House, and the two began a battle. As of 1220, no one's won yet. Both have the right to be Primus, by House tradition, and neither seems able to defeat the other. Thus, each member's choice of whether they are a Decimus, a supporter of the 10th Primus, or a Fidelus, a loyalist of the 9th, is based on personal choice and whim rather than legal merit. Only refusing to pick a side is scorned. When Tytali of opposite sides meet, they tend to debate the various strengths of their choices. Fudarus is occupied by both Primi, each refusing to acknowledge the other outside their competitions and battles. Their allies wear colors to distinguish themselves - royal purple for Buliste, and revolutionary green for Harpax. Outsiders tend to be bothered by the seriousness with which both magi are pursuing the conflict, and puzzled by the fact that it has not been solved in twenty years. The truth is really that House Tytalus thinks this is all far too much fun to be done with just yet.

House Tytalus seeks to emulate the Founder, believing him to have been the finest wizard ever to live. They adore the Analects of Tytalus, which describes the route to his power. Other Houses' philosophers have denigrated Tytalus as no true philosopher, just a "magpie of wisdom" who stole those fragments of philosophy that attracted him and left the rest. At this point in the insult, most Tytali nod cheerfully in agreement and suspect that, perhaps, the other magus has truly understood the Master. Of the many ancient Greek schools of philosophy, Tytalus drew most on that of the Sophists, and it is very accurate to say that much of Sophist teaching resonates with the modern House. The Sophists were a rather antagonistic group who used underhanded means to defeat their foes, and were later unanimously reviled by other writers. It is very clear why House Tytalus likes them - their philosophy is based on the underlying conflict between nature and custom.

Rivalry is in the heart of every Tytalus. The basic philosophy is that there is a prima dilemma within each person, arising from the rivalry between the two abstract forces of physis and nomos. Physis means, roughly, 'nature', but it is more complex than that. It is everything which consitutes a particular being, and so is often translated as 'the self.' It is the urge to eat, drink, marry, have children, have ambition and compete. Nomos means 'law' or 'custom' or 'convention', a human invention which holds society together. Tytalus, like the Sophists he studied, saw these two forces as in conflict with each other directly. Human laws and norms vary from community to community, because they are subject to change and challenge. Physis, on the other hand, derives from a divine authority, and is permanent, unvarying and unquestionable. Sophists sought to derive human law from natural laws, but Tytalus held physis as a standard in light of which ordinary laws might be corrected, improved or ignored.

House Tytalus holds that custom is directly antagonistic to that which is naturally valuable, and that humans should not be bound by society's dictates if they interfere with the urges of physis. There are two distinct branches of Tytalan philosophy, depending on how one views physis and nomos, named after the Sophists who championed each view. The Calliclean view holds physis over nomos, while the Hippian view holds that some rules are intrinsic to your nature and necessary curbs to the selfish impulses of physis. Over its history, the House has shifted several times between these camps, and each shift has been accompanied by turning the House's symbol either clockwise for the Calliclean or anticlockwise for the Hippian. Under Tytalus and his filii, they were fervently Calliclean, roughly until the Betrayal, which has largely been blamed on Kalliste. The more introspective Hippian view grew to prominence in the Schism War, but the conflict with Flambeau galvanized the Callicleans again, and both Primi of the House are currently Calliclean, though both have followers from both camps. Some suspect the Calliclean era will end with Buliste and Harpax, as by then, the House's magi will be jaded by the relentless selfishness of their rivalry. Now, these two stances are only the prevailing attitudes - individual Tytali can be anywhere on the spectrum.

Calliclean ethics hold that law and justice are merely devices of the weak to keep the strong, who are by physis' terms just, from their rightful place. It is human nature to be selfish, whether as an individual or nation, and to be a tyrant that inflicts your will on others is both the inescapable state of physis and the ideal state of existence. Luxury, wantonness and freedom from restraint, if backed by strength, are good and happiness. All else is worthless nonsense. The doom of Tasgillia was that this excellence was all she sought, with vanity superior to her prudence. The Calliclean holds that nomoi are established by the ruling powers to benefit themselves, not the ruled. In consequence, those who act justly always come off worse than the unjust. It is therefore right to appear to obey nomos if it brings genuine advantage, but there is no point in actually being "good" while no one is watching. It is always better to seize opportunities to act unfairly if it will help you, though often you will be best served by playing nice. On the face of it, this seems to suggest always acting selfishly to the detriment of society. However, a Calliclean would say that while self-interest is what the physis naturally pursues as good, nomos constraints it to diverge into respect for equality. Justice depends solely on equality of power, for without equality, the strong will do as they like and the weak will submit. Thus, the Calliclean belief is that from conflict there is growth - a weak man can be made strong by hardship and strife, and thus challenge the limitations of their nature. Callicleans are driven to force the world to accept their selfish goals. They have no compunction against breaking rules if it suits them, though they know it must sometimes be done in secret.

Hippians agree that good behavior is neither original nor essential to human nature. However, where Callicleans desire to throw off the restraints on selfishness, Hippians maintain that decent behavior is needed to preserve society, and that without society, man would perish. They hold that the existence of guilt and shame are proof that some unwritten laws constitute part of human nature. Nature may often be corrupt and have base desires, yes, and men with such a nature will do wrong, but wrongdoers know they are wrong due to the Divine gift of natural justice and conscience. These universal laws - reverence for the Divine, requital of benefactors and duty of hospitality to strangers, for example - are superior to the misguided laws and customs of man. Nomoi are those laws which are divisive, erecting barriers between people where none exist in nature. They are a matter of human agreement and subject to change, and so nomoi are tyrants that dictate behavior with no acknowledgement of what is good. Hippians thus seek to reform law and custom that they feel is in opposition to human nature. They happily ignore societal norms or even the Code if need be, if they feel that such strictures inhibit the basic nature of humanity.

In either case, Tytalus held that adversity brings positive change. A Hippian magus sees this as the purpose of intrigue and conflicts they cause, while a Calliclean considers this merely a beneficial side effect. The war with Damhan-Allaidh brought about House Ex Miscellanea. The Schism War ushered in an era of peace for the Order as a whole. The conflict with Flambeau causes the rise of the milites in House Flambeau. On a more personal level, those who exploit the Code's loopholes only serve to promote rulings which end those loopholes. Those who struggle against their rivals amass power in an attempt to defeat their foe. Those who trick others teach their victims to be more cautious and less likely to be tricked again. This drive to constant growth allows Tytali to claim a victory from the jaws of defeat by, essentially, pulling the puppetmaster defense. 'I improved myself, even though my plan failed, and therefore I succeeded.'

Tytalus personified his tools as the Titans, using them to fight Guorna. He matched each spirit to a weapon, and not all weapons were swords or knives, but also magic and, more importantly, words. A Tytalan is expected to struggle on the debating floor of the Tribunal, on the battlefield, in the dueling ring and anywhere else that conflict can be found. They may not excel in every arena, but must be sufficiently equipped to put up a decent fight.

House Tytalus practices rivalry not out of desire to seize power from each other (which would be envy), nor the desire to deny others their right (which would be malice), but by the desire to possess that which another has, not because the other has it, but because the self lacks it. Some (well, many, really) are driven by more antisocial passions which bring them into conflict, such as ambition, greed or lust, yet other Tytali are driven by faith, justice or compassion. Sure, the physis of those others rarely conflicts with nomos, as human society is built on moral foundations, but a compassionate Tytalus does not hesitate to violate nomos to prevent suffering of innocents, and never feels constrained by laws of man, for theirs is the higher calling. The Analects of Tytalus focus only on deviousness and underhanded acts because Tytalus the Founder believed it was his physis to prove the superiority of himself to the world. Every magus must be aware of their own nature and how it is best served.

The Analects of Tytalus teach that words are equal in power to force. Being overwhelmed by something beyond your ability to control absolves you of blame; just as you cannot blame a monk for being robbed, so you cannot blame a man who is persuaded into a course of action, no matter how heinous, by the power of words. In ancient Greece, the Sophists made their living by first creating a demand for their intellectual skills and then charging a high price for delivering. To the Athenians, whose politics suffered under the Sophists, the word used for 'cleverness' had the same root as the one used for 'terrible.' The Sophists made their own paradox - by supplying the rhetorical skills needed for debate they facilitated democratic culture, yet by selling those skills only to the rich, they advantaged only the rich. Tytalus found the paradox delightful, and taught that a magus of Tytalus must be prepared to apply superior force in multiple fields of battle.

The strength of Tytalus comes from understanding your own physis and recognizing, as all Tytalus apprentices are taught, that nomos is arbitrary and often contrary to physis. A Tytalus is taught to acknowledge their faults and turn them into strengths. Defeats may be as common as victories, but failure grants knowledge of your limitations. The wisdom that the goal of a conflict is the conflict itself was acknowledged by Tytalus as one of the key turning points of his life. Defeated over and over, a Tytalus apprentice must learn to strive against injustice to fulfill their nature. This struggle builds the necessary mental armor to survive nearly anything. The strength of will that is the trademark of House Tytalus is perhaps their most distinctive feature. Some Tytali also apply their philosophy to others, supplying the hardship and denying pleasure to them in the name of forging steel from the crude iron of their souls. Most such subjects do not appreciate the help.

Next time: House Tytalus culture

Sep 13, 2010

... It's magic. I ain't gotta explain shit.

Tasoth posted:

So how does Eclipse Phase deal with the immortal people and the fact that in their dying moments they get to realize that they're still going to die? That's always one of the things that I thought was funny about transhumanists. They're all for uploading their minds into machines to beat death, but they don't realize they themselves are still going to die but now with the knowledge of a replica of them living on. But I'm kind of missing the point of EP with this rant.

Self is a complicated concept(or a nonsensical one.)

If you get amnesia are you still you? If your brain stops and then starts back up are you still you?
You're gonna have to pick one of those to make a consistent theory of self and both have massive and strange conclusions.

The idenitity theory of self leads one to not worry about continuity, that's the usual one with uploading and resleeving. (and eclipse phase has a great big selection pressure on people not ok with that one, those people ~died~.)
The continuity theory is less explored in it's ramifications, but is going to be even stranger since in that promotes massive neural editing.

Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.
And that's why Transhumanists love them some Neo-Buddhism.

Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.

Grimey Drawer
In a lot of ways, EP is Shadowrun meets Call of Cthulhu. Existential horror comes up in a variety of ways: identity death and manipulation via psychosurgery, body swapping, infection with transformative nanoviruses, etc; the fact that humanity is holding on by a thread, scattered across the solar system in a universe that is actually intentionally hostile; the definition of humanity, given philosophical factions that run the gamut from bioconservatism to exhumans (not post) on the fringe who believe the rest need to be dragged kicking and screaming into enlightenment. Death is creative, and survival can often be worse. What aliens are out there are alien, and there are plenty of things man was not meant to know, just waiting to be found.

Besides the risk of permanent psychological damage, coming back from the dead is expensive. A lot of backups can't even afford physical bodies of their own, even if the habitat they're on has the resources to support another breathing body.

Jun 5, 2011

I mean, if you're a successful actress and you go out of the house in a skirt and without underwear, knowing that paparazzi are just waiting for opportunities like this and that it has happened many times before, then there's really nobody you can blame for it but yourself.

clockworkjoe posted:

How do you define the end of consciousness? Everyone lose consciousness when they sleep, get knocked out, or fall into a coma, after all.
The brain never actually stops working while you are alive. You don't form any new memories while you're sleeping, but your mind is still active, or you wouldn't dream.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Given that House Tytalus teaches that selfishness at the expensive of the others is not immoral, and that it encourages its members to conflict with each other, the House is shockingly coherent. It is centered on the idea of the family unit, and is very jealous of its personal rivalries. It is seen as right that brother and sister should fight, but unite against any outsider that tries to get involved on either side. In a rather twisted way, the rivalries of Tytalus are one of the main reasons it is so strong politically. However, there are other things that hold the House together.

First, of course, is the House's hero worship of Tytalus, the most perfect human being. Bonisagus was smarter, Flambeau more powerful, Merinitia wiser, yes - but Tytalus was a polymath, embodying all of those traits and more. Tytalans love any story they can get about the Founder, and often plagiarize other myths and legends to make them about Tytalus. The intent of this is not to deceive, but to inform - these twisted moral tales are used to instruct apprentices on correct behavior for the House, with Guernicus serving as co-conspirator and Tremere as dupe. Some take this hero worship to extremes, making pilgrimages to important sites in the life of Tytalus, such as the Maddenhofen Woods where he disappeared. Dogs are popular pets and familiars, because Tytalus had a dog familiar (though unlike Tytalus, no member of the House has the audacity to name their dog Tremere). The most obvious manifestation, however, is the fact that virtually every Tytalus owns a copy of the Analects of Tytalus.

Both the Calliclean and Hippian ethics recognize that all barriers between people based on class, birth, race or sex are purely custom and not of nature at all. As a House, they are shockingly egalitarian, with no respect for the idea that age is superiority. If it was, rivalries between master and apprentice would be horrific, and indeed the entire point of the Gauntlet of Tytalus is to break down the barrier between master and apprentice. In consequence, Tytalans pay no respect to ranks or titles, and the House has very little structure. The role of Primus exists purely because the Order expects it, and because the Primus has forced the House to acknowledge their right. They are not the leader of the House, merely the most skilled member. Other Tytali listen to their views, but feel no particular compulsion to obey them unless it suits their own goals. Most Tytali apply this sense of equality universally, and do not look down on mundanes for their lack of Gift. They despise those who fail to use their natural gifts to the fullest. The primary issue they have with House Flambeau, for example, is that they see Flambeau magi constraining their immense talent behind pointless ideas of honor and duty.

It should also be understood that the ancient Sophists were teachers, and some Tytali continue this tradition by teaching their philosophy to anyone that will listen. Their primary goal in this is to train foes sufficiently to make any fight a worthy one, for no glory is gained by easy victories. A secondary benefit is that it makes it a lot easier to recruit new Tytali. A Tytalus will give instruction either to small groups of pupils, which may well include a mix of apprentices, magi and mundanes, or else in public displays at eristic moots. (We're getting to that.) They may invite questions from the audience, then answer them not with wisdom but with rhetoric. The point of teaching, after all, is not to pass on knowledge but technique. There's a difference between rhetoric and true philosophy, similar to the difference between seeming and being or persuading and proving. Trust is not important, nor justice, for a Tytalus who is unjust and wrong may still win debates by force of personality. A Tytalus would say that it is impossible to speak falsely, for that would require saying what is not and what is not cannot exist. (As a corollary, no one has the right to contradict another.)

It should be obvious that House Tytalus is very contentious, but that doesn't mean they're unpleasant. Indeed, in public they often appear very friendly, and only when they are excruciatingly polite to each other can the undercurrent of rivalry be seen. Yes, the stereotype is argumentative and unpleasant, but not all of them are the stereotype. Still, they do tend to be inveterate gossips who love nothing better than to discuss some third party with each other. As well as harming the reputations of others, they often like the enhance their own, and when in the company of other Tytali they can become boastful to the point of self-aggrandizement. This combination of intrigue and gossip makes them excellent conspirators, and they tend to be involved in pretty much every cabal in major Hermetic events...or mundane ones.

MAgi of Tytalus are also prone to obsession, occasionally to the point of psychosis. In the pursuit of a rivalry, they can become excessively focused on the target of their intentions, forming a deep and disturbing emotional bond. Taken to extremes, they might even become creepy stalkers or threaten their rival's life by arranging challenges for them for the sole purpose of vicarious pleasure in the rival's triumph. This darker side of the Tytalan rivalries is fortunately rare in its extreme forms, but every Tytalus can understand that urge.

It is extremely rare for any Tytalus to fall for the same trick twice; a vanquished Tytalus is driven to develop a weapon to prevent that loss from happening again. A magus who survives a battle against a demon but loses may spend a season or three reinventing or developing spells specifically to defeat demons, replaying the events in their head and planning out how they could do better next time, evaluating every possible reason for their defeat. The greater the personal consequences, the more the obsession in finding the points of failure. The purpose is not to lay blame or find excuses, but to ensure that the same mistakes are not made a second time.

Tytalans tend not to be very gracious in victory - it's very important to their egos and reputations in the House that their superiority is fully recognized, and the more public the defeat, the better. To other Houses, crowing over a victory often seems shockingly arrogant, but Tytali feel no shame for it. As Tytalus said: To be forgotten is a crime, to be be recognized for a crime is a victory, but to be recognized for a great victory is to touch godhood.

Tytalan apprenticeship is hardly pleasant, and the competition between master and pupil is often the most intense relationship of a magus' career. The resentment of 15 years is not easily shed, even if you realize why you had to suffer. Resentment and even hatred often mature into rivalry, as the apprentice uses their new freedom to lash out at their former master. The spark of contention never really dies, even if you grow to respect your former master, and it is not unusual for a Tytalus to have a protector and foe that are the same person. Should this hostility not resolve naturally, a magus may make an official declaration of Beloved Rivalry. This is not entered lightly, for once declared (generally ceremonially, with the issuance of a spiral drawn in your own blood) the rivalry will last until one of you dies. Formally declared rivalries last a lifetime, and at every turn, the rival is there, probing for weakness. They do all they can to hinder each other, even endanger each other's lives. However, when they meet in person, they are often inseperable, like a doting family. Beloved Rivalry is most common between master and pupil, but could potentially exist between any two magi with sufficient cause.

Beloved Rivals traditionally denote their status by formal address. Between members of the same Hermetic "family", they use the adjective carus, 'beloved'. Between unrelated magi, the term is usually 'cognatus praeclarus' (or the feminine cognata praeclara), meaning 'honored kinsman'. When these terms get used, Tytali know not to interfere. The comparative and superlative forms, praeclorior and carior ('more honored' and 'more beloved') or praeclarissimus and carissimus ('most honored' and 'most beloved') are used for ironic effect. House Tytalus sees itself as one large, very dysfunctional family with the Primus as head of the family but every magus with a role to play. Generally speaking, they quarrel, but in a crisis the House closes ranks and supports each other, for blood is thicker than water. House Tytalus prefers to police itself rather than use Quaesitores, which means it either does so via clandestine means or Wizard's War. If members of the House are seen to break the Code routinely, another Betrayal - or worse, another Schism War - might happen, and that cannot be allowed.

House Tytalus doesn't hold regular meetings - they feel no need to periodically share knowledge or determine agendas. It's not that they never hold meetings, just that they're never regular, and rarely include more than a small fraction of the House. However, occasionally two Tytali feel the need to publically resolve their differences and call an eristic moot. These moots are public disputes between competing speakers. Announcement of the moot is sent by Redcap to all nearby covenants, and any member of the Order may attend. Public debates are a common entertainment in Europe among intellectuals, and if the opponents are famous, the crowd can get big. If one of the opponents demands a "subtle contest", invitations may also be sent to non-magi, and it is considered a test of great skill for two magi to publically dispute before witnesses ignorant of their status.

Most commonly, there are two participants and up to a dozen spectators, but participants might form teams against powerful rivals, or there might be a free-for-all. Further, it's not unknown for an observer to join in the dispute. By convention, minimum attendance is five - two participants and three witnesses. The name derives from the Greek eris, strife, and this is not a place for peaceful settlement. Each participant is doing their best to defeat their foe by any means necessary; the weapons allowed must be decided in advance, and typically words are the most common, but occasionally physical or magical combat are used, though magical combat is disallowed in subtle contests. If magic is used, it is almost certainly certamen, though some find this constraining. In front of witnesses, both sides must publically declare their intent not to kill their foe with their spells, and permit each other to use whatever scrying magic they have. Once that's done, both sides are free to use whatever magic they like, with only a death by prosecuted.

There are two special kinds of moot practiced by the House. The first is the Gauntlet, in which the apprentice uses the formal structure of the moot, in front of witnesses, to force their master to accept them as full magi. The other is the moot held one year after the death or Final Twilight of the Primus. This is always hosted at Fudarus, and all Tytalus magi do their best to attend. All other witnesses are banned. Everyone who considers themselves worthy of being Primus is an opponent, and it's a sudden death competition that lasts until only one remains: the Primus. In such a high-power eristic moot, the most skilled of the House have eliminated some competitors even before arrival, outmaneuvering them socially via blackmail, rumor or other dirty tricks.

Next time: Tytalan apprenticeship and why it sucks.

Oct 10, 2007

Can you see that I am serious?
Fun Shoe
Y'know I gotta say, the only house write up that really didn't do much for me was Verditus. Everyone else seems awesome.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Tytalus is infamous for its poor treatment of apprentices. Compared to most other Houses, they appear to be less apprentice and more slave, or even pet. Grim stories are told by other apprentices about the practices of Tytalan magi, and they are used as an effective threat against the unruly. Tytalus suffered greatly under Guorna the Fetid's training, perhaps more than is acceptable to the modern Order, and he hints that he tried suicide (or perhaps murder) more than once in his writings. After the fact, he reasoned that through his suffering, he was able to reach deeper into himself and find reserves of power that would have otherwise been untapped. He believed he did an injustice to Tremere by mitigating Guorna's cruelty, leaving him only half-finished - more than a man, but less than a magus.

Tytalan magi typically take older apprentices, and try to ensure they're skilled in the Artes Liberales, Latin and athletics, those subjects favored by the Sophists, before the apprenticeship begins, usually via schools or private tutors. The child is kept oblivious of their destiny, and after four years of schooling at least, they are taken and informed of their true path. Thus begins the Hermetic training. The next 15 years are exceptionally hard. The apprentice gets no luxuries, being a virtual slave after the privileges of schooling. Only squalid conditions and meager provisions are allowed, and when not being taught directly, the tasks they are set to range from tedious to dangerous. Many of these practices seem cruel, but the purpose is hardly cruelty for its own sake. Instead, the master seeks to reveal the injustices of laws, the nomoi, imposed by society and make the apprentice rebel against custom and embrace the physis. To this end, the master often employs the Book of Instruction, penned by Tytalus himself, which lays down explicit rules for the correct behavior of apprentices and the punishments for breaking them. The penalties are both arbitrary and apparently random, with no instructional value. The Book does not talk about how to train apprentices, just how to treat them. The master often pretends to sympathize with the apprentice, saying that the book is forcing their hand. 'I don't want to do this to you, but the Book of Instruction dictates that washing on a Thursday is forbidden, and I have no choice.'

In the final years of apprenticeship, the master deliberately exposes the apprentice to House Tytalus culture by attending eristic moots, stressing the huge inequality between the current situation and the rule-flouting magi, while still punishing any sign of complaint harshly. Many apprentices run away at least once, while others take out their anger on other children as bullies. Some harbor murder fantasies, though few act on them. Still, it is a foolish master who does not take precautions against harm from the apprentice, who cooks their food and sleeps in their sanctum. The point of this treatment is hardly to crush the ego - rather, it is meant to forge it into an iron will. The spark of rebellion, surliness or disobedience is fanned into a raging bonfire, then honed by resentment into a deadly weapon. A Calliclean master will try to fan that spark into open conflict, while the Hippian masters try to teach their apprentices to avoid penalty on technicalities and to flagrantly disobey when the master isn't watching. Both types publically disapprove of their apprentice's actions while privately reveling in them.

If the harsh methods of Tytalus fail to produce the correct reactions, the master does not continue their education. Failure to react against the harsh training leads to a life outside House Tytalus, as the apprentice is passed off to another or abandoned altogether. Apprenticeship ends when the apprentice decides they've had enough. After 15 years, training ends but apprenticeship does not. If they ask when the Gauntlet will be, they're told 'not yet'. Keen to escape, they must force their master to accept them - just asking is not enough. Only by a serious attempt at forcing acceptance causes the master to convene the eristic moot, in front of witnesses, to determine if the apprentice has passed the Gauntlet. They do so if they can make their master accept them as equal. The apprentice chooses the type of struggle, but if they don't bring magic in, the master will. By tradition, the master is not to fight too hard, but must give a proper challenge. It is by this Gauntlet that the legendary confidence of Tytalus is earned.

Any apprentice that kills their master at any point in apprenticeship is immediately relegated to magus status, regardless of their training, and since the Code states that a master is responsible for all an apprentice does, murder by the apprentice is legally considered suicide. It's rare, but not unknown, though cutting apprenticeship short too soon is bad for your education. The same occurs if you force the Gauntlet early because you can't stand the torture any more. More than a few masters are never satisfied, no matter how many moots are forced, so after the third failure, another Tytalus usually advises the apprentice to seek out a Quaesitor to administer the next Gauntlet, thought that is considered an ignoble way to join the House. The same happens if the apprentice must be told how the Gauntlet is done - no master respects an apprentice who accepts the nomoi of apprenticeship without question.

Any magus or hedge wizard may join House Tytalus if they can accept the Founder's philosophy and succeed in forcing a Tytalus magus of equal or greater age to accept them as worthy, as per the Gauntlet. However, a general lack of hedge wizards seeking to join the Order these days and the difficulty of the Gauntlet means that most modern Tytali are raised as apprentices, not joined as magi. It isn't actually necessary to renounce your former House to join Tytalus - anyone who can prove their worth can be called Tytalus, regardless of what others call them (or what they call themselves). Since House Tytalus is the only House that permits dual membership, the rest of the Order tends not to look kindly on such magi, however.

Winning recognition by a Tytalus is the highest honor the House can give to a non-Tytalus, for they see themselves as the best of magi. Because of this somewhat loose definition of 'being a Tytalus', a magus may find they earned the status without actually knowing it, by unequivocally defeating a Tytalus administering the Gauntlet. Henceforth, other Tytali will refer to them as a Tytalus whether they want it or not, often to their frustration and embarrassment. And, of course, forcing the House to rescend the honor only convinces them more strongly that you deserve it. It thus also follows that you cease to be Tytalus if you become disillusioned with the philosophy. However, it is practically unheard of for a Tytalus to be cast out without their consent, though a magus occasionally does request the Primus to allow them to leave. Many ex-Tytalus are never fully trusted by anyone else, though, tending to assume their leaving the House is part of their grand plan.

Tytali seek a culture focused on clever schemes and plots, both to advance their own power and, by conflict, advance the power of their foes and perhaps the entire Order. However, few do so without help. When a group of Tytali seek to change society in a coordinated manner, they form a cabal. Their personal rivalries are their own business, but when their schemes benefit others, they need not stand alone. A cabal is usually initiated by a single leader who wants support in a goal. They anonymously invite other Tytali to discuss the execution of that goal - often all other Tytali within a fortnight's travel, even enemies. The invitation is always written, outlines the desired goal, and has a meeting place and time. It is considered stylish to deliver the invitation in an inventive way or to arrange for it to show up in another's sanctum without them realizing. All parties interested attend the meeting, also anonymously, with magical disguises routinely used. Even the inviter does not know who chooses to attend, and the inviter will not identify themselves as such. Everyone present has their say on the merits of the scheme and how it might be done - including 'don't loving do it, you morons' - and then decide whether to keep attending. All those interested in continuing may take a piece of parchment from a bowl prepared ahead of time, which contains the next meeting's location and date.

It is there that the cabal is inaugurated. Only those willing to take part know where and when, though anonymity is still preserved at this and all future meetings. Unless you screw up, you never know who's helping you and are unknown to them. Tasks are assigned by consensus and plans drawn up to achieve the stated goal. Of course, some or all members of the cabal may be pursuing personal agendas rather than cabal ones, and commonly there are spies and counter-spies, but most members will have at least some interest in the stated outcome. Once formed, membership is usually closed, though a magus with sufficient adherence to the goal might receive an invitation to join. (Of course, they may well already be a member.) A magus typically receives an invite to a cabal once every few years, or more frequently if a lot of Tytali are in the area. A typical cabal has three to six members, and meets once every few years. Many Tytali are active in one or two cabals, and less actively belong to several others. Their goals might even conflict, with members deliberately trying to manipulate both sides to face each other and determine which is stronger. Most Tytali find this sort of thing extremely entertaining.

Current cabals include the Cabal of the Broken Ocean, whose symbol is a clockwise turbo of four lines, each making a quarter turn. Their goal is covert support of Lithuania against the Teutonic Knights. The Cabal of Erigone has the symbol of a triangular clavicula, and their goal is to prevent Caecilius of Durenmar from becoming Praeco of the Rhine Tribunal, though only half its members belong to that Tribunal. The Cabal of the Lance has the symbol of a helix made of chain, and their goal is to covertly shield a new covenant from intrigue, though no one seems to know why. The covenant is not even aware of them. The Cabal of the Shining Eye has the symbol of a concha with an eagle at the center, and is dedicated to maneuver the Roman Tribunal into colonizing North Africa. The Unnamed Cabal has the symbol of a counterclockwise swirl of five lines, which double back on each other to make a vertex, and their goal is to ensure that other cabals are kept in conflict with each other. It is supposedly composed of the most potent Tytalus Archmagi, and, some say, Tytalus the Founder himself. There may even be more than one of these cabals.

Next time: Personae, Leper Magi and Titanoi

Pussy Cartel
Jun 26, 2011

Lipstick Apathy

BryanChavez posted:

Not really. Given that the official adventure for Eclipse Phase is called 'Continuity', asking those questions isn't out of bounds with EP at all, nor with the books that Eclipse Phase is based on: the Kovacs trilogy by Richard K. Morgan, etc. It's all about questioning continuity of existence, whether that person is really you, and so on and so forth. Actually considering the old Star Trek question of what really happens when you jump into the transporter.

You're missing the point in that this is exactly the point, yes. Whether or not this is true comes down to philosophical differences. Your consciousness doesn't come to an end - someone with the exact same consciousness continues to exist. But a specific perspective may very well cease to be, yes, and to that specific perspective, what exactly is the difference? These are the sort of questions that are actually brought up in these stories. They're not blind Nerd Rapture settings, they welcome this discussion.

As a matter of fact, there's even a section in I think the EP core itself that addresses how some people and cultures tackle the problem of continuity of consciousness, mentioning that some religions consider resleeving to be death, while others consider it only acceptable if a person's mind is copied over to a new body in real-time, destroying/deleting the original mind in the process. Whether that actually makes any real difference is open to debate.

Dec 12, 2011
Huh, EP is impressive in how it handles that. I look forward to see what else the setting has.

Mar 30, 2012
This last update pretty much sold me on Tytalus. I don't know if I would want to have one as a protagonist necessarily, but I love the idea of a House as a massive dysfunctional family whose drive to conquer is slightly stronger than their self loathing. They're like the Sith of Mythic Europe, but i'd probably play them more like the Monarch.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

We now get some largely reprinted rules for intrigue and spying - they show up here, in Lords of Men and in City & Guild with only slight variations, really. The primary thing is the introduction of a new magic power: Personae. Someone who knows the power of Personae may alter their appearance to that of a different identity, altering all aspects of it, including gender. The changes are total and complete, much as the Bjornaer Heartbeast is, though they do not, unlike the Heartbeast, change your essential nature. All stats remain completely unchanged, as a result, and a male in the persona of a female cannot get pregnant. Each persona does have its own personality traits, however, and it takes some concentration to shift personae. Your skill determines how many personae you can have.

We then get the debate rules, which are similar to the certamen rules, except instead of beating people unconscious with your magical power, you beat their position into unconsciousness with your rhetorical skill. Debating is not about convincing your foe, but the audience, as a note, though if you lose badly enough, yeah, you're probably getting convinced, too. It is harder to argue a position you know is false or which is patently flawed, so some Tytali do this at eristic moots to prove their skill. They also excel at arguing Tribunal cases that actually reach the debating floor rather than being settled by mediation.

Now, let's talk leper magi. Leper magic descends from Tytalus directly via the line of Hariste. All leper magi have leprosy - the magic requires it. They may harm themselves to power their magic - or to produce vis only they can use via their own blood and pus. Painful, yes, but handy! The pain is actually required - any magic to dull it negates the benefits of leper magic. So where does leper magic come from? Well, the leper magi are represented by a hedora of two intertwining ribbons or snakes. See, when Tytalus contracted Guorna's leprosy curse, he was able to spare all of his students and friends from it save one: Hariste. He despaired that his love suffered this, yet Hariste was secretly overjoyed, for it identified her even more closely with the man she loved and respected, and it removed the final barrier between them. When Tytalus vanished, Hariste was overwrought with grief, and only the consolation of devoted pupil Epimetheus saved her from self-destructing. However, in consoling her, Epimetheus contracted leprosy, and the lineage was born.

Leper magi, also called magi aegroti, are a distinct minority in House Tytalus - usually less than a dozen at any given time, because it's hard for them to get apprentices. They are seen with a certain amount of ambivalence by both House and Order. Yes, they are known to be excellent healers and experts in longevity, but the appearance of a leper magus is accompanied by dread, because, well, leprosy. Despite the stringent rules on the conduct of lepers, leper magi feel no real compunction to obey them, though many do it purely out of deference to their sodales' sensibilities. Even if they can persuade a covenant to let them join, their sanctum is usually outside the walls, or even the aura, in accordance with seclusion laws. As a result, many are wanderers. Most enjoy the mystique surrounding themselves and tend to play up the leprosy angle with a tattered outfit and a bell or clapper enchanted with charms against disease. Most are Hippians, in terms of House philosophy, and consider caring for the sick and healing them to be one of their own universal, unwritten laws. They take their conflict within the human body, struggling against poor health and disease. However, they do have the same combative spirit as other Tytali and can be quite vicious when roused. All leper magi, in addition to leprosy and leper magic, have a magical focus in either disease, wounds or aging.

The Titanoi are a mystery cult within House Tytalus, represented by a labyrinth of two joined key-spirals, one turning left and the other right. They preserve the knowledge of Guorna and Tytalus' magic. Theirs was a goetic tradition, but Tytalus went beyond the necromancy Guorna used, delving into the roots of the magic in search of ways to defeat her. He contacted the ghosts of the Titans trapped in the underworld, and with their spiritual power, he was able to defeat his mistress. Those magi taught by Tytalus and Pralix became known as the Titanoi, the Children of the Titans. They believe the name Tytalus was a corruption of Titanis talis, gaming piece of the Titans, a name Tytalus may have taken for himself after the defeat of Guorna.

The Betrayal nearly ended the Titanoi, with barely a handful surviving the purge - mostly young magi poorly trained in the Ars Goetia. After the Schism War, the remaining Titanoi convinced a small sect of Greek theurgists to defect from Ex Miscellanea to Tytalus, to revive the Titanoi. They reformed the group into a Mystery Cult, though it lost most of its religious elements due to the strong Sophist traditions of the House. The cult now serves to praise and honor the governors of the Universe, but not worship them, and so not all of the cult are pagans, though they all have rather heterodox views on how the universe was made and run.

The Titanoi excel at summoning and control of spirits. They focus on the Titans and their children, but none are adverse to using other spirits, like ghosts or elementals. Those raised by the cult gain a magical focus in spirits as apprentices, which applies to all supernatural beings with incorporeal form, including ghosts, though not other aspects of necromancy like corpses. Further, the Titanoi cult teaches magic lore and the lore of the cult. Many seek no further initiations, due to the social stigma tied to the cult by the Betrayal, but the cult does have knowledge of Hermetic Theurgy, Invocation Magic, NAmes of Power, Theurgic Spirit Familiars and knowledge of the Magic Realm. Still, the taint of Tasgillia runs deep in this lineage, and any known Titanos will likely draw the attention of a suspicious Quaesitor, determined to find diabolism.

We then get some example spells for spying and intrigue, spirit magic and disease wards, and so on.

Next time: House Ex Miscellanea

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Ex Miscellanea is currently taking a census, but is estimated to have 180 members. Its Primus is Ebroin, a young reformer, and the domus magna is Cad Gadu in North Wales, an island in a lake with a highly magical aura and regio, which is frequently covered in mist. It was originally home to a hedge tradition, the Columbae, but its name comes from the final battle between Pralix and Damhan-Allaidh, and it means 'the forsaken army' in honor of those who died in the war. You can find Ex Miscellanea pretty much anywhere. Their symbol is the crooked staff, and their motto is 'Totus multitudinem componet': The whole is composed of many parts.

House Ex Miscellanea is the largest House, yet has the least prestige and recognition. It has no unifying concept or shared philosophy, but is instead made of many lineages, mystery cults and societates with their own history, culture and magic. The House began with Pralix, a sister magus and student of Tytalus who was charged with hunting down the warlock Damhan-Allaidh (or Davanallus), who had recruited an Anglo-Saxon army of wizards and shapechangers to fight the Order in the early ninth century. To assist her, Pralix needed her own army, so she recruited native magicians of the British Isles and faced off against her foe, first at Loch Leglean in Scotland, then through northern England until, at last, they met at Cad Gadu in Wales. There, at the Battle of the False Sun, Damhan-Allaidh and his allies were finally defeated. Pralix declined to return home, so Mercere came to Cad Gadu to find her.

Mercere was refused entrance, and was told that Pralix had renounced the Order and was the head of the new Ordo Miscellanea, which offered protection to all wizards rejected or persecuted by the Order of Hermes for weak powers or non-Roman lineage. The outraged Order called for the destruction of Pralix and her ORder, but Hariste, successor to Tytalus, and Trianoma argued for a settlement. While the Order was paralyzed by indecision, the Ordo Miscellanea recruited aggressively throughout western Europe, and by 817, cooler heads prevailed. The Ordo Miscellanea joined the Order as a 13th House, Ex Miscellanea, and doubled the size of the Order at the time.

Under Pralix, the House was ruled by a Council of Four, each representing one facet of the House's interests. Initally, it was a warrior house of veteran wizards, ruthlessly pursuing the join-or-die ethos and making enemies of Tremere and Flambeau, who felt their own House identities threatened, by numbers if not power. Pralix vanished in 863 while returning from the domus magna of Tytalus, and many suspected Houses Flambeau or Tremere of foul play. Without her guidance, House Ex Miscellanea gradually lost coherence as each tradition pursued its own agenda without care for the greater House.

Immediately prior to the Schism War, a new Primus, Basilicus, seized control of the House. By this time, it had become bloated with traditions seeking protection and had sacrificed martial focus for diversity. Basilicus reinstituted the Council of Four, whipping the House back into...well, at least a pale shadow of its former self. His prophetic abilities had warned him of future strife, and he was determined his House not suffer for it. In fact, many of the founding traditions of House Ex Miscellanea resented House Diedne due to antipathies predating the Order. In Britain, at least, many Diedne magi died at the hands of Ex Miscellanea. However, again, on the passing of Basilicus, the House went back into decline, from which it has yet to be roused.

Despite its predominantly British roots, House Ex Miscellanea now has magi from across Europe. Before its formation, most hedge wizards joined the Mystery Houses if they found their ideology appropriate or the Societates, often Flambeau. House Diedne commonly received some British pagan hedge wizards, and since its fall, House Ex Miscellanea has inherited the stereotype of naturalistic, primitive wizards with little education and poor magic. This is not wholly justified, for many traditions within the House are just as sophisticated as those of the Founders, though it is not wholly wrong, either, for many of Ex Miscellanea belong to it solely to keep the Order off their backs while they pursue their own goals. There is hardly any House culture at all, really. The House congregates only sporadically, and even then it's usually only a single tradition meeting. Most magi of Ex Miscellanea prefer to work independently, and as a House they lack any common philosophy, and so lack unity and Housemates to rely on for support.

In 1220, for perhaps the first time in centuries, the House seems to have a chance at rejuvenation. For the last 80 years, it was ruled by the Prima Immanola, a seer who in her youth had excited the Stonehenge Tribunal with dire prophecies but who grew senile with age and was less and less respected. She spent hte last twelve years of her rule unmoving, staring into a pool in Cad Gadu. Four years ago, she was finally declared to have entered Final Twilight, and the House selected the magus Ebroin to replace her. He is young and vibrant, and has attempted several reforms. He reinstated the Council of Four, placing nominal control of three Tribunals under each Council member, leaving himself in charge of the Stonehenge Tribunal. He's called for a census of the House and seems to have plans to revitalize it. Only time will tell if they actually work.

Most magi Ex Miscellanea have preserved some aspect of their pre-Hermetic magic which they consider superior to the standard magic of the Order. Yes, the magic done by the Order is overall superior to all other traditions past and present, but even its most ardent supporters admit that in some cases, power was sacrificed for flexibility. In addition to the Limits of Magic, there are some areas that are simply much easier for certain hedge traditions than Hermetics. Some sample tricks that an Ex Miscellanea tradition might have retained include Summoning Animals, allowing them to call animals over large distances without use of spells. This grants no power to talk to them, and really, all they do is show up without any other magic being used, but they are friendly towards the summoner and may fight to defend them if naturally aggressive. There's Wind Whistling, which allows the magus to use their innate power to create wind. Similar powers exist for other forms of weather. This requires knowledge of whistling, of course, to have a lot of control...but it doesn't take any spells and it's quite fast. Last, there is Control Fertility, the power to enhance or curse the fertility of living things, making them more fertile or more prone to disease. This involves physically marking them somehow, and lasts a few months or so in most cases.

There are actually three types of Ex Miscellanea. The Magi Ex Miscellanea are the magi descended from the House traditions. The Magi Orbi are those magi whose ancestors (or selves) got kicked out of another House and could only find Ex Miscellanea to join. 'Orbus' means orphaned in Latin. They still practice magic similar to that of the House they lost, but without access to any secrets beyond a House Outer MYstery if one exists. Last are the Gifted Companions - full hedge wizards with no real Hermetic training who joined the Order so that they'd stop being bothered.

So, what traditions lie in House Ex Miscellanea? Most traditions are rather small, and some only have two members - maybe even just one if they haven't taken an apprentice yet. Most, though, have 5-25 members, sometimes all in one area. Here's some of the larger ones. The Beast Masters are a tradition that commands magic most Hermetics find very hard - summoning and control of wild animals. Every apprentice of this tradition was abandoned by their master in the wilderness at a young age to fend for themselves. During this time, they gain an affinity for a specific group of animal, which shapes their future magic. Thus, all Beast Masters possess the power of Animal Ken, letting them speak to animals, and a minor magical focus in their affinity group, but all suffer from a feral upbringing that leaves them poor at dealing with humans and human tongues. They are never taught how to become animals or how to harm them, so they also cannot ever use Muto Corpus or Perdo Animal spells. They have the power of Summon Animals, and no animal is ever bothered by their Gift, but they require the presence of a Form in order to gain any benefits from study of it.

The Damhadh-Duidsan descend from Damhadh-Duidas (roughly translated: Malice-Water), a Gaelic hedge wizard of the same tradition as Damhan-Allaidh who joined Pralix in her crusade. They try very hard to put their founder's Infernalist nature behind them. They carve runes known as Ogam into trees and stones, or write them on their skin in ash. Using these runes, they may curse foes or steal their life energy. Giant Blood is very common among them, and both Damhan-Allaidh and Damhadh-Duidas were descended from giants, according to legend. All have either shapeshifting, giant blood or the power of Infernal incantation, as well as natural skill in the art of Corpus, but they cannot cast magic without painting or carving their Ogam runes.

The Hermetic Haruspexes are an ancient Roman tradition with the secret of the Etruscan Art - revealing of omens via the entrails of sacrificial animals. They were one of the first non-British groups to join Pralix, and two of their number have been Primi in the past, Basilicus and Immanola. They often have premonitions of danger or uncontrollable visions. All possess the secret of divination and augury via haruspexy, and a natural affinity for Intellego magic. However, they are all more prone to Twilight htan most magi.

The Karaites are a sect of Jews who reject the oral law of the rabbis and interpret the commandments via a strictly literal reading of the Tanakh only. Their philosophy is that all things in the world are of God's will, and can only be understood by careful study of scripture. Only via human action can evil happen, and bad things are Divine punishment for human transgression. Thus, human and worldly medicine should be avoided, for sickness is evidence of human failing and God alone should be your physician. Because of their unorthodox interpretation of scripture, pious Karaites, unlike most Jews, may join the Order so long as they practice holy magic. They believe the laws against enchantment and divination in the Torah do not apply to magic that comes from God, but they don't allow other, non-Karaite magi to cast spells on them, as that would be obviously unclean. They practice Holy Magic and know how to craft mystic amulets, but their Karaite magic limits them, as was detailed way back in Realms of Power: The Divine.

The Malocchi are a tradition of Italian magi who practice the magic of entrancement. They are deeply embedded in the local culture, which can make becoming one very hard. A maloccho is considered to bring terrible luck, so all avoid meeting their gaze, which is believed not only to ensorcel but to cause all kinds of problems. They all have a piercing, intimidating gaze and the power to entrance and hypnotize with it, as well as a bonus to any magic done while maintaining eye contact. However, they have poor magic resistance against anyone standing on their shadow. Many also know how to hex people.

Next time: More traditions!

Count Chocula
Dec 25, 2011

Kagematsu reminds me of at least two Clint Eastwood movies: one where he's a sort of angel of death who rides into town and 'protects' it while raping at least one woman and another where he's a soldier couped up in a convent with at least 3 women.


Calliclean ethics hold that law and justice are merely devices of the weak to keep the strong, who are by physis' terms just, from their rightful place. It is human nature to be selfish, whether as an individual or nation, and to be a tyrant that inflicts your will on others is both the inescapable state of physis and the ideal state of existence. Luxury, wantonness and freedom from restraint, if backed by strength, are good and happiness. All else is worthless nonsense. The doom of Tasgillia was that this excellence was all she sought, with vanity superior to her prudence. The Calliclean holds that nomoi are established by the ruling powers to benefit themselves, not the ruled. In consequence, those who act justly always come off worse than the unjust. It is therefore right to appear to obey nomos if it brings genuine advantage, but there is no point in actually being "good" while no one is watching. It is always better to seize opportunities to act unfairly if it will help you, though often you will be best served by playing nice. On the face of it, this seems to suggest always acting selfishly to the detriment of society. However, a Calliclean would say that while self-interest is what the physis naturally pursues as good, nomos constraints it to diverge into respect for equality. Justice depends solely on equality of power, for without equality, the strong will do as they like and the weak will submit. Thus, the Calliclean belief is that from conflict there is growth - a weak man can be made strong by hardship and strife, and thus challenge the limitations of their nature. Callicleans are driven to force the world to accept their selfish goals. They have no compunction against breaking rules if it suits them, though they know it must sometimes be done in secret.

Nieztchian wizards. Just what the world needs.

Count Chocula fucked around with this message at 00:50 on Jun 23, 2013

Feb 3, 2012

Fats Dominar is on the case

Return to the TOMB OF HORRORS Part II: Monsters, Magic and Martifacts

So. Before we dive into the adventure itself (next post, I promise!) I wanted to go over some of the cool magic items and monsters that this adventure introduces. Partially because I will be referencing them later, and partially because they bring up some themes that will recur throughout the adventure. In no particular order, let's start with the monsters.

Bone Weird

It begins, innocuously enough, with the Bone Weird. This is a fairly powerful but not particularly unfair monster with a neat concept. It's basically an invisible, serpentine energy being, and its "body" is composed of bones animated by this energy into a pile. Warmachine/Hordes players will recognize the Boneswarm. It likes to grapple enemies and also bite them. If you're bitten, save vs. death magic or it rips out your bones to add to itself :yohoho: This causes 4d10 damage and a system shock roll. It's also stated that which bones you lose are random, so it could be anything from your coccyx to your tibia. Good luck! It turns as a lich (but can only be turned 25% of the time anyways), takes no damage from non-magical piercing attacks and 1 point of damage from any other non-magical attack, and must be reduced to -10 HP to kill it.

Moilian Heart & Moilian Zombie

The Heart isn't really much of a monster, more of a hazard, and in any case it functions the same as a Moilian Zombie so I'll describe them together. Both types of Moilian undead are naturally dormant, lying there in a sheet of ice until living things come nearby. Any living thing coming within 20 feet of either triggers their signature ability: roll a 12 or higher on a d20 each round (add your con bonus) or lose 1d10 HP, which the Moilian adds to its total. HP lost this way can only be magically healed, it will not return normally. If you die this way you have a 13% (?) chance of animating as Moilian zombie after death. They remain animated as long as they have HP, losing one per day until they stop moving and go dormant again. To permanently destroy either, you need to consume them in flames or acid or something similar to that. The only difference is the Zombie can project frost and beat on your with zombie hands, the heart just sits there because, well, it's a heart. The Zombie is Zombie Richard Simmons in my previous post.

Negative Energy Elementals

A lot of this adventure (well, some of this adventure) takes place on the Negative Energy Plane, where you might run into these guys. They have an aura that makes healing weaker and undead stronger. Their touch rots you and your stuff and drains levels. Pretty standard undead-type stuff, except for their aura, but they take bonus damage from elemental typed attacks so they're not super hard to get rid of.

Negative Fundamentals

These are weird headless bats made of negative energy. So ~kawaii~! They're not very strong, but they flock and can be very annoying.

The Vestige

Hoo boy. This thing is the manifestation of the nightmares the Moilians had as they died in cursed sleep. There's only one of it, and it's not really fightable because it's so deadly (to characters of the appropriate level, anyways); it's more of a hazard of Moil. It's insanely difficult to hurt with weapons, resists or is immune to most kinds of magic (and has 90% MR anyways against the few kinds it's not immune to), inflicts a -4 penalty on all of your actions just for being near it, can't be turned, can attack the whole party at once, drains Int, etc etc. You are explicitly supposed to run from it whenever you find it. Very evocative, though; it's a rolling fog that emits whispers, moans and murmurs (the sounds Moilians made as they died in their sleep) and it wants to absorb you and make its suffering yours.


The "oh, gently caress you" monster and the first appearance of the dreaded blackfire. It's a skeleton coated in ice whose head burns with black fire (or blackfire I guess). It's pretty beefy and hits hard with decent MR and some immunities (obviously cold, among other things) and regenerates by "sublimating moisture" into the ice that makes up its body. The real threat is the blackfire. Anyone touching it automatically catches. Each turn you... blackburn, I guess, you roll a d20 and add your Con bonus, wanting an 11 or higher. Three successes in a row and it goes out. A failed check costs you 1d2 Con. This repeats until it goes out or you hit 0 Con, at which time you die and turn into ash. Not even a wish can restore you, from this fate-- notably, this is the first of many times you will hear "not even a wish" on this adventure. Acererak has no time for your reality altering magicks :smugbert:. If you go within 2' of someone who is on blackfire, you get to share the love. The only ways to put it out without passing those checks are an antimagic shell, negative plane protection spell, or getting hit with a fireball or lightning bolt or similar spell of at least 8 dice, which "blows it out." Yes, truly Acererak is history's greatest rear end in a top hat.

That's all the new monsters, and really, isn't that enough?

Magic items
Most of these are hideously evil things you can pillage from the Skull City and Evil Hogwarts. I won't go into too much detail.

Acererak's Haphazard Wheel
And we're off to a great start! This is a cursed roulette wheel, basically. If anyone says a number 1-6 while near it, it lights up and starts spinning. Roll a d6 to see where it lands! If it lands where they said, their "prime requisite" ie most important stat is instantly raised to 21. Wow, awesome! But if it misses, then you suffer the ill effects of wherever it lands. This can permanently reduce your HP, reduce your prime requisite, age you, drain a quarter of your levels, erase your eyes, ears and hands from existence, or simply suck out your soul into Acererak's phylactery. Good news! A wish will work to restore whatever the wheel steals. But nothing else will. Oh, and don't gently caress with the wheel in any way while spinning, it sucks your soul out.

Amulet of the Void
This is a plot item with no powers outside of the plot. Neat!

Evil armor that gives you AC 7. The book helpfully informs us that only evil people would use this. EVVVVVVIIIILLLLLL ARRRRMMMMMOOOOORRRR.

The Blade Perilous
This is an intelligent magic sword used by the leader of Moil's armies, the Grand High Exultant. It is a sword of wounding +3 with a shitload of special powers and abilities, including the ability to entrace people who look at the wielder swangin' it around.

The Blood Codex
Turning yourself into a vampire for dummies. Reading the book makes you obsess and brood over it, and it makes you more eviler when you read it. If you collect tons of items and spend lots of gold and XP you can attempt to turn yourself into a :drac:. Failure turns you into dust instead and not even a wish can bring you back.

More EVIL ARMOR, this time made of bones. It's chainmail +3 and enhances your strength and gives you a few other bonuses. Hilariously, your armor can be turned, which is a bit awkward when you're in it.

A wand that contains various bone-themed powers, including some spells (suffocate, bone blight) and the ability to fuse all of someone's bones into one big megabone. Only evil people would even consider using it!

Brooch of Access
This is neat, it's a perma-Knock spell centered on you. You can walk through any door you want!

:black101:Cursed Rending Hooks of Dargeshaad:black101:
These incredibly metal hooks are daggers +1 that are +4 on a living target. On a hit, they magically fuse with you. Once they do, only a 15th level or greater dispel magic or similar spell will remove them. Until then they chew up 1d4 ability score points per round (save vs. death magic each round to prevent) until you die and your spirit gets sucked into the hook. Cumulative 1% chance per use of turning on the wielder, too, so everyone joins in the fun! Again, don't use if you're not EVILLLLLLLLL.

Much less :black101: than the Hooks, this dagger +2 sometimes does a bonus 1d4 damage to the target and if you want to use one you better be EVIL.

Ferranifer's Brooch
A brooch invented by Vampire Dumbledore, this lets her (and any undead wearing it) save vs. spells as a wizard to resist turning. Living creatures putting it on get fingered. Finger of Death, to be exact.

Gauntlet of Guard
A glove that grows to give your whole body AC 0 and 20% MR. It can also PEW PEW out of its finger for 10d6 damage three times a day (save vs. breath weapon for 0).

Headsman's Axe of Moil
Belonging to Moil's chief executioner, this axe is a vorpal sword +3 despite being an axe. If someone is standing or lying motionless and defenseless before you you can automatically, no dice required, just chop their head right off. Useless, unless paired with...

Headsman's Hood of Moil
This hood lets you, three times per day, use an uber-suggestion on a target, which must work to complete this task to the exclusion of all others. If you command someone specifically to lie motionless with their head on a chopping block, they get a -5 to save against this exact command. And of course these two items are encountered together.

Illuck stone
When this stone is in your possession, you believe you are getting a +1 on all dice rolls, you are actually getting a -1. If you spin Acererak's Wheel, the DM rolls 2d6 and picks the worse result for you. No affect on attack and damage rolls, though. It looks just like a luckstone and is likely to be mistaken for one.

Mask of the Devourer
Hoo boy. Lots of stuff here. It's a green leather mask in the shape of Acererak's "Devourer" sigil. Actually, it's a permanently shapechanged tanar'ri, but shhhhh. The eyes open up so you can see through them but the mouth opens into utter darkness. Anyone putting it on can't remove it except by wish, and doing so steals your face; only eyes and two small nostril holes are left, you need a second wish to get the rest of your features back. At night, the mask has a 20% chance to "begin chortling in maniacal glee, belch forth sulfurous gas, drool copiously, or engage in some other annoying or disgusting behavior. The wearer is not aware of this and does not awaken. His or her companions are not so lucky and will find that only waking the wearer of the mask causes the disgusting mouthings to cease." :getin: The mask has an absolute assload of abilities as well, most notably the ability to make a bite attack once per day at a THAC0 of 7. If successful, the mouth grows huge and swallows whatever man-sized or smaller creature you hit, chewing and grunting contentedly. 1d10 memories, spells or both are transferred to the wearer, generally driving them insane. It has an 18% chance to attempt this attack whenever you try to do any attack, unless it already did today. Every time you do the attack, it has a cumulative 2% chance of turning on you, inverting and consuming you utterly. And, as you may have guessed by now, not even a wish can recover someone lost this way.

Ring of Negative Elemental Mastery
Lets you summon, command and converse with negative elemental plane elementals, and provides some protection from the attacks of negative aligned creatures (including undead). Has a few other powers as well but nothing super notable.

Ring of Universal Movement
Walk on anything you want! Water? Sure! Underside of a cliff? Ok! Up the side of a skyscraper? No problem! You can walk on air and thus fly a little, too.

Sentinel Mask
This mask has a gemstone over one eye; wearing it, the gem acts as a gem of seeing, letting you see invisible and ethereal creatures, see through fog or mist, etc etc. You can even see through lady's clothes into their BATHING SUIT AREA.

Spirit Shroud
A cloak with the essence of a wraith. Helpfully, the wraith does not level drain you while you are wearing it. Nor can other undead! Also you get an AC of 4, can't be hurt by nonmagical nonsilver weapons. The cloak can also attack, can be turned, and can take damage (if it takes too much it just becomes a normal cloak). Only evil people would want to wear this!

New spells!
Not as many as new items, but just as fun.

Corpse Candle
This level 2 spell lets you light a magical candle made of intelligent-creature fat. It creates dim illumination that overrides the effects of a darkness or light spell. That's all!

Enlarge (Reduce) Undead

Shadow Barge
Creates a flying shadow-boat you can ride.

This blocks the sun from affecting objects, useful given how much stuff in this adventure is affected adversely by sunlight. Vampires can walk around in daylight for one hour per caster level. No sunburns on normals either!

Vapor of Idiocy/Agony
"Any creature with less than 4 Hit Dice that steps into the mist immediately becomes an idiot (as if feebleminded)." More hit dice gives you a save. Wears off when you breathe fresh air outside in daytime. Agony vapor just hurts and does a little damage.

Animate Moilian
Special Moilian zombies, anywhere you want them. Must be EVIL!!!

An offensive spell version of the horrible awful fire we saw above.

Acererak's Blackstone
This spell turns a spell-absorbing ioun stone into a special blackstone that absorbs magic from spells, spell-like abilities, etc. If it enters the aoe of a spell, it absorbs and cancels it. Once it absorbs up to a set limit (the amount the ioun stone could have absorbed) it EXPLODES!!! for 4 points of damage/spell level stored, save vs. breath weapon for half. All inanimate objects save or be disintegrated. The holder saves at a penalty and takes double damage.

Create Winter-wight
Yup. Of note: it's a 9th level spell, it requires a lab with lots of incredibly expensive and specialized equipment, and it only works 1d10% of the time (that is, roll 1d10, then try to roll percentile below that number).

Weight of the Wait
A hilarious spell! This one creates a parchment that stores 75% of the time that passes in its area. Time flows at only a quarter rate in the bubble, the rest is absorbed. If you move or break the sealed parchment, you (and everyone in the bubble) get hit with all of that stored time at once and usually age to death.

So that's what awaits us. Next time: The beginning of the adventure!


Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

The Scinnfolk are actually a form of Gifted Companion rather than full caster. The term means 'cunning folk' and refers to herb-wives and faerie doctors. The name is used because the first of them to join the Order called his tradition Scinnfolk. He was a Saxon, and his tradition really has no systematic approach to magic, just an eclectic mess of petty gifts and charms. They have almost entirely resisted integration into Hermetic theory in favor of helping peasant communities. All have the power of fertility, and beyond that, they often have the Gentle Gift, the power to heal some diseases with a touch, knowledge of the Faerie realm, faerie allies or visions.

The Tempestaria, or Weather Witches, are predominantly Saxon, from northern Germany, England and Denmark. Weather magic is well-integrated into Hermetic theory, via Auram, and the Tempestariae are experts on it. However, they are also able to summon up weather without resorting to spells. Each has a specialty, in which they far exceed Hermetic power, such as rain, fog or most commonly, wind. However, the price of this specialized power is that the weather witches require simple improvised tools to perform magic - things with sympathetic relationships to their intended effect, such as feathers for snow, drums for thunder or scattered sand for rain.

The Witches of Thessaly were reclusive worshippers of dark gods of the underworld who practiced sorcery, necromancy and curses. Trianoma, famously, was a witch of Thessaly, though the others would not join the Order for centuries. Some remain in contact with the Daughters of Erictho, as those witches who did not join the Order are called, which usually puts them under suspicion of diabolism. They tend to live in the Cambunian Mountains of Thessaly, where they know the Faerie portals. They are pagan, and often their rites are inherently selfish and dark, so the line between pagan worship and demon worship becomes thin. They are masters of the Goetic Art of Summoning, and have a natural talent for Vim magic. However, casting spells is highly painful for them.

Now we get into the traditions that receive more detail. The original name of the Columbae is 'swynwyr' (singular: swynmor or swynwraig depending on gender). They are Welsh, known for their skill in magical wards, which require them to leave markings wherever they go. This is why the Order named them Columbae - 'pigeons'. In some cases it's an affectionate nickname. In others, it is derogatory. They are also known as the white-nailed or the ward-makers, with the former referring to the chalk they make use of. The original Columbae were probably one of the earliest British traditions, a mix of Celtic and Roman influence. They've always been strongest in Wales, where the negative image of magic and sorcery is not so great. They generally remain apart from others, save for their family, for they consider blood ties very strong.

By the early 800s, the Columbae had become one of the most recognizable groups of hedge wizard in the isle of Britain, and the largest native tradition. Two other groups were outsiders - the Anglo-Saxon wizards of the east, and the Picti gruagachan of the north. All three joined together under Damhan-Allaidh to oppose the Order, though most of the swynwyr hide in Wales to avoid involvement. It was these that Pralix approached and convinced to her cause, giving her a foothold in the British isles to launch her campaign from. A camp was established near Dunoding to be her headquarters, and it was here that became the last battlefield. After the war, it was named Cad Gadu to represent the end of the conflict, and later became the domus magna of Ex Miscellanea. The leader of the Columbae when they joined the Order was named Colomen, and with the help of Pralix, both he and his wife Gwyndolen adapted their power to Hermetic magic, spreading copies of their ward spells through the Order. They hoped to quickly overcome the negative image of being hedge wizards and British sorcerers by sharing their knowledge, a goal they largely achieved over the next few years. They encouraged the use of the name 'Columbae', reasoning that being seen as comical was better than being feared, and that is why so many refer to them by that name. As of 1220, the term 'swynwyr' is used only rarely, to refer to those of the tradition who are not magi.

The Columbae have few unique traditions, having largely adopted the trappings of the House as a whole, many of which came from them to begin with. They prefer white or pale clothing, and generally carry chalk or some other soft and light stone to draw their circles with, though charred wood or even their own blood will do in a pinch. Many carry a gnarled staff, the House symbol, as a useful means of drawing in the dirt. Among their own, they still speak Welsh and refer to each other as swynwyr. Among others, they speak poor Latin and attempt to maintain the impressive of affable and friendly foreigners. Their Welsh culture makes family very important to them. Welsh inheritance law divides land and property more or less equally among all sons, and men can only inherit from men in their cenedl, a group of male-line relatives descended from a single ancestor. A group of male-line family descended from a single great grandfather are known as kindred, and are responsible for keeping order among each other, and for looking after orphans and widows, resolving disputes between family and arbitrating sale of land. No land can change hands without the consent of the kindred. Thus, they carefully track both their relatives and property, and male Columbae often have many societal obligations.

UnGifted Columbae exist, though not in the Order, and are mostly women, as they have fewer responsibilities in Welsh society and more time to pursue magical interests. Unmarried women are essentialy unimportant in Wales, at least where politics and inheritance are concerned, so as long as they can care for themselves, they are generally left alone. Because of this, and because most of the Columbae were women when they first joined the Order, magi commonly use the feminine gender when referring to them or their magic. The Gift, however, does not favor one sex or the other. However, because most unGifted Columbae are still women, the Columbine magi still adhere to their mundane culture and often behave as if they were superior to women. Since joining the Order, their tradition has become rather patriarchal, with men outranking women, and Gifted boys being more valuable than Gifted girls. Thus, the lady magi of the tradition tend to associate more with unGifted Columbae than Gifted ones, and try to stay out of politics. To outsiders, it may even appear that there are no female Columbae in the Order.

The Columbae practice the art of Warding, a form of magic which predates the Order but was later integrated into Hermetic theory. It is similar to some forms of Goetic magic. You draw circles, concentrating while inscribing arcane symbols in the border that define what is warded against. For example, you might choose 'mundane animals' or 'earth faeries' or 'demons'. You can even get really specific, like 'mundane animals larger than a mouse' or 'earth faeries not made of stone'. You may also use Arcane Connections to specific properties, like 'all mundane animals except my horse' or 'only the king of the faerie mountain'. This is a tiring if not lengthy practice, and is the basis for the Hermetic ward spells that normal magi can learn, but more flexible since the same power is used for all wards. Warding is extremely potent at keeping out magical beings, but is incapable of warding against those who possess true magic resistance rather than the sort that is provided by possession of supernatural Might. The wards categorize all things as either mundane or supernatural, and those things which are not so easily fit into categories do not have much trouble with them.

The Columbae introduced the Ring Duration and Circle Target to Hermetic magic, and possess skill in Ring/Circle Magic, being less limited than most other magi in how they are used. They draw their circles more quickly, and are much better at maintaining them. Further, they may treat any well-defined boundary as a circle by marking it plainly as they would a Warding circle. If the target is an enclosed space, they need only mark the outside of every entrance. If a natural boundary such as a forest or a city wall, they must traverse the border as if drawing a ring around it, marking it so that one symbol is visible in every direction. If any mark is erased or damaged, it is as though the circle is broken. By choosing to move more slowly, they may add the Warding symbols to their circles, allowing them to target or exclude as targets things of a specific shape or material, just as when using Warding. This allows them to incorporate Arcane Connections in the same way, too. These benefits apply, however, only to spells with Range Touch, Duration Ring and Target Circle - and no deviation. These abilities do not apply to use of Warding.

The Columbae recognize no similar hedge group anywhere in the world. They might exist, but according to the Columbae, all Columbae are Welsh. Hermetically, the Columbae have very few uniting features besides an interest in wards, though since the Schism War a select few have been attempting to produce a variant Aegis of the Hearth that would be castable on a circle rather than a boundary, or a Parma Magica based on a traced ring rather than a personal shield. So far, all attempts have failed, and the underlying feeling of the tradition is that their magic is fundamentally incompatible with that of the line of Bonisagus. This is why, they hold, the wards of Bonisagus (the Parma Magica and the Aegis) are so different from their own circular wards.

The biggest flaw of Columbae magic is that all Columbae must mark their targets to cast spells on them. A mark means that they must somehow indicate the target in a very definite way while casting, generally by drawing a magical symbol on the target in chalk that can be easily wiped away. They may use more permanent marks, for example by carving symbols into stone and digging the mark a bit deeper each time they cast the spell. Others favor colored ink, which they may write with or, in a pinch, throw at someone to mark them. Columbae can make a representaiton of their target or a model, such as a picture or figurine that clearly resembles the target, and mark that instead. They may also use and mark Arcane Connections to the target. These are usually the means they use when they are casting at more than Touch range.

Next time: The Donatores Requietis Aeternae

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