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Monday, 5 December 2016

Four Steps to Divinity

Four new spells for Wolf-Packs and Winter Snow. They make the caster into a god. Maybe not a particularly mighty one, but a god none the less.
Probably don't introduce these into your game unless you're absolutely sure you want to run a game where your PCs are deities. It can be fun - BECMI had the Immortals rules, after all - but it's the sort of jump in power that can make things get weird.

Bestow the Divine Touch
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: self
This spell allows a magician to grant their worshippers supernatural gifts; it is of most use to those who wish to become - or at least be perceived as - divine patrons.
This spell requires a full day, not a turn, to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with three magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present, who must offer heartfelt worship to the magician.
Once the spell has been cast at least once, the magician remains under its effect permanently. 
Whenever a being with the Divine Touch is aware that they are being offered worship, they may - at their whim - cast any spell they have access to, as if they were in the place of the one offering worship. This does not require rolls (for a mystic), use up memorised spells (for a magicians or morlock) or damage flesh (for a wendigo). However, unless the worship is coming from an actual Mystic, the divinity must make a Save against Magic when they cast in this way; if failed they suffer backlash.
They can - if they wish - relinquish control of the spell to the petitioner who offered them worship. In this case, the petitioner gets to choose all the details of the spell such as its targets and other variables. The spell scales with the level of the worshipper, not the deity, if this option is taken.
There is no additional benefit to casting this spell a second or further time. The sensation is, however, extremely pleasant.

Consume the Harvest of Divinity
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: self
This spell requires a full day - not a turn - to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with five magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present and offering heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the process.
The spell empowers the magician with a divine appetite. Whenever they are aware that they are the object of an act of worship, they are invigorated by it. They heal all damage and wounds done to them; cure all poisons, diseases and other afflictions; and can dispel any magical effect on them if they wish.
The sensation of receiving worship in this way is powerfully euphoric. The sheer joy of it surpasses any narcotic, food or sexual experience, and can become addictive for those of week will.
There is no actual benefit to casting this spell more than once. It is, however, very enjoyable.

Demand the Tithe of Souls
Rank: 8
Duration: permenant
Range: touch
This spell requires a full day - not a turn - to cast, during which the magician must be anointed with eleven magical reagents. In addition, another person must be present and offering heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the process.
This spell makes the one who casts it able to consume souls. Whenever they are aware that a person (IE a creature capable of speech) has been killed as part of an act of worship in their name, they may consume the sacrifice’s soul. They may also consume the soul of any being they directly kill themselves.
A being whose soul has been devoured cannot be resurrected in any way - they cannot be cloned, brought back as undead or any other such thing. They do not pass over to any afterlife such as the Gardens of the Dead. They simply cease to be.
Consuming a soul in this way causes the devourer to gain 100 experience points for every hit dice that the victim had. This process of consuming souls is extremely addictive.
There is no benefit to casting this spell more than once. It only makes the hunger for souls stronger.

Partake of the Bounty Of The Divine
Rank: 8
Duration: Permanent
Range: Self
This spell takes a full day (rather than a turn) to cast. In the process, the magician must be anointed with seven Magical Reagents, and  another person must be present - this person must offer heartfelt worship to the magician as part of the spell.
When it is first cast, this spell makes the caster a god. A minor one, confined to the material world, but still divine.  They gain no mechanical benefits simply for being a deity - if they wish to remain divine for long they probably require additional magic.
Every time an act of worship is directed to the new god after this spell is cast, they become aware. They instinctively know who it was that performed the act, and what was done in their name.
If the petitioner is offering worship in the hope of receiving a specific gift, then the new god is aware of this, and of the specifics involved.
There is no additional benefit to casting this spell a second or further time. The sensation is, however, extremely pleasant.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hacking LotFP classes for high fantasy

So, here's a thought. You want to run Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but you want to do so in a more high fantasy setting. Rather than coming up with a bunch of new classes - with all the potential for balance issues and mechanical problems - it's not hard to adapt the existing classes.
So here are some examples. This isn't about giving you more character options so you can minmax harder, but when a player goes 'hey, can I play a kobold', this is how you might go about it.

Orcs use fighters as their base class; they're reasonably tough but nothing special, and they're well enough experienced with combat that they can use fighter combat options. Their combat prowess comes not from training, but brute force. As such, they get the same +1 to hit-bonus as any other character. On top of this, the fighter's to-hit bonus is instead applied as a bonus to damage whenever their strength bonus would apply.
If you wanted to play a human with no real military training but who fights well - maybe a common thug, a (non-clerical) religious zealot, a raging berzerker, something like that - this also makes sense.

Goblins use the same stats as halflings, since both are small, sneaky, tricksy little gits. However, they have none of the halfling's affinity for nature but a rather worrying ability to crawl up walls, through tunnels and across treetops; instead of Bushcraft, they get an equivalent chance in Climbing. 

Ogres are big, tough and brutal. They use the same stats as dwarves; the good saves and hitpoints representing the ogre's bulk, and likewise the improved carrying capacity representing the ogre's size. Ogres aren't particularly bright, but they are good at breaking things. Replace the dwarf's Architecture skill chance with an Open Doors skill chance. Likewise, they're strong instead of tough, so they get an improved Strength bonus rather than an improved Constitution bonus.
Other big dumb brutes can also be done this way.

Various Types Of Elves
The elf in the book represents your common urban elf that can be found around human settlements. For less familiar elves, swap out the Search skill chance for a different skill, as follows.
Dark Elves: Sleight of Hand
High Elves: Languages
Subterannean Elves: Architecture
Wood Elves: Bushcraft

A paladin needs to be reasonably tough, with decent hit-points and good saves. They should ideally get some holy magic, and be a trained fighter, too. So, use an elf (with their decent saves, d6 hit-dice and ability to use fighter combat options), but restrict them to Lawful alignments, and have them use the cleric spell list rather than the magic user's. They still use a spellbook (rather than getting spells just by praying), representing a copy of the various vow's they've taken and the holy gifts granted, but otherwise cast like a cleric rather than a magic user.

Vampire Slayers
So, a vampire slayer should be resistant to supernatural nastiness (since they're blessed up to the eyes or have read about this before and know what to expect), have decent fighting skills, and be able to deal massive damage when they catch up to their target.
As a base for the class, use the halfling - the halfling's excellent saves correspond to the vampire-slayers ability to shrug off (or be prepared for) various supernatural problems. They lose the halfling's stealth, and replace it with sneak-attacks for quadruple damage. Rather than the skill in Bushcraft, a vampire slayer gets equivalent skill in Searching, as they're good at finding tracks, hidden crypts and so on. 
A vampire slayer doesn't get the halfling's bonus to AC or Dexterity, and doesn't have the halfling's weapon restrictions, since they aren't small and sneaky like a halfling. Instead, they can use fighter combat options.
Other thing-slayers might have a different skill instead of Searching. Dragon-slayers might get Architecture from all the time they spend in a dragon's underground lair. Demon-slayers might get Languages from all the nasty occult tomes they've read. Giant-slayers might get Climb what with all the time spent clambering around buildings sized for people twenty feet high.

Kobolds are small and annoying, so like goblins they use the halfling as a base. However, they aren't sneaky or good with nature, instead being expert miners and engineers. Replace the halfling's Stealth chance with Architecture, and their Bushcraft with Tinkering. They keep the halfling's extra to AC, due to the slight protection from scaly hides, but get an improved bonus to Constitution rather than Dexterity - they're tough rather than agile.
Gnomes are dumb, but if you want them in your game, use the same rules for them as for kobolds, since they occupy basically the same niche whilst being less interesting.

Doing magic by singing really well is daft and no sensible GM would allow it. Bards are scholars and performers, but not spellcasters because that's ridiculous.
If you want to play a Bard, take the Halfling as a base. Instead of stealth, you get 5-in-6 Languages because of your great knowledge. Instead of bushcraft, you get the same skill chance in Sleight-of-Hand due to your skill at legerdemain. Instead of the Halfling bonus to Dexterity, you get +1 to your Charisma bonus. Instead of the +1 to AC, you get an extra +1 to reaction checks and retainer/hireling loyalty and morale. Yeah, you're charming as hell.

Druids, Evil Cultists and other variant religions
Get your GM to write up a different spell list in place of the cleric spell list. Same number of spells at each level, though.
No, I can't be bothered to come up with the full spell lists, use your imagination. Druids get all naturey focused spells, evil cultists get the creepy necromancy and stuff.
Hell, if your GM is truly dedicated they'll give each religion a different spell list for their clerics.

Frank Frazetta's Barbarians
It's a fighter. A leather posing-pouch, chainmail bikini or scary helmet provide the same AC bonus as leather/chain/plate armour on a normal person, and costs the same. A barbarian can't wear normal people's armour, and visa versa.
Hell, maybe woad or whatever can give the same bonus to AC as armour if you really want.
You might also get the orc-style bonus to damage rather than to hit, if you're a rage-powered barbarian rather than a smart one like Conan.

Martial Artists
It's basically a fighter. A kung-fu master's different martial arts are represented with different 'weapons' - defensive fighting works like a shield, a flying kick works like a two-handed weapon, a sudden lunge like a spear, and so on. You can't lose these weapons or give them to somebody else. They cost the same as normal weapons, since kung-fu training means giving up worldly possessions. Because of the strain such martial arts training puts on your body, you're just as encumbered as if you had actual weapons, since you need to travel light.
If you want to throw chi blasts at people (and you're GM allows it), you can do that with crossbows or whatever.
You probably have to be lawful.

It works like a cleric, except that it has to be chaotic. The holy symbol used is probably blasphemous and horrible. Also the only spell on it's spell list is Summon, and it has Summon at every spell level. Every spell slot gets Summon prepared in it. You can make spell scrolls like a cleric, but only of Summon. You can still make holy water, protection scrolls and so on, and will probably need them. Good luck with that.

It's a specialist.Take sneak-attack.

It's a specialist.Take bushcraft.

Tieflings, Dragonborn, Kitsune
No. Play something sensible.
To preserve any but the most kitchen-sink tone, you probably don't want to have all these options all at once. A game world with (say) PC's that can be orcs and goblins as well as the 7 rulebook classes is going to feel very different to one with paladins and vampire slayers.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Hollow Ones

There are entities - in the depth of space or other worlds - that are best described as hungry. These beings are filled with a gnawing, all-consuming need to devour, to draw light and life and substance into the sucking void within them.
Thankfully, their very nature restricts them. Everything they contact directly is devoured, and their empty, formless bodies have little way to influence the world.
There are ways, however. By intangibly reaching out, they can forge a connection with thinking beings, hollowing them out within to become an extension of the all-consuming void. The hollow ones are people who have suffered this fate.

Hollow ones come in two forms. Lesser hollow ones are the vast majority, pitiful empty things constantly trying to fill the gap within them. Greater hollow ones are far more unusual. A Wendigo already understands and harnesses their hunger, so when hollowed they can use this to far greater effect. A greater hollow one forms a link to the void much like between a mystic and their patron, drawing on the emptiness to enhance their own power.

A lesser hollow one remains like the character they once were, with a few exceptions.
  • They require three times as much food each day to avoid starvation; three full meals worth.
  • They heal slowly. They never heal more than a single point of damage from any source of healing (including Medicine rolls, rest, spells, herbalism and so on).
  • They are emotionally numb. Any magic that would influence their emotions automatically fails.
  • Their unarmed attacks deal normal damage, but also stand a chance of hollowing out the victim. The victim must make a Save against Magic. If they fail, they immediately take d20 damage to their Charisma score. If this damage is enough to kill them, their body crumbles to ash and is utterly destroyed. If they survive, then they are hollowed out and become another hollow one (greater if they are a wendigo, or lesser otherwise).
  • If they are a Mystic, then their connection to their patron is devoured and the void becomes their patron. Re-roll all of their spells immediately. The next time they attempt to cast a spell, the Charm roll fails and they must roll on the Fickle Whims of the Divine table automatically.
  • If they are a Magician or Morlock, the Void seeps into their minds and infects their ability to cast spells. Whenever, they would suffer Magical Backlash from casting unsafe or experimental spells, they must also roll for the Fickle Whims of the Divine.
  • They are infertile. They will never have any children, and cannot be cloned or resurrected. Consuming their flesh gives a wendigo or hollow one no benefit. 
  • A hollow one can be easily identified as 'wrong' on casual observation. They are gaunt, pallid and anaemic looking, and are constantly hungry. The precise nature of the problem is not clear unless the observer is already familiar with hollow ones, of course.
A greater hollow one has all the effects of a lesser hollow one, as detailed above. A wendigo can, however, still heal fully by consuming human flesh like normal. Furthermore, whenever they deal charisma damage with their unarmed attacks, their condition progresses further.
Each time their condition progresses, their unarmed damage goes up a dice-size. First d4, then d6, d8, d10, d12 and finally d20.
  • After the first progression, the void overtakes their ability to cast spells. From this point on, rather than choosing spells, they pick a spell level and then roll a random spell. They can avoid taking damage when they cast a spell by rolling on the Fickle Whims of the Divine table.
  • After the second progression, the hollow one heals fully whenever they hollow out a victim of their unarmed damage, just as if they'd consumed human flesh.
  • After the third progression, they can command other hollow ones around them. A lesser hollow one must obey any order given to them by the greater hollow one, much like if the spell Command had been cast. At this point, the void infects their mind fully, slowing their ability to grow; all their XP costs to gain levels are doubled.
  • After the fourth progression, the hollow one automatically devours the magic from any magical item they touch. The magic item becomes completely mundane, and the hollow one heals fully just like they'd consumed human flesh.
  • After the fourth progression, no save can be made to avoid being hollowed out. A victim who is damaged by the hollow one's unarmed attack takes charisma damage automatically and is hollowed out if they survive.
  • After the fifth progression, anybody who touches the hollow one is automatically hollowed themselves. They only take charisma damage if they were attacked.
  • After the sixth progression, the hollow one no longer heals by any means (including magic, rest and consuming human flesh). The only exception to this is when they hollow out a person, which heals them fully as before. After this, there is no further progression to the hollow one; they have achieved their maximum potential.
Like Driders and Eloi, becoming a hollow one is another means of sideways progression for the game, at least for Wendigos. Of course, as well as this, an outbreak of hollow ones can become a horrible threat to the local community, so they make excellent monsters too.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Drider Teeth

A magic item from my weekly WP&WS game.

Drider Teeth are found in sets of six. Each is a glossy black chitin false-tooth, essentially shaped like human teeth but longer and sharper.

Each tooth fits into a single tooth-socket in the gums. Extracting a tooth (so that the socket is free for the false tooth to fit into) deals a single point of damage: if your system uses flesh and grit, the damage goes directly to flesh. Once placed in the gums, the wound rapidly heals over, and the Drider Tooth becomes part of the user's normal dentition. 
Each tooth has a different effect on the wearer. If they haven't been identified, then which tooth is selected will be random: roll a d6 to see which tooth is selected first (and then a d5 for the second tooth, a d4 for the third and so on). 

Roll a 1: The tooth gives the host perfect tremmorsense. They can feel any movement on the surface they are standing on, accurately pinpointing its location by tracking subtle vibrations.

Roll a 2: The host's saliva can spin webs. A small gland under the tongue allows the host to 'spit' strands of silk. This silk is as tough as normal silk, and can be woven into ropes, cloth and so on. The host can produce an area ten feet across of woven silk, or fifty feet of silk chord or rope, before their glands run dry and need a day's rest to recharge.
Roll a 3: The host's bite is poisonous. They deal no more damage than normal unarmed attacks, but enemies taking damage from an unarmed attack must pass a save vs poison or else suffer an addition 15 extra damage.
Roll a 4: The host can walk up walls and over ceilings just as if Spider Climb had been cast.
Roll a 5: The tooth lets the host move without creating any vibrations, and prevents them ever being trapped in webs. 
Roll a 6: The tooth allows the host to talk to spiders as if Speak With Animals had been cast on them. 

In addition, the teeth cause the host to be physically transformed; the more teeth in their mouth, the more their body is altered. The body naturally rejects these transformations; at two stages in the process, the host makes saves against magic as their body rebels against their transformation into a Drider. Failure indicates that the transformation continues to warp them, whilst a successful save results in the body fighting-back against being mutated.
With only one tooth, small chelicerae unfold from within the host's cheeks. These can be kept concealed inside the mouth normally, but emerge from the corners of the mouth if they wish to spin webs, use their poisonous bite or convers with spiders.
When a second tooth is worn, a Save vs Magic must be made; success means that the second tooth falls from the gum and is not worn. Another tooth must be extracted to put the tooth into its socket if the applicant is really keen. With a second tooth, the host's eyes split into eight pairs, around their head. They have an arc of vision far wider than most people, and can see to their sides as well as in front of them. This makes them quite hard to flank and gives them accurate peripheral vision. At this stage, the host's transformation begins to cause them difficulties; the XP costs for each additional level is doubles.
Once a third tooth is worn, the host's limbs extend and develop a third joint, causing them to bend in odd ways. This may give an advantage (+1 on a d6, +3 on a d20, or +15 on a d%) on rolls to wriggle through spaces.
When a fourth tooth is worn, the host's arms split length-ways, giving them two sets of arms. This lets them carry either: a ranged weapon like a bow as well as their close-combat weapons; two ranged weapons (letting them make two shots rather than one); a two-handed weapon AND a shield; several melee weapons (letting them attack twice in close-combat); or else weapons and utility items such as torches or holy symbols.
When five teeth are worn, the host's skin thickens into a glossy black exoskeleton, giving them +3 AC.
Like when two teeth are put in, trying to put a sixth tooth results in a Save vs Magic. Again, failure results in the tooth 'sticking' and further transformation. A successful save shows the body has made a last-ditch effort to return to its natural state; all six teeth fall from the host's mouth, and all benefits from the teeth are lost. When all six teeth are worn, the host's lower legs likewise split into multiple limbs. They sprout a bulbous lower abdomen, and their body re-arranges itself to resemble the classic 'Drider' anatomy. They gain an extra Hit Dice of their normal size (this will be a Flesh dice if your game uses flesh and grit). They no longer gain any benefits from gaining levels save for extra Hit Dice (which will all be Flesh Dice if your system uses them) and improved saves.

Drider teeth can be extracted once worn, undoing the transformation they cause.

(For reference, a full Drider has the following alterations from a normal character:
Permanent Spider Climb and Speak With Animals (spider only). Spin webs. Tremor-sense. Immunity to webs and causing vibrations. Poison bite for 15 damage. +1 hit dice. +3 AC. Multiple arms (potentially allowing two attacks). A bonus to wriggling. Double XP costs and no benefits save for hit-dice and saves from the point the teeth are put in.)

Like the Eloi I mentioned in a previous post, this is a sort of 'sideways advancement' that takes the character in a different direction compared to imply gaining levels.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Neanderthal Apothacaries (A work-in-progress class for WP&WS)

Here's a thing I'm working on. It's about Neanderthals and what they do instead of Magic.

Magic is not an easy skill to learn. Like the more abstract areas of advanced mathematics, modern physics or linguistics, it relies on concepts not commonly encountered in day-to-day life, and which the mortal mind is not adapted to deal with. Many of the thought-structures required for the practice of magic can only be approached by means of metaphor and analogy, grasped at but never fully understood.
It is an unfortunate fact that the Neanderthal mind is poorly adapted to this way of thinking. This isn’t to say that Neanderthals are unintelligent. Far from it, the Neanderthal mind excels at intuitive, practical tasks, and most of this race display an understanding of their material surroundings that put any human’s expertise to shame.
However, the side-effect of this is that the Neanderthal mind struggles with abstract or symbolic thinking. There are few Neanderthal artists, and fewer still could ever show any skill in modern fields like programming and mathematics. As such, no Neanderthal is capable of the thought-structures required to record, memorise and cast spells, or of the ecstatic states of mind to contact a mystic’s patron.
Instead, Neanderthals practice magic in a much more practical, patient form. They study the effects of plants, minerals and other substances, learning how to combine them to produce remarkable effects. This alchemy comes naturally to the more intelligent Neanderthals, where their stolid mindset proves an asset.
Is this magic? It's hard to say. A Neanderthal would say not, claiming that they are simply unlocking the natural properties of the ingredients they use. The practice has none of the sense of ritual and majesty that Human or Morlock magic does. However, an apothecary will often struggle to put into words exactly how their preparations work, and non-Neanderthals cannot reproduce the effects. It seems likely that the laborious process of combining ingredients unlocks something distinctly supernatural.

Here's how it works.

Apothecaries use the same XP chart and saves as a standard Neanderthal. Flesh and Grit are just like for a normal Neanderthal, but roll a d8 rather than a d10.
An Apothecary can't use combat options without penalty, unlike a normal Neanderthal.  
Rather than the skills a Neanderthal has, Apothecaries start off with a basic Medicine, Foraging and Crafts skill chance of 3 in 6, which slowly improves as they gain levels. These skills progress at the same rate as a standard Neanderthal's skills.

An apothecary can make herbal preparations like any other character, but has the additional option to make potions when they do.
A potion is a preparation that mimics a spell’s effect. When drunk (or eaten, or inhaled, or however the potion is prepared), the spell is immediately cast on the drinker.
A potion requires an Active Agent and a Medium, just like a drug does.
When an apothecary rolls to determine what effect an Active Agent has, they can select one of the options for Basic Active Agents. This determines what spell the potion mimics when consumed.
When an apothecary rolls to determine what effect a medium has, they can also select one of the options for potions (as given on Table A). The medium may modify the effects of the spell, for example by delaying its casting.
When putting a potion together, the apothecary can add a Magical Reagent (determined by rolling on table 23). If they do, the spell mimicked by the potion will be taken from the Enhanced Active Agent column.

In addition, it may be possible to find specific unique ingredients that can be used to make potions mimicking other spells (or even effects that are not spells). For example, the bile from a wyvern’s pyroclastic glands might be used to make a potion that allows the drinker to breath fire (as if they had just cast Fireball).

Spells such as Dispel Magic and Antimagic Shell have no effect on an apothecary's potions; they do not count as magical. An apothecary's potions cannot be recognised with Art rolls, however, a successful Medicine roll will reveal what the potion does.

Monday, 10 October 2016

D&D alignment is cosmic

So, I saw that the publishers of Pathfinder offered a rules clarification recently. If you're Good aligned, and cast an Evil-aligned spell (such as Animate Dead) twice in a row, you become Neutral. If you're Neutral and cast an Evil-aligned spell three times in a row, you become Evil.
This is, suffice to say, rather stupid.
But this raises the question 'what does Good and Evil mean' in that kind of game? You know, the ones with the 3x3 alignment grids. Because it strikes me that being 'Good' has very little to do with being, you know, a decent human being. And it's very possible to be 'Evil' and be the kind of person I'd happily associate with.

Let's look at Good here. A Good character can - and indeed is expected by the game - to be highly violent. Even murderous. Those orcs over there are objectively evil (you can tell, because magic says so). So what do you do? Slaughter them all and take their stuff. Having the 'evil' tag (or more accurately, the 'monster' tag) means that they're acceptable targets, and the game expects that you will invade their homes, slaughter all of them, loot their possessions. Sure, maybe you don't kill their children, and instead deposit them in an orphanage. Maybe you don't murder the babies is not the pinnacle of morality. Hell, a truly pacifist group of PCs will merely mind-control them into behaving how they want; normally to the monsters' detriment. How nice.
Bear in mind that this is a world where the spell Atonement exists.
Now, let's look at Evil. Evil is really easy in these worlds. Cast too many of the wrong spells, and BOOM you're now objectively Evil. It doesn't matter the circumstances, or what you achieve with that magic, you're now Evil. In fact, you could cast Animate Dead a few times, and become Evil, and stay that way, whilst being a much nicer and more morally upright individual than the orc-slaughterers above.
And then we get to the nitty-gritty of magic. Why is mind-control not evil? Why is it evil to animate a corpse (by putting some extra-planar spirit in it, apparently) whilst doing the exact same thing to make a golem is OK? Honestly, because the rulebook (and thus the game world's laws of physics) say so.

So how do we resolve this?

Good and Evil are, in these settings, objective things. They're measurable forces that have a concrete, real existance. Hell, in the outer planes you have whole worlds made of absolute, solidified Good and Evil. So, really, you just need to think of them as being forces of the world.
Alignment just means which side of the big cosmic battle you're on. It has nothing to do with your personal morality, or anything like that. Casting a spell with the 'evil' tag is no more morally wrong than casting one with the 'fire' tag might be.
Being Evil doesn't mean you're the bad guys, necessarily. 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Six Rites of Eloi Creation

So, a thing came up recently in my Wolf-packs and Winter Snow campaign. My players met a lich who was one of the ancient Morlocks; old enough that he remembered being a slave during the final days of the Serpent-Folk empire. I hinted at something I've decided as being canon for my own game; the Morlock slaves created their own gods as a weapon against the Serpent-Folk. The 'War In Heaven' between the Serpent-Folk and Morlock gods was responsible for their empire's fall.
For reference, I'd place the Serpent-Folk empire as first coming into existence 4 million years ago, during the late Pliocene. The Serpent-Folk may have existed for some time before that, but not in any significant form. They first began breeding Morlocks around 2.5 million years ago, from Homo Habilis, in the earliest days of the Pleistocene. The empire fell around .8 million years ago, during the mid-Pleistocene. Our lich, Abraxus, will have been alive at this time, making him around eight-hundred thousand years old.

Now, I portrayed Abraxus as being urbane, cultured and sophisticated. Although his technology level is still stone-age, his practice of magic is far in advance of anything his modern descendants the Morlocks, or their cousins the Humans and Neanderthals, are capable of. He describes these people as 'fallen from glory'. I think there may have been a civilisation populated by former slaves in the ruins of the Serpent-Folk empire, and that they were not the degenerate simpletons that the Morlocks of the 'modern' age are. Certainly, a lot of their magitech will have been scavanged, but they should have been capable of their own works, such as (for example) the creation of their own gods.

An idea occurred to me: what if these ancient Morlocks, rather than being inherently smarter and more civilized than their descendants, instead had ways to 'elevate' their own kind to a higher state? This, then, is where the idea of Eloi came from; the magical elites of Morlock society who have become post-human beings through a magical transformation. Here, then, is how I think this could be accomplished. It's only canonical in my own game, but feel free to include it in yours as well.

To become an Eloi requires a series of rituals, each of which brings the subject one step further down the path towards becoming an Eloi. Each step along the path must be taught to the Eloi-to-be, and requires a ceremony be performed with the mentor guiding them towards Eloi-hood. An undead Morlock can perform the rites, but will typically gain less benefit from them.
The process of becoming an Eloi causes a Morlock to neglect their physical prowess in order to focus on magical growth. As well as the listed effects below, the Eloi increases the attribute modifiers for all mental attributes (Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma) by the number of rites they have completed. The actual score remains unchanged. Likewise, the modifiers for their physical attributes (Strength, Dexterity and Constitution) are lowered by the number of rites the Eloi has completed.
(So, for example, after completing the first step, an Eloi with 10 strength and 10 wisdom would have a strength penalty of -1, and a wisdom bonus of +1. These increase to -2 and +2 after the second rite, and so on.)

The First Rite
The first stage is, in many ways, the most significant; it is the point of no turning back where the Eloi commits to the path. 
The first rite is very simple: the Eloi-to-be renounces mundane matters in pursuit of magical perfection. The rite consists of a dire oath to the mentor, ceremonially 'signed' by branding the mentor's palm-print over the Eloi-to-be's heart; to do this the mentor's hand will be coated in hot tar to allow their palm to scorch the Eloi-to-be's skin. This brand deals d4 damage to the flesh of each.
An Eloi who has completed the first rite has all the XP requirements to gain levels doubled. They understand that they will learn only slowly, and their minds no longer develop as normal. Instead, much of their advancement will come as steps down the path to Eloi-hood.
After completing the first rite, an Eloi no longer ages, although they will finally die of old age when their time comes. They become completely infertile. Although they can still catch diseases, they will never transmit them to others; they are never infectious.
After only the first rite, an Eloi cannot perform the rites to make another Morlock like themselves.

The Second Rite
The second rite expands the limits of the Eloi-to-be's mind, granting them a greater understanding of magic and breaking the curse of simple-mindedness bred into them.
This rite requires that the Eloi-to-be's mind be altered. To do this, the Eloi-to-be is rendered immobile or numb to pain, by the use of narcotic drugs. Using long, thin needles, the mentor drills a number of tiny holes in the Eloi-to-be's skull, into which a number of ritually prepared substances are inserted to unlock the magical potential of the Morlock brain. These substances are, in game terms, three magical reagents, each of them unique to the specific Eloi-to-be's anatomy. Determining which reagents will be required (and where they must be placed) requires several days of careful study on the part of the Eloi-to-be and their mentor.
Once completed, the second rite allows the Eloi to perform experimental magic. They can cast spells in unusual forms and research new spells; they have all the capabilities of a human magician. They can also, if they wish, record spells on a sanctum wall just like a human magician would. In addition, the Eloi gains an Art skill chance equal to their Perception skill chance.
Again, an Eloi cannot perform the second rite at this stage of initiation.

The Third Rite
The third rite is where the Eloi gains full understanding of their state. It is the tipping-point midway through their initiation, where they finally become more Eloi than Morlock.
The rite is more complex than those before. The Eloi-to-be must be brought into a hallucinatory state through the consumption of psychadelic substances. There, their mentor guides their visions carefully, pulling their gaze inwards. In order to truly unlock the potential in their genetics, the Eloi-to-be must open their 'third eye'. They direct the mentor to a particular spot on their forehead, and the mentor cuts away a flap of skin and then drills out a disk of bone. A single magical reagent (again uniquely chosen for each Eloi, as in the second rite) is placed in the new socket and covered again with skin to form a mystical third eye.
After completing the third rite, the Eloi can now mentor other Eloi-to-be through the first to third rites. They do not require a mentor for any further rites, instead instinctively understanding what they must do to achieve the next step on the path (but not what effect it will have on them).
In addition, the Eloi becomes innately aware of the state of their body. They can simply understand, through concentration, any diseases, injuries or disorders they are afflicted with, and the effects these have.

The Fourth Rite
The fourth rite cuts the Eloi off from the world around them. They renounce their former lives and become something other than mortal.
The rite is incredibly complex, requiring the Eloi to perform a ritual fast for three days before beginning. After a series of complex gestures and syllables, the Eloi must consume the heart of another Morlock, although it need not be fresh and the donor need not have been killed for this purpose. This is left to digest, and then ritually vomited up, symbolically purging their species from them.
After the fourth rite, the Eloi's heart can no longer be substituted for a magical reagent or sacrifice. Neither they nor their body can be used for magical reagents or sacrifices. A wendigo gains no benefit from consuming their flesh. Their material form loses its magical potency and their souls are of no interest to the gods and spirits; they are only vessels for the Eloi's magical nature. The Eloi will no longer die of old age.

The Fifth Rite
The fifth rite causes the Eloi's spirit to become seperate from their body, with only the most tenuous of links.
The rite must be performed alone and in total darkness. The Eloi must remove all tattoos, scars, and brands from their skin, flaying any bodily modifications down to the flesh. They must be left with no spells recorded on their skin, and no marks of the previous rites. Each spell deals 1 point of damage to flesh when removed. The Eloi can spend as long as they wish to complete this rite, but once begun it must be completed in a single attempt. If the Eloi enters light or the company of another person before it is completed, then the fifth rite, and any subsequent ones, are forever cut off to them.
After completing the fifth rite, the Eloi no longer requires food, water, sleep, or air. They do not feel pain. They merely exist, without requiring any external support.
After the rite is performed, the Eloi can re-record any spells they wish into their flesh.

The Sixth Rite
The sixth rite is the final rite in the process. Unlike those before it, it does not merely affect the Eloi themselves, but all Morlocks in the world. It is unknown if it will also affect other hominid species.
Completing the Sixth Rite requires many hundreds of mortal lifetimes, and is incredibly complex. The ritual's requirements include, but are not limited to the following:
-All the Serpent-Folk must be killed with no chance of returning.
-All the Serpent-folk's gods must be destroyed completely and permenantly.
-A number of complex geomantic monuments must be placed around the planet to extend the rite's effect.
-At least one Serpent-Folk (alive, undead, in an embryonic state or otherwise) must be ritually sacrificed for every Morlock that has ever been born. This is probably best achieved through the rapid mass production of embryonic Serpent-Folk that are killed in huge numbers before reaching maturity.
-The Eloi performing the rite must truly die at least once. Unless this is the final step they perform, they had better have a way to return from it (most likely as an undead being) afterwards.
At least one Eloi - the Lich known as Abraxus - is currently working on completing the sixth rite, and has been doing so for several thousand years. It is unknown if he has assistance from other Eloi in this endeavour.
It is unknown what the completion of the sixth rite will actually do. Abraxus, in his transcendent madness, believes that it will free all Morlocks and their descendants from the shackles of mortality.
The sixth rite is not a practical goal for PCs to pursue over the course of a campaign; the scope and wide-ranging effects of it are far beyond what can be modelled in a table-top session. Instead, the pursuit of the sixth rite is a plot device, driving the actions of NPCs. It is possible that an Eloi pursuing the sixth rite could become a 'patron' of low-level PCs, setting them quests that help towards their completion of some step of the sixth rite.

Non-Morlock PCs might be able to perform and benefit from the rites. In my campaign, they cannot, but variant versions for each other species can be developed. The effects of these rites are broadly (but not totally) similar, and can only be performed by human Magicians and Mystics, or by Neanderthal Apothecaries. Where for Morlocks, the rites rely on body modification, for humans the rites require the creation of magical artefacts and monuments, whilst for Neanderthals the rites require the use of alchemy.