1 And that was just the start of the whole mess.
2 I don't know about you, but the movie Wizard of Oz always scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. The flying monkeys, man.
3 I could reform my own soul and still blast as many people as I'd ever blasted before.
4 Reform my soul? I'm trying to keep my soul!
5 The trick was to blast the right people. Heal the world's pain, protect the chi.
6 Maybe someday somebody else will point you towards the clue dispenser.
7 I believe this is your preferred instrument of destruction. You will find it fully loaded.
8 I tried to use the cross-time cell phone Prof had given me to call for reinforcements, but I was getting nothing but static.
9 I'm humiliated that you would even feel the need to ask.
10 Hey, I know my style, and whoever put together this interrogation chamber had it to spare.
11 If you meet someone mysterious and beautfiul who fears magic, she may not be what she seems.
12 Just call Mr. Browning a suspicious guy.
13 I just deliver 'em, I don't sort 'em out afterwards.
14 My chance of getting both of us alive to any emergency ward was less than zero.
15 And then after that it gets kind of confusing.
16 I guess he really was descended from African royalty. Least, he looked good in tweed.
17 He just muttered something about the Thorns of the Lotus being amateurs compared to the Gestapo, and got on the cell phone to a building contractor.
18 I looked down at what I was wearing. Some nasty flannel stuff. Not remotely GQ.
19 And just like gangsters, Netherworld monarchs turn out to be impressed by a display of cojones.
20 So I swallowed hard and did something potentially deeply stupid.
21 The Inner Kingdom was a nice place to visit, but I had no intentions of living here.
22 The Fire Pagoda I'd heard so much about was pretty weird all right.
23 Air conditioning is not a factor at the Fire Pagoda. Ice-cold beer wasn't on the menu.
24 It is the dragon, and even if it does not exist, its voice is the voice of freedom.
25 There is no God but God, and no fate but that which he prepares for us.
26 I would never do such a thing normally, but he was a hero, and it was how he would have wanted it.
27 Roll the dice, pass the chips.
28 Look, the boss said we help you, so we help you. Don't ask so many questions.
29 Once a Dragon, always a Dragon. I know that now.
30 Tell me what you want stolen, and what's between me and the target, and I'll get it for you faster than cop on black.
31 You want guns? I got crazy gun! Got in shipment from Europe this week - Russian AK-74s! So bad to get hit by, the Afghanistanis call them 'poison needle,' eh? This time, they even come with the firing pin!
32 No, nothing interesting happened at work today.
33 Yo, Adrian! I'ma go in dere and win for... uh... you know, dat one guy.
34 Kids. That's a big area. We talking Killkids, Uberkids, Mark IIs, what?
35 I've got savoir-faire, Gentle Reader, but it only goes so far.
36 Ever seen a chimp smile?
37 Then let's get out there and take that hill the only we know how - headfirst!
38 Say, did that look like a monkey's paw to you?
39 I regretted the unfortunate losses, but on the battlefield, such things were to be expected.
40 At this point, they are human only in a cosmetic sense.
41 Come back in glory, young warrior, or on your shield.
42 Consumer! Cease your unauthorized selftransportation!
43 Fer your protection and edification, the Penitence Assistance Officers are equipped with Pacification Implements.
44 Dammit Shiny, that was completely over the top!
45 I thought your 'Cop Channel' said we must run for a full day to be free.
46 But at the BHP they made me happy, and when you're happy all the time, distinctions like right and wrong lose their meaning.
47 I must have miscounted. There was supposed to be one left for me.
48 It's like they opened my skull and scooped out the part that gives a damn.
49 I'm dead, Chang. Dead like you. But the drugs at least make me feel half-way alive.
50 They tortured me and drugged me and brainwashed me, but you went willingly.
51 He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.
52 He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.
53 This was, of course, the Old Man's fault.
54 Perhaps the Old Man was right after all.
55 Master, my name is Two Ox. I have come to serve.
56 Dipping his brush in the life-blood of a child, he wrote the proper spell and then touched the paper to the flame.
57 We cannot pay these. The Emperor asks too much.
58 No. I have waited years for this moment.
59 Leave nothing standing, not a single rock.
60 Put in a good word for us. We're good people.
61 Put in a good word for us. We're good people.
62 Poor fool - your death is my freedom.
63 Sometimes we are five. Sometimes we are one.
64 I imagine you're all wondering why I've called you here...
65 You're making a big mistake, Captain.
66 You're making a big mistake, Captain. (Again.)
67 This is a damn fool idea.
68 Do me a favor and don't tell your mother how close that was. You know how she worries.
69 You can't win, Cyclone! You cannot stand against the pure light of justice! BIFROST'S BURNING BLADE!
70 I see by your blue jeans that you're from the 20th Century.
71 No, I don't want your freakin' money. I've got millions of dollars from a dozen lost junctures.
72 The fire is flexible but direct. It worms its way into any crack, but it never fails to burn.
73 All that armor seems to be slowing you down. Perhaps I should fight with my eyes closed so I don't get bored.
74 All is not yet lost! I anticipated his treachery. I have...a plan.
75 Try cutting out the left patella and inserting...oh, say, forty milliliters of ants into the wound before covering.
76 Noble sir, you look like a man of great insight and sophistication. You certainly can appreciate these fine...metal things my son discovered in the fields yesterday.
77 Oh yes. Drog smash and crush. How original. How about leaving the brainwork to me?
78 Oh yes. Drog smash and crush. How original. How about leaving the brainwork to me? (Yep, again he duped.)
79 If Atari Teenage Riot are such anarchists, what are they doing selling their music to corporate exploiters?
80 Ya, theory demands a radical approach here, but I think that theory was not written in the Netherworld.
81 We must harden our hearts and bodies - that is why you must pass the Ordeal of the Smoldering Coals.
82 Bow before the might of the Tentacle!
83 Do not misuse any of the objects in this book in real life. Seriously.
84 Chair, Wheel (see Wheelchair)
85 I know that you have strayed far from your li. You can pretend to be human all you like. Now I know the truth.
86 Yes, Perfect Master. I am as a blind man before you.
87 Look, you piece of shit, you think a bunch of preteens with guns they don't even know how to use are going to scare me?
88 I lived through Nam, you punk, so take your best shot!
89 Big Sword Shin doesn't need anyone, you hear me?
90 Who the fuck are you, man?
91 Me? I'm Wong Fei Hong.
92 You killed my friends, imperialist dog! Now taste my steel!
93 Thank you, warden. There is no greater gift than the peace that you preserve.
94 Loyalty is like a sword.
95 If you betray me, I'll rip your throat out.
96 I've come to take you to the Unspoken Name.
97 I like it here. I don't want to be a tiger again.
98 I just hope for your sake you don't wake up with four legs and a tail one of these days.
99 Alert the Fist of the Bear! And dice those peppers!
100 Try not to bleed on me, darling. This dress is a Paris original.
101 I'm not authorized to tell you why I have to kill you.
102 I talk and you listen, because you don't want to deal with the alternative.
103 Is nothing sacred in this time?
104 The hotel wasn't a hotel after all.
105 The hotel wasn't a hotel after all. (Yep, again.)
106 Maybe if I bury you for a thousand years, you'll end up worth something.
107 Natural order, is it? That is such a pain in the ass.
108 Dr. Ramirez, check the glucose levels in General MacArthur's tank. He's babbling about liberating the Philipines again.
109 Tairong, the Wheel's waiting for you. One way or the other.
110 The first thing you'll notice is the smell.
111 That's all hokum.
112 Mama Cass and Baby Bear have punted! We got a hot ham and cheese sandwich, people!
113 She might be an ugly duckling, but she'll outlast anything on the water.
114 Wowzers! Get a load of the charlies on that bird! Uh, I mean...ook, ook, ook!
115 You know, I'm, like, a goddess and stuff. Really.
116 Let's resurrect him so I can kill him again.
117 Try this gorgonzola. Tell me it isn't perfection.
118 Yes, it is sad. Don't look at it, look at me. If you want my services, it is necessary, however.
120 I cannot tolerate such a risk to the Mainland, sir.
121 Call it "Intelligence From the Secret Front," if you want.
122 Apologies ofr my forwardness, but I find you most attractive.
123 I am the Phantom Killer. I work in secret. No one knows who I'll kill next.
124 From earth I came, into the ground you'll go.
125 Don't be intimidated by my appearance. Be intimidated instead by my Ferocious Leap of Flame's Dance!
126 Fools! In killing me you only doom yourselves!
127 What a majestic, peaceful animal! Can I pet it?
128 If you're so badass, why can't I hear your soundtrack?
129 You don't find me scary? That's all right. I'm not here to be scary. I'm here to be unspeakably violent.
130 By all means, distract yourself by taking a hostage.

And that was just the start of the whole mess.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: And that was just the start of the whole mess.

This is actually the second edition of Feng Shui. I don't have the first. That's okay, we don't need it. We open up with some fiction about a guy who agreed to do a job for Fast Eddie Lo, a gangster of some kind, so he could save his buddy Steve. He's trying to take out a rival gangster, Big Brother Tsien. Our friend wanted to be out of the game, but he's going back in for Steve. Except some other person is trying to kill Tsien, too - an unnaturally strong masked woman! Then the mooks arrive and chaos breaks loose...and a crazy old martial artist dude shows up. And takes several bullets to the face without flinching. In the meantime, Tsien has grown horns and scales. Shit has hit the fan.

Welcome to Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is the game in which you and your friends face off against sinister time-travelling eunuch wizards, secretive time travelling conspirators and twisted time travelling mad scientists. In Hong Kong, of course. This secret war is all for the control of feng shui sites , which harness and intensify the planet's chi, or life force. Those who control the sites benefit from it, and thus was geomancy born. History belongs to those who control the feng shui. (Which you pronounce however you want, says a sidebar.)

Everyone wants to control the feng shui sites. Whoever manages it in the end will rule the world. Unfortunately, the war isn't just now: it's across time. Fortunately, you've found a portal into the Netherworld, aka the Inner Kingdom, a mysterious realm which holds the key to time travel. You are now an Innerwalker, a Secret Warrior: one of the players in the war for the world's history. You're outnumbered. You're probably outgunned. But that's okay. You're a hero. If your will is strong, you can dodge bullets. If your heart is pure, you can take 18 slugs to the chest and keep going. If your kung fu is great, you can run up a vertical wall, leap off and have a swordfight with someone who did the same thing in the other direction. This is the land of the Hong Kong action movie. The stunts are crazy, the melodrama is high and the stakes are higher.

We also get a short essay to experienced gamers about how, yes, this game focuses on combat as a major element, has fairly simple character generation and encourages cliches and glorious violence. It then says that, no, they have not been failing to pay attention, they're just trying to make a game about action movies. So yeah, that's some self awareness, which is good. We also get a sidebar on gender pronouns and how the game is just going to switch whatever pronoun it uses at random and assume we can keep up.

So, let's take a look at our setting. First up: the Netherworld. Also called the Inner Kingdom, the Netherworld is a world connected to our world via portals, which are hidden in out-of-the-way places and can only be seen by those with strong chi (read: PCs and important NPCs). The Netherworld itself is a series of dimly lit tunnels. There's no light, but it's always possible to see anyway. The tunnels are made of gray and indistinct nature, unless one of the residents of the Netherworld has reshaped it to something else in the area. Some of them can do that. The air is both dusty and moist, and there's fog hanging aroudn the floor. Thousands of people live there, from any number of times and places. Most are stranded time travellers. Some are people whose times have been erased from history by the Secret War. Some of them are dangerous, some are helpful.

From the Netherworld, you can find portals to other places in your time, or other times in general, past or future. Each time period accessible from the Netherworld is called a Juncture . Only a few Junctures can be gotten to at any given moment. For the past few years, there have (by default) only been four: 69 AD, 1850, The Present (read: the 90s) and 2056. However, each year that goes by goes by for all junctures. Next year, it'll be 70 AD, 1851, and so on. Everyone involved in the Secret War uses the Netherworld for travel between the Junctures, where they try to attack each others' feng shui sites. There are a number of factions, which we'll cover in a bit. First we have some brief mechanical info to look at. The book intersperses mechanics and fluff in a particularly weirdly organized way.

Anyway. For every time you roll dice, you roll 2d6. One of these d6s is positive, the other is negative. The book suggests different colors to make it easy to tell apart. There's two kinds of rolls: Closed and Open. A closed roll is simple: roll the positive die and the negative die, subtract the negative from the positive, take the result and add it to your Action Value for the action to see what happens. An open roll is similar, except the dice explode. However, if you roll a 6 on each die, rather than both exploding, we call that boxcars . Boxcars mean you either critically succeed or fail, and you find out which by rerolling, ignoring further Boxcars results.

If your roll plus your Action Value beats the difficulty of a check, you succeed. If not, you fail. Succeeding by higher amounts is better. Simple! You can critically fail (excuse me, Way-Awful Fail ) in two ways: The first is to fail a roll after Boxcars. The second is to have a final check result that is negative. Something really bad happens - your guns jam, or if you are a sorcerer you suffer backlash. More on that later. Boxcars and success, well, they typically mean something interesting and cool happens.

Now, factions. First are the Eaters of the Lotus . These guys run Barter Town in 69 AD; they are a secret society of eunuch wizards attending the Emperor. They secretly run the place. Until recently, they were concerned only with their power in their own Juncture. However, they have recently discovered the Secret War and the Netherworld, and now they want to seize the feng shui sites of other Junctures in order to extend their empire forwards in time. It was a bit of a shock for them to find out they'd lost power.

Second are the Ascended , a thousand-year-old conspiracy which controls most of the 1850 and present day feng shui sites. Thus, they secretly rule the world. They recruit people through all kinds of organizations, and the truly promising are asked to join the Pledged, who report to the higher-ups of the Lodge. In fact, most Pledged don't even know the Lodge exists. The Ascended rely heavily on chi-based supernatural powers, but they are heavily opposed to actual sorcery and magic - which is a controlled, directed form of natural chi. The Ascended rely heavily on political power and resources - police forces, armies, the media, and so on. Their origins are mysterious and their goals obscure. Some say their leaders aren't even human. But everyone knows one thing: they're not giving up power without a fight.

Then there's the Guiding Hand , a group with roots in the 1850 Juncture and some ties to the modern Juncture. They are Chinese patriots and traditionalists who see their world collapsing into decadence and decay. They want to steal the power of the Ascended by seizing the feng shui sites, so that they may create a regime of Confucian teachings, obedience and discipline. Their leadership is a group of Shaolin monks from the 1850 Juncture, and their focus tends to be on chi power, especially kung fu. They'll use guns if needed, but they don't like them much. They hate sorcery and monsters, viewing them as corrupt and terrible. The book notes that while they're kind of sympathetic to some PCs, most won't want to live in the obedient and ordered world they'd create.

Next up? The Architects of the Flesh , the scientific tyrants of 2056. They captured the feng shui sites of their era, allowing them to suborn the United Nations and turn it into a fascist police state over the entire planet. The future is drab and dreary under them, and the Architects keep it that way not only via the sites but also their unique Arcanowave technology: technology that can manipulate magical energy. Using it, they create Abominations - cybernetically enhanced supernatural monster-soldiers. They routinely raid the 69 AD Juncture for supernatural creatures to convert. They also want to conquer the past, extending their rule backward through time - starting with the modern world.

The Jammers are a rebel group from 2056. Most are misfit humans, though their leadership contains several prominent ape experiments in early cybernetics. They want to overthrow the Architects and free their world, but the future's just too locked down. As a result, the Jammers have retreated to the Netherworld, where they raid feng shui sites in other junctures. Unlike most groups, they don't want to harness the power of the world's chi. They want to blow it up in order to free humanity's destiny from the hold of power. They hate magic, exotic chi powers and so on. If they won, they'd probably destroy the Netherworld, certainly end the Secret War and possibly even destroy humanity in general. As such, while many sympathize with them, many also fear their anti-chi efforts could destroy the human soul.

The Four Monarchs are a pretty minor force in the war, but they're very important in the Netherworld. They are four siblings: Ming I, Queen of the Darkness Pagoda, Huan Ken, King of the Thunder Pagoda, Li Ting, King of the Fire Pagoda and Pi Tui, Queen of the Ice Pagoda. Each is a very potent sorcerer that used to rule a quarter of the Earth, when history was different. In fact, they ruled the planet from the dawn of man to 1988, in a world where magic was commonplace and machines were not. However, their internal bickering doomed them, and they never noticed the Ascended capturing key feng shui sites in the past. As a result, their world was erased from history and they were relegated to the Netherworld to plot their revenge and return...and, of course, keep up the infighting. Some of the Four Monarchs have made alliances...and others might be good bosses for PCs.

The Dragons are probably closest to your PCs, though, when they get around to joining a faction. Very recently, they fought a massive battle across all four Junctures and the Netherworld. And they lost. The Dragons were founded to preserve freedom and justice throughout time and the secret war. However, they made enemies far too quickly and were crushed. Their feng shui sites were assaulted simultaneously by the Jammers, the Architects and the Lotus-Eaters, severely weakening the Dragons. Now, most of their number are dead, crippled or lost in time. However, a few of their teaching gurus and support staff remain, alive but in hiding. Perhaps the PCs could find them and pick up the pieces, succeeding where the last group of heroes failed.

Next time: Character Creation!

I don't know about you, but the movie Wizard of Oz always scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. The flying monkeys, man.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I don't know about you, but the movie Wizard of Oz always scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. The flying monkeys, man.

We return to our friend the anonymous assassin and his problems with his friend Steve. The old kung fu guy is gone, and he's teamed up with a cyborg from the future and the kung fu lady from the last story. They have met up with the Queen of the Ice Pagoda, who has told him that to save Steve he's going to have to remake his soul. And shoot people. This isn't the kind of soul-remaking where you stop doing that, it's the kind where you protect the world's chi. Our friend has no idea what's going on, and the cyborg guy lets slip that the Jammers may end up destroying the souls of the entire world, but he can't say more because he used to be one but they put a bomb in his head to keep him from revealing certain secrets. So our friend is confused. And then a horde of cybernetic apes with helicopters on their backs attack, and he gets a chance to get over his fear of the Wizard of Oz by shooting the hell out of them.

Feng Shui!

Now, the first thing you're going to do to create a character is simple: you choose an type , which is basically a character class. It determines what powers you have access to and what skills you have. Once you've done that, you come up with some personality traits and so on, maybe some catch phrases. And also a melodramatic hook . Everyone has one of those. At least one. This is a problem which haunts or drives you and will come up in your adventures again and again. The book gives some examples.

Feng Shui posted:

  • Has sworn vengeance against [bad guy], who killed their [loved one].
  • Is the [relative] of [bad guy].
  • Has terminal disease.
  • Is torn by remorse, responsible for the accidental injury or death pf an innocent.
  • Has sworn to clear the name of their late [loved one].
  • Is not human, or is only partially human, and is all torn up about it.
  • Is in love with someone whose position forbids their union, such as a cop in love with a criminal, a human with a non-human, or anyone in love with someone from an evil faction.

Anyway, that's...all you need. You're done, since your type determines what you start with! So let's take a look at what that is. First, there are four primary attributes , each of which has secondary attributes . Normally, all secondary attributes are equal to the primary, but some types will change that. An attribute can have any value between 0 and 10. Higher than 10 is superhuman and won't happen often.

Body (Bod) is your physique and health. Particularly frail people have it at 1 or 2, your average person is around 5 and really great athletes are 8+. Its secondary attributes are:
1. Move (Mov) , which determines how fast you can run. Combat in Feng Shui is in three-second sequences , which we'll get into later, but during a sequence you can move (Mov*3) meters while doing something else as well. If all you're doing is moving, you can go (Mov*4) meters.
2. Strength (Str) , which is your ability to exert force on objects and lift things. Also your ability to hit people really hard and be fuckin' ripped as hell.
3. Constitution (Con) , which is your ability to resist pain and shock. It also determines how good your immune system is and your resistance to poison.
4. Toughness (Tgh) , which is your ability to not fall over from injury. No, really, it determines how much damage you can take before you're KOed or killed.

Chi is your attunement to the mystical life force of the Earth. Your average person has Chi 0 and knows jack shit about chi. Particularly lucky or successful people might have Chi 2. More than that is the domain of sorcery, secret warriors and magic kung fu. Its secondary attributes are:
1. Fortune (For) , which is how lucky you are. Every session, you get Fortune Dice equal to your For, and you can spend them to roll an additional die on a check and add it to your result, but you can only use one Fortune Die per check. Also, sometimes the GM will decide random things happen. If they're good, they happen to the guy with the highest For in the group. If they're bad, they happen to the guy with the lowest For. However, if you've spent Fortune Dice, your For is temporarily lowered by the number you've spent that session. Luck is not infinite.
2. Kung Fu (Fu) , which is your power to fuel mystic chi abilities of martial arts. You can be a great martial artist without Fu, but you need Fu to be a supernatural martial artist. Without Fu, you can't learn Fu schticks , the secrets of mystic kung fu.
3. Magic (Mag) , which is your aptitude for magical spells. Having Mag doesn't mean you can cast magic, of course - just that you have the ability to learn how. Also, it helps resist magical powers.

Mind (Mnd) is your mental and interpersonal abilities. Your average person has Mnd 5, while a 7 is particularly smart or charismatic and an 8 is genius-level. Its secondary attributes are:
1. Charisma (Cha) , which is your personal magnetism. High Cha means you're good at coming off the way you want to come off. Sexy, scary, respected, whatever. Low Cha means you come off as contemptible, ridiculous or revolting, even if you don't want to.
2. Intelligence (Int) , which is your ability to think clearly and systematically. Good Int makes you good at puzzles, memory and understanding abstract ideas.
3. Perception (Per) , which is your alertness and powers of observation. High Per makes you good at deduction, noticing details and reading people's emotions and motivations.
4. Will (Wil) , which is your emotional resilience, confidence and determination. High Wil helps resist the efforts of charismatic people and overcome mind-affecting powers.

Reflexes (Ref) is your coordination and dexterity. Infants are around Ref 2, clumsy people are Ref 3. Average human is Ref 5, and great athletes are around 8. Secondary attributes are:
1. Agility (Agl) , which is your aptitude for gross motor skill. That is, stuff involving your whole body, like dancing, acrobatics or punching people.
2. Manual Dexterity (Dex) , which is your fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This is useful for video games, shooting things and stunt driving.
3. Speed (Spd) , which is your reaction time. Speed determines who acts first in a fight and how fast.

Then you have Skills , which are a bonus added to an attribute for a check. Generally, it'll be added to a secondary attribute, but in most characters that'll be exactly the same as the primary, so it barely matters. What are the skills? Well, there's all kinds of skills but here's the ones you'll run into most often:
Arcanowave Device (Mag) , which can't be learned at chargen if you don't start with it. Only someone from 2056 can have this one at chargen, and it's operation of and knowledge about the Arcanowave technology of the Architects, which mixes magic and technology.
Creature Powers (Mag) , which can't be learned at chargen if you don't start with it. In fact, it's useless to most characters, because it's the use of mystic powers possessed only by Ghosts, Abominations and Supernatural Creatures.
Deceit (Cha)
Detective (Per)
Driving (Dex)
Fix-It (Per) , which is repairing or inventing stuff.
Gambling (For)
Guns (Dex) , which can't be learned at chargen if you don't start with it.
Info (Int) , which is a category of skills. If you have Info: [Thing], you know about [Thing]. Info skills are often customized from what your Type actually lists them as.
Intimidation (Cha)
Intrusion (Agl) , which is breaking and entering without being caught.
Journalism (Int)
Leadership (Cha) , which is getting people to follow your orders.
Martial Arts (Agl) , which can't be learned at chargen if you don't start with it.
Medicine (Int) , which uses Mag as its base attribute if you're from the 69 AD Juncture instead.
Police (Per) , which can't be learned after chargen for some reason. If you want it later, take Detective, they do mostly the same things - that is, snooping.
Sabotage (Dex) , which breaks things.
Seduction (Cha)
Sorcery (Mag) , which can't be learned at chargen if you don't start with it.

You can choose to reduce the scores your type starts with. There are no benefits to doing so, by default, but you can. The book also says that if you don't like how your character turned out in the first session, you can go back and change your chargen scores so that you'll have more fun. Within reason, of course, but the point is fun, so who cares if the numbers changed a little?

Each Type also starts with a certain number of Schticks , or powers, and weapons. These come in several varieties: Gun schticks let you do crazy gun tricks, Creature Powers are weird monster tricks, Sorcery is magic spells, Arcanowave Devices are self-explanatory, Fu Schticks are kung fu powers and some character types get a Unique Schtick, a power only that type has. You also get a list of possessions, but really - the only things you need to keep track of are your weapons or plot-related items. Other than that, you just convince the GM you could reasonably have something on hand and you do. Of course, your Wealth Level matters here...

There's three Wealth Levels. Rich means you don't have cash problems. If you want something that can be bought, you can get it. If you abuse this power, the GM can say 'no', but anything you want within reason is yours. You don't even have to spend time working for it! Working Stiff means you've got a salary and a job. You can't afford expensive items, but you've got some spare cash around. Unfortunately, you have to work for it - which means your job could be put in jeopardy by your adventuring. This is intended for melodrama, not annoyance. Poor means you have your clothes, your weapons and that's it. While you can probably scrape up enough cash for meals, you don't have a steady room, let alone a home, and if you need something, you're not going to just buy it, because you can't afford it.

So, what types are available? Let's take a look.

First off is the Abomination . Abominations used to be monsters from the 69 AD Juncture. Ogres, gargoyles, demons, whatever. Then the Architects of the Flesh kidnapped them off to 2056, where they were horrifically experimented on and turned into cyborg killing machines for Buro, the 2056 government. Most Abominations are stupid and programmed for loyalty. You were lucky - you broke free of the mental domination...and you didn't commit suicide. Now, you stand against your former masters, using your monstrous powers and Arcanowave weapons. They are determined to destroy you - rogue Abominations are not appreciated. However, you escaped to the Netherworld and learned about the Secret War. Your life is pain and torment, but with it you have gained a conscience and the knowledge that if you can be changed into this tortured form, you can change yourself into something better. You have to redeem yourself, not only for what you did under the control of the Architects, but also for your life as a demonic monster.

Abominations always count as being from the 2056 Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0 (but Mag 8), Mnd 3 (but Cha 1) and Ref 5. They cannot raise Chi or Mag. They may raise one other primary attribute by 5, and a second by 1. They begin with Arcanowave Devices and Creature Powers at +5, which can't be raised. They also get Guns +5 and Martial Arts +5. They get one skill not on that list at +3, and add +2 to any skill, which can include the new one. It is noted that Info skills tend to be inappropriate. They then get 3 Arcanowave schticks and 2 Creature Powers. However, they can't be healed by the Medicine skill, unless the person using it learned Medicine in the 2056 Juncture. They are Poor.

Meet the Big Bruiser . You are big and strong. You're not fast, you're not accurate, but you don't have to be. Because when you do hit, things get hurt. Besides, you can take a bullet. You can take ten bullets. You can probably even go toe-to-toe with an ogre and not die. You're big, scary and have a lot of practice glaring at people. Most people assume you're stupid, and you've learned to play that to your advantage. Sometimes you play dumb and let them underestimate you. You've been a construction worker, or a bouncer, or a guard. You could be a gentle giant or a bully. What you definitely are is unstoppable.

Big Bruisers can come from any Juncture. They have a Bod of 11. Yes, 11 . That is more than an Abomination can have. And their Tgh is 12. They have Chi 0, Mnd 5 and Ref 5. They may add 2 to any primary attribute except Bod. They start with Guns +3, one Info skill of their choice +2, Intimidation +4 and Martial Arts +7, which can't be raised. They have +6 to divide up between any of these but Martial Arts or new skills. They start with 3 weapons of their choice and a Unique Schtick: Big Bruisers don't take Impairment -1 until 40 wound points, Impairment -2 until 45 and Death Checks until 50. We'll get into what that means during combat; suffice to say they're very hard to kill. However, they are Poor.

Next time: Cyborgs, Everymen and Special Forces!

I could reform my own soul and still blast as many people as I'd ever blasted before.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hm. Think I'll try and get ahold of the Atlas Thorns, then, though when I do get to it I'd love to hear about any changes they made. And because I love Feng Shui and have little to do tonight...

Feng Shui: I could reform my own soul and still blast as many people as I'd ever blasted before.

As a Cyborg , you were an early experiment by the Architects, from before they started kidnapping monsters. At the time, they were using humans and apes instead to try and create supersoldiers who could take on entire units. However, to do it, they had to use Arcanowave technology, and magitech is expensive. Further, for every success, there were a dozen who died on the table or turned into useless lumps of flesh or uncontrollable monsters due to magical radiation. You were one of the survivors. You got sent on a few missions before the plug got pulled on your project and you were discharged. You were sent to (useless) counseling for a few weeks and then dumped into the labor pool, expected to act like nothing had changed. You got out with some restricted hardware somehow, but it hasn't seen much use. You've heard how it can cause...problems. And you've heard about some rebels the Buro wanted to wipe out. You've heard they fled somewhere called the Netherworld. Somehow, you found out where that was and learned about the Secret War. Now, you're ready to use that hardware - and your first target is probably the government that made you, used you and tossed you away.

All Cyborgs are from the 2056 Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They may add 3 to any primary attribute, 1 to any other primary attribute and 2 to any secondary attribute. They have Arcanowave Device +7, which can't be raised over +11, Guns +8, which can't be raised, Martial Arts +6, which can't be raised, and Sabotage +2, which can't be raised over +8. They have +6 to divide up between these and new skills. The values for Guns and Martial Arts may be swapped if desired. Cyborgs get 4 Arcanowave schticks and 1 Gun schtick, along with 2 guns from 2056. They are Working Stiffs.

You're the Everyman Hero . You're just a regular guy who works for a living. Maybe you're a factory worker, a plumber or a truck driver. Maybe you're just a peasant from the earlier junctures. Aside from taking care of your melodramatic hook, all you really want is a beer. However, you're a trouble magnet. You're basically decent and kind of stupid, but you're really, really lucky - both good and bad. You get into situations no one would ever want to be in...but you always get out alive. When you go on vacation, cultists attack. When you go out to work, you get caught up in a gang war. When you go to the bar, someone always picks a fight. If you're around during a kidnapping, you're the one the kid goes to for help when she slips her captors for a moment. You always tell yourself you'll turn your back next time, but you never do. You just can't stand to see someone bullied, you can't let the bad guys win. You're a simple person who believes in simple values, and that's rare in this crazy world. You might not be the smartest or the strongest or the most skilled, but you're a good guy. And that matters.

Everyman Heroes can be from any Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 10, Mnd 5, Wil 6, Ref 5. They have 4 points to divide up between primary attributes, and 1 point to add to any secondary attribute except Fortune. They have Driving +4, with a max of +9, Guns +1, with a max of +8, Info: Classic Cars +5, Info: Beer +8, Info: Sports Fan +8, Info: Stadium Rock +7 and Martial Arts +5, with a max of +8. They get +5 to divide up between these or new skills. They may swap out Info skills for anything suitably low-brow and appropriate to their home Juncture. Everyman Heroes also have two Unique Schticks. First, they can spend Fortune Dice without reducing their Fortune for the session for the purpose of Fortune checks. Second, they get +1 to use any improvised weapon - as long as they don't carry the thing around and use it all the time. If you do that, it doesn't matter that you're wielding a soup bowl, weathervane or ladder - it's not improvised any more. They start with no weapons, but that last schtick of theirs means it doesn't matter. They are Working Stiffs.

You're Ex-Special Forces . You used to be a member of an elite force trained in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, you know, the whole deal. Maybe you got kicked out, or maybe you retired. You've had some problems adjusting to civilian life, though. People keep telling you to relax, get along and be like everyone else. You can't do it. You're always on edge. Whenever you get in a fender bender or some tough picks a fight, it's all you can do not to beat the guy to a pulp. In another era, you'd be a great warrior. You'd have solved your problems with a sword and a fist and been loved for it. Here? You're just an underemployed slob with abilities you can't put to use. You long for a new cause, one you can believe in. You want the rush of combat again. It's not the kind of thing you admit to, of course, but you loved fighting. Adrenaline, blood, fear - it was like heroin. You need another fight. If that involves saving the universe from tyrants across time, that's even better. Maybe you'll get the fame and glory you wanted after all, fighting alongside the warriors of the past whom you've always admired.

Ex-Special Forces, despite that description, can be from any Juncture. They are Bod 5, Chi 0 (but Fu 4), Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have 6 points to spread around their primary attributes, but no more than 5 can be put it into any one attribute, and even if their Chi goes over 4, their Fu can't. They have Driving +7, which can't be raised, Guns +9, which can't be raised, Info: Anti-Terrorism +5, Martial Arts +5, which can't be raised, and Sabotage +4. They have +3 to spread around on these or new skills and may swap the values of Guns and Martial Arts if desired. They get one of: 5 gun schticks, 3 fu schticks or 4 gun schticks and 1 fu schtick. They also get 5 weapons appropriate to their Juncture. Ex-Special Forces are Poor.

Gamblers show up everywhen. You're one of them, and you live by your luck. You've done well, though, always made a profit and survived everything life threw at you. You know how to handle yourself - not everyone loses well - but you mostly survive on good looks, a smile and a knack for getting out just before things explode. You live a life of luxury, and you have expensive tastes. After all, why win if you can't flaunt it? You started poor, sure, but with your brains and your skill, you've turned it all around. Now, everything you have is cutting-edge. But the real joy of it is beating the odds, winning when you have no business doing so. You're shady, but you've never gone into full-on criminality. But now, your melodramatic hook has pulled you into the Secret War, and all the odds you've spent so long learning are useless. Still, you roll with the punches. You've got your grin, you've got your confidence - you'll find a way to turn it all around. You always do.

Gamblers can come up from any Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 7, Mnd 6, Cha 7 and Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary, 2 to a second and 1 to a third. They then add 2 to any secondary except Fortune, but may not raise any secondary over 11. They have Gambling +8, which can't be raised, Guns +8, which can't be raised, Martial Arts +2, which can't be raised over +6, and Seduction +6, which can't be raised. They have +6 to spread around these or new skills. They get 1 gun schtick and 1 weapon. However, Gamblers also get a unique schtick: They're experts at calculating odds. At any time, they may make a Difficulty 4 Fortune check. If they succeed, the GM must tell them the Difficulty of an upcoming check. However, they have to be able to observe the situation they're checking the odds on. Gamblers are Rich.

In the ancient world, Ghosts were not so rare. The Netherworld is also home to dead spirits whose life force was just too strong to let go of the world when their bodies died. You're one of those, either from 69 AD or the Netherworld. Some ghosts are evil spirits who prey on the living, but not you. You're tied to the world for another reason. You can't rest, because you left something undone - something big. You can't rest because of your melodramatic hook. Maybe you swore to protect someone, or swore vengeance on a foe, or maybe you have to recover something lost. And, of course, everyone knows ghosts have a bad habit of falling in love with the living. Such loves are forbidden, but maybe you don't care. Whether you want it or not, though, the Secret War wants you. Dying was just the start of your problems.

Ghosts are either from the 69 AD Juncture or the Netherworld. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mag 7, Mnd 5, Cha 8 and Ref 5. Ghosts are, you see, always attractive. It's a thing. They have 6 points to spread between primary attributes, but can't spend more than 4 on any one. However, they can't raise Mag over 7 or Cha over 8. They have Creature Powers +7, which can't be raised, Info: Musicianship +4, Seduction +5, which can't be raised over +7, and Sorcery +6, which can't be raised. They have +4 to spread between these and other skills. They can change their Info to any other appropriate hobby or interest that they had when alive. Ghosts get 2 Sorcery schticks, the Creature Powers Flight and Insubstantial, and 1 other Creature Power. However, they can't be healed by Medicine, unless the person doing the healing learned Medicine in the 69 AD Juncture. Ghosts are Poor.

You're a Journalist , maybe even a well-known one, but you're not really known for objectivity or professionalism. In fact, you're more famous for being the story, not reporting it. Maybe you're just too passionate, or maybe you want adventure too much, or maybe you drink too much. Whatever the cause, you always find yourself in impossible situations, one where you can't just be passive. Maybe you saw strange creatures while embedded with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and had to shoot them. Maybe you helped stop a kidnapping in Stockholm, because even a reporter can't just let kidnappers escape. Maybe that whole story about the time you chased President Carter with a nine iron was all exaggeration. Either way, well, you're not the first pick for a steady job. You used to be, but that was before the tenth firing. You freelance now, selling articles when you can. Sometimes you even sell them as fiction if they're too weird. Still, it's a constant battle with your editors, and it's one that happens while you're busy hunting out a new adventure. You need to be out there, and you're not about to let a deadline stop you.

Journalists are either from the 1850 Juncture or the Contemporary Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 5, Mnd 6 and Ref 5. They have 5 points to spread between primary attributes, but nothing they do changes their For. They have Detective +3, which can't be raised over +7, Guns +8, which can't be raised, Info: Intoxicants +5, Info: World Politics +3, Info: (Any) +3, Journalism +5, and Martial ArtS +6, which can't be raised. They have +4 to spread around skills, either these or new ones, and can swap the ratings of Guns and Martial Arts if they want. Journalists get one gun from their Juncture and a unique schtick: when they encounter a contact made through their Journalism skill, they may spend a Fortune point to ensure the contact won't hate them. Journalists are Working Stiffs, but as long as the articles keep coming they may act as if they're Rich due to expense accounts.

Next time: The Karate Cop, Medic and Masked Avenger walk into a bar.

Reform my soul? I'm trying to keep my soul!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The Everyman Hero is Jack Burton and Jackie Chan.

Feng Shui: Reform my soul? I'm trying to keep my soul!

So, you're a Karate Cop . You're a loyal officer of the law, you have a gun, you just happen to know kung fu, too. Maybe you're a beat cop or detective, maybe you're an ancient guard. Either way, you're an honest cop. You're by the book, but you serve justice, not the law. You break the rules not because you're a cynic, but because you're impulsive. You're the good officer, you've got awards and citations. You're a good role model, you volunteer to help underprivileged kids learn karate. You really think an honest man can get ahead in the world, and that good will win in the end. There's only one thing that can make you blow your top: evil. But that doesn't make you naive. You're a good cop, and you are determined to make sure justice prevails - even if that means you're the one out there enforcing it.

The Karate Cop has Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute and 2 to another. They then add 2 to one secondary attribute and 1 to another. None of their attributes, primary or secondary, can exceed 10. They have Driving +6, Guns +8, which can't be increased, Martial Arts +9, which can't be increased, and Police +4. They have +6 to spread around skills, new or listed. Karate Cops get 2 weapons of the appropriate juncture and have two unique schticks. First, they can deliver a stirring speech that will convince any righteous and law-abiding NPC that they're honest and have integrity. If they spend a Fortune die, this ability even works on shady and disreputable sorts, but it never works on the main antagonist or anyone else that would utterly derail the plot. Secondly, they get +2 to Martial Arts rolls when using acrobatic maneuvers that aren't direct attacks on people. The Karate Cop is a Working Stiff.

So, you were a Killer , a professional assassin. Maybe you worked for an intelligence agency, maybe freelance, maybe the mob. You were cool, efficient and got the job done. You were proud of it. You still have news clippings from the times when things went wrong and you had to shoot your way out. You were a street warrior, and you were one of the best. You know all there is to know about finding targets, handling guns and shooting people. You've taken more bullets than you like to admit, but you know there's never been a bullet made that can kill you. After all, you and bullets get along. Your victims were just numbers, figures in your bank account. Or maybe you just wanted to see the perfect kill. But something changed. Now, you care, because of your melodramatic hook. You've become involved in the Secret War, and that means you might do more than kill people - you might change history. Now that you've realized that your targets were people, that means something. Maybe, just maybe, you'll find a chance for redemption.

Killers come from 69 AD, 1850 and the Contemporary Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute and 2 to a second. They then add 1 to any secondary attribute. They get Deceit +2, which can't be raised over +7, Driving +3, which can't be raised over +8, Guns +10, which can't be raised and Info: Gangland Politics +2. They get +6 to spread between these and new skills. They get 5 gun schticks and 5 weapons of their juncture. Killers are Rich.

Even in times when magic is nearly gone, weird things happen. Most districts keep a few cops on hand to deal with these. Magic Cops . You're one of them, one of the cops out there to handle renegade shamans and sorcerers, one of the cops who takes out demons and ghosts without going nuts. You're a bit of a loner, but you don't have to socialize at the station much. They'd prefer you didn't, in fact. If the other cops know you exist, they think you're nuts. Or maybe you're not quite a cop. Maybe you're one of the Catholic Church's anti-monster priests. Or maybe you're just a self-appointed crusader against magic. Whether you take orders or not, and from who - that doesn't matter. What matters is you've built up defenses against the darkness. You're grim, you're aloof, but you hold back the night. Maybe you believe magic is evil. Maybe you want to find a way to bring peace between man and monster. Either way, you've been drawn into the Secret War, and your world, already weird, is about to get weirder.

Magic Cops can come from any Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 2, Mag 8, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have 6 points to spread between primary attributes, but they can't raise Chi and can't raise any attribute by more than 3. They have Guns +7, which can't be raised, Info: Occult +7, Police +3, Sorcery +5, which can't be raised. Crusading priests replace Police +3 with Info: (Your Religion) +6. Magic Cops get +8 to spread between these skills and new ones, and may swap the ratings of Guns and Sorcery if they want. Magic Cops get 2 gun schticks, the Sorcery schtick Summoning and one of the Sorcery schticks Divination, Fertility or Heal. They also get 2 weapons of the appropriate juncture. Further, they get two unique schticks. First, they get an extra effect with Summoning: True Form. They can use their Summoning schtick to force a supernatural being or transformed animal to assume their true form, with a difficulty equal to the target's highest Action Value rating. For transformed animals, they can do this once to the target, ever, and it costs a point of Mag to try, because if they do it's effectively instant death - the animal can't turn back. If they fail, the suffer automatic Backlash and take 5 wound points for every point they failed by, which can't be reduced. Secondly, Magic Cops suffer no juncture penalties, if any exist, for using their Sorcery in their home juncture. Magic Cops are Working Stiffs.

There's always Martial Artists . You have studied the art of hand-to-hand combat with the best, learning how to fight unarmed or with weapons. You have even harnessed your chi to learn mystic kung fu. You know that martial arts are more than just moves - they are an ancient philosophy, one of restraint, discipline and humility. You try to live up to it. You choose your fights with care, respect your elders and uphold the martial traditions. You have little need for the material, and you give freely to those who hunger. You believe in self-sacrifice and in justice. The only goal you truly have is to achieve the perfection of the great masters. You spend most of your time studying old texts and practicing your martial arts, which leaves you rather lonely. Some think you're naive, others self-righteous, but you try to ignore their jibes. It's hard, though. Discipline takes work. Still, you think it's worth it. You've found the edges of the Secret War, and your righteous dedication will let you do nothing else but get involved in the name of what is right.

Martial Artists can be from any juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Fu 8, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get 6 points to spread among primary attributes, but none can go over 10. They have Info: Eastern Philosophy +6, Leadership +2 and Martial Arts +10, which can't be raised. They get +3 to spread between these and new skills. They have three fu schticks and one melee weapon. Martial Artists are Poor.

You're a Medic , a doctor used to combat. Maybe you were in the army, or maybe you were a trauma center doc in the inner city. Maybe you were a UN aid worker. One thing you know, though: people kill people everywhere. You were a pacifist until you understood that, until you realized - killers are a disease. They need to be cured. That's when you got a weapon and added it to your medical gear. You realized that taking down a drug dealer before he could get big would save lives. You hold the power of life and death in your hands, and it's come easily to you. Surprisingly easily. Something feels wrong about it. Not guilt, quite - more a sense that you need to work on a larger scale. You're on the verge of discovering the Secret War and how the battle for the feng shui sites could change history.

Medics can be from any juncture. They get Bod 4, Chi 0, Mnd 7, Ref 4. They have 6 points to divide between primary attributes, but can't add more than 3 to any one. After that, they get 5 points to spread between secondary attributes. (Fu is a good choice if you plan to pick up Fu schticks.) No secondary can be over 10. Medics get Detective +3, which can't be raised over +5, Driving +2, which can't be raised over +8, either Guns +9 or Martial Arts +9, neither of which can be raised, Info: (Any) +4, Info: (Any Other) +2 and Medicine +8, which can't be raised. They then have +4 to spread between these and new skills. Medics get 2 gun or fu schticks and 1 weapon of the appropriate juncture. They are Rich.

For years, you watched a corrupt society. Crime on the streets, justice a myth. You couldn't take it any more and became a Masked Avenger . You designed a distinctive costume and mask to strike fear into evildoers, relying on your own moral compass to guide you. You're not that well-liked by the local cops, but you don't care. You're probably an aristocrat, for all your populist goals, and you look back towards a possibly mythical golden age to set the world straight. You're tough, but you know it can't be done alone. You want to inspire others to act as you do. Only when they take things back for themselves will the world's criminals truly know fear. You might not be wholly altruistic - vengeance is a common desire. Also, you...might be a little crazy, with the whole dressing up thing. But that doesn't matter. Something pushed you over the edge, and now, the streets have a new defender.

Masked Avengers can be from any juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. Their max in any attribute is 10, except Chi, which can't go over 2 either by itself or in any secondary attribute. They have 6 points to spread around primary attributes and 1 point in any secondary. They get Detective +10, which can't be raised, Guns +8, which can't be raised, Fix-It +2, which can't be raised over +6, Info: Science +2, Info: (Any) +2, Info: (Any Other) +2, Intimidation +3, which can't be raised over +7, and Martial Arts +7, which can't be raised. They +8 to spread around as normal, and may swap the values of Guns and Martial Arts if they want. They get 2 gun schticks and 2 appropriate weapons. They also get a unique schtick: Any time they roll Intimidate against an unnamed hoodlum or criminal NPC, they get +5 to the roll. Masked Avengers are Rich.

Next time: Dirty Harry, Buffy and Short Round fight crime.

The trick was to blast the right people. Heal the world's pain, protect the chi.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Yeah, Guns is the skill for anything ranged. Martial Arts is the skill for anything melee. And honestly, my shelf is mostly PDFs. I don't do hardcopy books so much these days.

Feng Shui: The trick was to blast the right people. Heal the world's pain, protect the chi.

Maybe you were a good cop once, but now you're a Maverick Cop . You're plainclothes, maybe undercover or in an anti-mob unit, maybe a homicide detective. You might have a drinking problem and you've certainly seen better days. You don't like authority, despite being one, and you see yourself as a loner, though maybe that's only since your last partner died. Or maybe not. You're always on the verge of losing your badge, and you're suspended a lot. You keep your job only because your boss likes you a little...and because you get results. You get the job done, but things always seem to make you look bad. People in your investigations get killed, especially witnesses. Collateral damage is huge. And you never really seem to be able to catch anyone for questioning. It's not that you plan to go out and empty your gun into each scumbag you're supposed to arrest, but it just seems to happen. They force you to do it, every time. You warn them, tell them they shouldn't, but they don't care. They just keep pissing you off. They never learn.

Maverick Cops show up in any juncture, though for some reason they list them all out. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute and 2 to a second, then add 2 to one secondary attribute. They get Driving +10, which can't be raised, Guns +9, which can't be raised, Martial Arts +3, which can't be raised over +5 and Police +2. They get +4 to spread around. Maverick Cops get 4 gun schticks and 3 weapons. They are Working Stiffs.

The Architects need Monster Hunters . You were one of them. You were trained to go through the Netheworld and capture supernatural creatures to be turned into Abominations. This meant you learned to fight and to operate Arcanowave technology. When you signed up, though, you didn't know what you were getting into. You were a working class kid, and all you wanted was a better salary. The Supernatural Entity Retrieval Unit had a good one. You did well in school and made the exams to get into the top police forces, and thought you'd lucked out when you got into SERU. The glamour wore off the job when you hit the Netherworld and found yourself facing off with horrible demons, brain-eaters and ogres. You were trained to be fearless, and it worked, but you saw a lot of good men die out there...and it was all due to incompetent and incomprehensible orders. You started to realize - sure, you fought demons, but they were being turned into something worse by your bosses. Most SERU agents stayed loyal - but not you. The Secret War changed your perspective, made you realize Buro wasn't the only choice. If you could use what they taught you against them, you could change history. Then you'd have a chance to take down the real monsters.

All Monster Hunters are from 2056. They get Bod 5, Chi 5, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have 5 points to spread around primary attributes. They get Arcanowave Devices +10, which can't be raised, Guns +7, which can't be raised, Info: Ancient China +4 and Martial Arts +4, which can't be raised above +5. They get +4 to spread around. Monster Hunters get 1 gun schtick and 2 Arcanowave Devices. They get 1 gun, and they are Poor.

If you're from 1850, you might be one of the real Ninjas . But, you know, you could be one of any number of stealth operatives specializing in breaking into places. You can hold your own in a fight, but you prefer trickery and deception. You have an air of mystery about you, and not only because you know a little about exotic chi powers. You don't want fame, though - you'd like your deeds to be famous, not your identity. You want fear, rumor. You love the idea of the perfect intrusion, of being in and out without leaving a trace. Your pride is what keeps you going, but lately, it's felt hollow. You've lost something, maybe, or some other melodramatic hook. It's made you feel less invincible than normal. Maybe you've started to question your amoral life. You're being pulled into the Secret War now - maybe to find a lost love, maybe to get vengeance, maybe just to leave your mark on a world that will never know your name.

Ninjas can be from any Juncture. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Fu 7, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to any primary attribute and 1 to two others. They can then add 1 to any secondary attribute except Fu. They get Deceit +4, which can't be raised over +7, Guns +2, which can't be raised over +6, Info: (Any) +2, Intrusion +9, which can't be raised, Fix-It +3, which can't be raised over +7, and Martial Arts +9, which can't be raised. They get +6 to spread around. Ninjas get 1 fu schtick and 6 weapons. They are Working Stiffs.

In your youth, you were skilled. Now, you are more than that. You are an Old Master . You have spent many years tutoring others in the secrets of the martial arts and you are used to respect. Thus, you can be a bit hotheaded when dealing with those who don't show it. You are a harsh master, and you long for the good old days when respect was paid to elders. You've lost the strength and endurance of youth, but your skill and your kung fu remain strong. You want to retire, to leave the world to the young. You used to care about being the best, but in old age you know that is folly. Now, you just want to rest, with your art and your poetry. But evil is growing stronger. Maybe your students were slaughtered. Maybe your time is plagued by the unjust, who need to have wisdom beaten into them. There is a need for you. You cannot rest yet. You must show the young how to master themselves, as you were shown by your own masters. Your skill gives you a great responsibility, but you're up to it. This is just what life means when you live with wisdom.

Old Masters can be from any juncture. They have Bod 4, Chi 10, For 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have four points to spread between Mnd and Ref. They get Info: Calligraphy +5, Info: Chinese Painting +4, Info: Chinese Poetry +4, Info: Eastern Philosophy +7, Info: Noodle Making +5, Leadership +2 and Martial Arts +11. They get 5 Fu schticks. Further, Old Masters get a unique schtick: They are experts on chi flow in the body and always strike the most vulnerable spot, so their base damage with punches and kicks is Strength+6 rather than the normal damage. Old Masters are Poor.

You're a Private Investigator . You have contacts throughout society, from the top to the bottom. When a corporation sues another, they come to you to find data. When a lawyer needs to vet someone, they come to you to get the info. When a woman's worried her husband is cheating, she comes to you to find out. You might've gotten into the job because of old movies and TV shows, but you've spent more time doing research than dealing with gangsters and cops on the take. Maybe that's why, when you found the first clues of the Secret War, you were ready to live out that fantasy you never got as a "real" private eye.

Private Investigators can be from any Juncture. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, For 2, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to any one primary attribute, 2 to a second and 1 to a third. They then add 2 to any secondary attribute. They get Detective +10, which can't be raised, Guns +5, which can't be raised past +8, Info: Business +3, Info: Civil Law +3, Martial Arts +3, which can't be raised past +8, and Intrustion +3, which can't be raised past +6. They get +8 to spread around. Private Investigators get 1 weapon and a unique schtick: they're great at using logic. When they are helping to figure out the best course of action or the motivations of a character, they can spend a Fortune point to have the GM just flat-out tell them if their guess is right. Private Investigators are Working Stiffs.

You don't have a job or a complex life - you're a Scrappy Kid ! You just want to have fun. But there's bad guys out there who'll wreck your day. They think they're better than everyone. They want to rule your life. So even if the adults want to keep you tucked away safely, you're going to do something about it. Why should they get all the fun? Sure, you're not a killing machine, but you're pretty good for someone who's not even twelve. You're the best fighter in your class, and you've even learned some tricks your martial arts tutor didn't plan to teach you yet. You're fast, and people underestimate you. This is the life. (The book notes that Scrappy Kids don't have to be pure comic relief, either - and probably shouldn't be. They can be child soldiers, too, or just kids forced to deal with a world they're not ready for yet, even if they think they are.)

Scrappy Kids can be from any Juncture. They have Bod 4, Chi 7, Mnd 6, Ref 8. They add 2 to one of Mnd and Ref, and 1 to the other. They get Deceit +2, Info: Comic Books +5, Info: Computers +4, Info: Skateboards +4, Info: Pop usic +3, Info: (Any) +2, either Martial Arts +5 or Sorcery +6, which can't be raised, and Intrusion +2, which can't be raised. Only Scrappy Kids from 69 AD can take Sorcery, and naturally you should change the Info skills to be appropriate to the juncture your Scrappy Kid is from. Scrappy Kids get either 2 sorcery schticks or 2 fu schticks. They also get two unique schticks. First, they can decide to attack a foe to distract rather than to injure, causing 3 points of Impairment for a number of rounds equal to how much you hit by, though this can't stack with itself. Second, they're really hard to hit, and their Dodge is always +2 from their Martial Arts or Sorcery Action Values. Scrappy Kids are Poor.

Next time: Merlin and Reynard, Buddy Cops!

Maybe someday somebody else will point you towards the clue dispenser.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I'm on a roll today with free time. So, here's the last of the character types. For this book, that is.

Feng Shui: Maybe someday somebody else will point you towards the clue dispenser.

As a Sorcerer , you command terrible mystic power! You direct chi forces with powerful incantations, able to blast foes to bits with a wave of your long-nailed hand! You love the awe your power inspires, even if it is a bit hard to use in later time periods, thanks to the suppressed chi flow. Of course, sorcerers do have a bad reputation. You wish they didn't, but the sad fact is that most of your fellow mystics end up being bad people, corrupted by demons, evil spirits or their own lust for power. You've learned that it's best to hide your abilities until you can prove you're not evil. You feel a responsibility to prevent your corrupt brothers from controlling the world, and of course the Ascended stand against you in their desire to suppress magic, while the Architects would conquer it. You're in the Secret War now, for whatever reason, and you have to deal with all of them.

All Sorcerers are from the 69 AD Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mag 8, Mnd 5, Ref 5. Thery add two points to three different primary attributes, and then 2 points to any secondary attribute except Mag. They get Info: History +4, Info (Any) +4, Info (Any Other) +2 and Sorcery +7. Sorcerers also get 5 sorcery schticks and are Rich.

You used to be a Spy for an intelligence agency, but you're not with them any more. Maybe you got forced out by new bosses. Maybe you made a tragic mistake that got you fired. Maybe you just go bored after the Cold War ended. Now, you need a new way to get the excitement of the game again. Maybe you work security or industrial espionage. But what you really want is to fight the good fight again. When you found the Secret War, you realized it was the perfect chance to find mysteries and defy danger. You're in the game again. (Or, perhaps, you're an Imperial operative from ancient China, a world traveler and former agent from 1850, or even a Buro internal security agent who went rogue.)

Spies can be from any Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 6, Mnd 5 and Ref 5. They have 8 points to spend on primary attributes, but can't spend more than 3 on any one attribute. They get Deceit +10, which can't be raised, Fix-It +2, which can't be raised higher than +8, Guns +5, which can't be raised higher than +8, Info: Fashion +6, Info: Food and Drink +6, Info: Politics +4, Intrusion +4, which can't be raised about +7, Martial Arts +5, which can't be raised above +8, and Seduction +5, which can't be raised above +8. Spies get +4 to spread around, 1 gun schtick and 1 weapon. They also get a unique schtick: People can't resist telling them things. They can spend a Fortune point to get a reluctant or hostile NPC to tell you something they shouldn't - so, yes, you can cause a villain to give a gloating monologue. Spies are Rich.

You're a demon, monster or spirit of the Underworld, a horrific Supernatural Creature from beyond. But you aren't evil, even if most of your kind are. Even demons have free will. You used to only live for terror and pain...until the time you were summoned by the Lotus-Eaters. The eunuchs forced you to obey them with mystic bonds, but eventually, with immense mental effort, you were able to break free. You saw the people around you, living in fear of your sorcerous masters. And though most of your kind would never think such thoughts, you decided to help them. Maybe you wanted revenge on the Eaters of the Lotus. Maybe you wanted to atone for your sins. Maybe you just wanted to be sure you could never be enslaved again. You look horrific - perhaps a corpse, perhaps a monstrous ogre, perhaps a terrible bat-winged head. Your features terrify many who might otherwise have been your allies. Perhaps you just want to be human, like them. Perhaps you hide for fear of being seen, or perhaps you transform yourself and walk among men. Perhaps your greatest fear is that you will stop being able to hold in your monstrous instincts.

All Supernatural Creatures are from 69 AD. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mag 8, Mnd 3, Ref 5. They add 5 to one primary attribute, 3 to another, and 1 to a third. They get Creature Powers +7, which can't be raised, and Martial Arts +4, which can't be raised above +7. They get +3 to spread around, but must take skills which make sense for a monster to have. Supernatural Creatures get 5 Creature Powers, but can't be healed by Medicine unless the healer learned Medicine in 69 AD. Supernatural Creatures are Poor.

You're a Techie , an inventor and machine savant. You know guns inside and out, but that's not all you do. You can make anything - surveillence gear, hidden weapons, more exotic goods, you name it. You're a gearhead, through and through, and you love nothing more than sitting back with some chips, a beer and an engine. The last time you fell in love, it was with a car. The Secret War confuses you, but most things having to do with people confuse you. Still, you know the first thing evil wants to control in any situation is technology and information. You know how ot make stuff, and that makes you dangerous. If you don't want to be taken captive and forced to make weapons, well, you're going to have go out and fight. Maybe when you're done you can finally perfect that old idea that's been kicking around your head for years.

Techies can be Contemporary or from 2056. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 1, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute, 2 to a second and 1 to a third. They have Driving +10, which can't be raised, Fix-It +10, which can't be raised, Guns +6, which can't be raised above +8, and Info: Science +4. They get +3 to spread around. They get one gun and a unique schtick. Specifically, they always have what they need on hand. Whenever they want any tool or gadget, they just spend a Fortune point and they have it. Techies are Working Stiffs.

You're a Thief . It's how you make a living, but money's not why you do it. Sure, you live in the lap of luxury - but it's all for the challenge. After all, why steal from someone who won't make it tough? You love outsmarting the folks who make security systems, researching them and planning out every angle. But something always goes wrong - that's just how the world works. You plan for that too, when the adrenaline kicks in and you have to make choices fast. When the alarms are blazing, the guards are on their way and it's way too far to get to the getaway car - that's when you feel alive. Still, there's always this nagging thought: What's the point? Isn't this all a bit childish? After all, you definitely don't need the cash. And maybe killing all those guards...well, they were just doing their jobs, right? Maybe 'they got in my way' is a bad excuse. You don't feel bad about stealing from the rich, but those guards...that's starting to haunt you. Lately, you've been thinking about trying to do something good. Like Robin Hood, maybe. Maybe the chance is coming up sooner than you think.

Thieves can be from any Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 3, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute, 2 to a second and 1 to a third, then 2 to a secondary attribute. They get Deceit +4, which can't be raised higher than +8, Detective +2, which can't be raised higher than +8, Guns +6, which can't be raised higher than +8, Info: Arts and Antiques +6, Info: Gems and Jewels +6, Intrusion +11, which can't be raised, and Martial ArtS+ 5, which can't be raised above +7. They get +8 to spread around and one weapon. Thieves are Rich.

Way back in 69 AD, a bunch of intelligent animals decided that being animals sucked. So they meditated for years and took on human form, becoming Transformed Animals , taking a shortcut up the ladder of reincarnation because being human rocks. Seriously, it owns. Maybe you're one of those animals, or maybe you're one of their more modern descendants. Either way, you fear magic because too much of it can turn you back into an animal - and once you're back, you can't turn human again. You're not a werewolf, you can't change forms. You just want to live among humans...but you've been drawn into the Secret War. Maybe some human you love is threatened, maybe you're trying to protect your secret...or maybe you're modern. In the 1850 and Contemporary junctures, your kind rule the world as the Ascended. They wiped out magic. Maybe you don't know your true heritage. Maybe you turned your back on them. They probably know about you, but you think you've hidden from them with your latest identity. STill, they're everywhere, around every corner. By nature you're reclusive, but you've become involved anyway. After all, while reclusive, Transformed Animals are still emotional. They still care about other people.

Transformed Animals can be from 69 AD, 1850 or the Contemporary Juncture. They have Bod 5, Chi 7, For 2, Mnd 5, Ref 5. Their attributes are changed by what kind of animal they are, which is covered later. They get Guns +2, which can't be raised over +8, Info: History +3, Info: (Any) +3, and Martial Arts +6, which can't be raised above +8. They get +8 to spread around. They also get 5 schticks from one Transformed Animal package. (We'll get to what that is later.) Transformed Animals can never learn Sorcery - and, in fact, when exposed to magic they have to make a check to not turn back into animals. This is easiest for ones from 69 AD, since they used to be animals rather than being born apparently human. If they fail the check, well...reroll, your character is now a chicken and can never turn back. Yeah, this sucks and is a dumb rule. Transformed Animals are Working Stiffs.

Next time: Guns, guns, guns.

I believe this is your preferred instrument of destruction. You will find it fully loaded.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Now into parts of the book that aren't insanely easy and fast to write up!

Feng Shui: I believe this is your preferred instrument of destruction. You will find it fully loaded.

We open the skills chapter with our anonymous protagonist captured and tied up. He's ocntemplating his own imminent death when suddenly a man comes out of nowhere, taking out his guards with terrifying kung fu! The man pulls out an immense sword - but he frees our protagonist instead of killing him. The man then tells him that while he's a temporary ally, he is no friend of our confused hero - he longs for a day when the modern world does not exist, with its foolish and blind people who drive it to destruction. Still, he hands over a gun, if with extreme distaste, and helps our hero escape on a motorboat.

That gets us into the Skills chapter. Skills, we are told, are meant to be as broad as possible. If someone argues a skill can be used for something and it's not completely unreasonable, just accept it, roll and move on. This is a fast-paced game and shouldn't get bogged down. Every skill (barring Info skills) has three components: Physical Ability, Knowledge and Contacts. Physical Ability is the ability to actively do something - shoot a gun, break into a house, find clues. Info skills don't have this, everything else does. Knowledge is background information related to the skill - knowledge about the history of martial arts, technical details about guns, that sort of thing. Contacts is useful because it's who you know - it's what you roll to find people related to the skills. Other martial artists, a fence, that witness you talked to last week. Of course, that doesn't mean these NPCs will like you or want to help you, but you can find them.

Some skills also have Subskills, which can be one of two things. First, maybe you want to cut out part of the skill. Your character knows how to fight unarmed, but he's no martial artist, he doesn't know shit about the history. So he has the Subskill Brawling, instead, and doesn't get access to the Knowledge part of things, or at least the part that relates to history. Second, subskills can repersent greater degree of ability in a specialized area. For example, Surgery is a subskill of Medicine. These are pretty rare. Oh, and if you're wondering - Guns handles all ranged weapons. Skills work in every juncture. You just get a penalty to your roll the first three times you operate with a new juncture's rules, assuming they're different enough to require it. (Bows to guns, yes. Breaking into a high-tech facility in the future when you're used to modern alarms, yes. Punching people pretty much stays the same.)

Anyway. If you want details on any of the skills, ask for it. All skills do something useful, though, you can be sure of that. Now I'll just cover special things. Arcanowave Device as a skill grants the subskill Arcanowave Technician if you have it at +6 or higher. Intimidation is unique in that it has no Knowledge or Contacts aspects. Only Karate Cops, Martial ARtists, Masked Avengers, Ninjas, Old Masters, Scrappy Kids and Ex-Special Forces get the full Martial Arts skill; everyone else gets the subskill Brawling unless they spend a skill bonus to expand it to Martial Arts. Brawling lacks the Knowledge and Contacts aspects. Characters from 1850 are limited to no more than +3 in Medicine until they get a training montage in a modern or futuristic setting. At +3 or more, you are probably a certified MD or at least qualified for it. At +5 or more, you also get a specialized subskill, such as Surgery, Forensic Pathology, and so on.

Now, as we move to the next chapter, our hero has learned that a Colombian cartel leader is trying to make friends with a Lotus-controlled New York group. In the meantime, he's trying to find a way to work the Ascended/Hand war to his advantage, and they don't the Lotus-Eaters getting bigger. To deal with this, he has gone to Sunny Pak, his favorite arms dealer, to get some new goods. Sunny's got a ton of guns, and he sells...quite a few of them to our hero.

Which is appropriate, because this section is all about guns. Now, you might be wondering, how accurate are these to real life? If, you know, you're an idiot. This is an action movie game. Guns are both less deadly than in real life and far less focused on fine fdetails. If you want to use your personal gun knowledge to spice up your dialogue, go for it, but realism is not going to help you here. Guns are a fantasy element in exactly the same way firebreathing and magic kung fu are. And that's why Gun Schticks exist. Gun Schticks let you do tricky, highly destructive or somewhat esoteric things with your guns. Some can be bought multiple times for more benefits. It costs (8+x) XP to get a Gun Schtick, where X is the number of Gun Schticks you will have when you buy the new one. If your total Action Value for Guns (that is to say, total Guns+Reflex) is less than 12, you can't learn Gun Schticks until it's 12 or higher. So, let's see the Schticks!

Both Guns Blazing is about dual wielding. If you have it, you know how to shoot a guy with two guns so that it hurts really badly. When you have this and hit someone with a Guns attack while wielding two guns, you can declare it a Both Guns Blazing attack and deal damage thusly: (Total Damage Rating of both guns) - (Opponent's Toughness*2) + Outcome of the roll. That's how many wound points you deal. The GM tells you the target's Toughness when you make a Both Guns Blazing attack, so that's a side benefit - shooting a guy with two .45s gives you a great idea of how tough he is. If you have only one schtick in this, any Two Guns Blazing attacks are made at -2. Two schticks, it's at -1. Three, it's at +0. Any schticks you buy after that give a cumulative +1 bonus to Both Guns Blazing attacks.

Carnival of Carnage means you are damn good at taking down waves of mooks. For every schtick you have in Carnival of Carnage, you subtract 1 from the shot cost of any attack on unnamed characters - which means they take less time, and thus can be done more often, as we'll see when we get to the combat chapter. You can't reduce the shot cost to below 1, though. But that's okay! Once you have 3 schticks in Carnival of Carnage, you start taking out mooks on a total Outcome of 4+, instead of 5+. Four schticks, it goes down to 3+. You can't put more than four schticks into Carnival of Carnage.

Eagle Eye means you're really good at hitting the spots on someone that aren't armored. You can ignore any personal armor your target is wearing, but you can't reduce their Toughness. Each schtick in Eagle Eye also lets you ignore 2 points of penalty due to cover or range.

Fast Draw lets you...draw guns fast. For every schtick in it, you add 1 to your Initiative result at the beginning of each sequence. If you do this, though, your first action in the sequence must be a gun attack.

Hair-Trigger Neck Hairs allows you to sense danger. Even when you're not paying attention. Whenever danger strikes and the GM makes a check to see if you notice, you get +2 to the roll for every schtick in this. If you succeed at the check and can usefully respond to it by either shooting something or dodging, the Outcome of your perception check is applied to that first Guns or ACtive Dodge roll.

Lightning Reload lets you reload faster than you should. For every schtick you have in it, you reduce the shot cost of reloading any gun by 1. This can reduce the cost to 0, but no negative. If you have 3 or more schticks in Lightning Reload, you never run out of bullets. No matter what. Ever. No matter how improbable it is. You will always have bullets on you to load your gun.

Signature Weapon is a schtick that gives you a lucky wepaon! For every schtick you spend in it, you choose one particular gun as a signature weapon. Maybe it's your lucky Glock, maybe it's your grandma's shotgun. It doesn't matter. Whatever it is, you get a +3 damage bonus with that gun. Not that type of gun, just that one, specific gun. (E: And it will never be taken away from you. So far as I know, the only way to unfixably break a Signature Weapon is to do so intentionally as its owner.)

Now, some gun rules. Specifically, on automatic weapons. In real life, they're devastating. In action movies, well, they're cool but not quite so terrible. In Feng Shui, they give you a +1 damage bonus for every three-bullet burst you fire. You can fire as many three-bullet bursts at once as you want, as long as you have ammo, but you have to announce them before you roll Guns to see if you hit or not. Also, you take a -1 penalty to the roll for every three-round burst, because seriously the recoil is killer. However, if you're only firing one or two bursts, there is no penalty, because you're just that good. Characters are assumed to be able to carry a maximum of 10 guns or clips on their person, though bigger people can carry more as the GM allows...but that's why God invented gym bags. And, of course, if you have Lightning Reload enough, you always have a clip.

Sometimes you want to hide a gun. Every gun thus has a Concealment rating. Ammo clips also do - for pistols, it's 1, for machine pistol clips, rifle magaziness or machine gun magaziness, it's 2. You add together the Concealment rating of all guns, clips and magazines you're carrying, and that number is applied as a bonus to all perception checks made by others observing you to notice that there are bulges in your clothes. Naturally, you also have to be wearing a jacket, overcoat or some other clothing that can actually hide your guns.

Some other rules now...pump-action shotguns get a +1 bonus to damage if you spend a shot in combat (that is, shot as in time, not as in bullets) to dramatically pump it and go 'KA-CHINK!' Medium and heavy rifles also kill unnamed characters easier than normal. Now then! Gun malfunctions. When you roll a Way-Awful Failure on a Guns check, your gun malfunctions. You make a Fortune roll to see how bad. If you pass the check, the gun is jammed, and you can spend 8 shots to clear the jam and then use it normally. If you don't have the shots this sequence, just subtract the leftovers from next sequence's Initiative. If you fail, though, the gun is damaged and can't be used again until you get it repaired, which will take several hours.

Every gun has a capacity, which is how many bullets it can fire before you have to reload. You need to know it and keep track of how much you shoot. Revolvers and shotguns take 5 shots to reload, while rifles, SMGs and machine guns take 3. Automatic pistols take 1, and 1850s-era black powder guns take 9 shots to reload. There are all different kinds of ammo - hollowpoint, armor-piercing, and so on. Characters will talk about them, use them and believe they matter. They don't, there are no special ammo rules. If a gun is a signature weapon, you will never lose it or have it be permanently damaged. Other guns can be, but it's never that hard to get a new gun. In fact, it is just assumed between fights that a gun-using character will just get new guns from somewhere. Anyone with gun schtick should never have to go out and find a connection for the rare and/or restricted firearms of their choice or scrounge up the cash to pay for them. You don't even need to do a scene for it - you just assume it happens between scenes. This isn't true if they want some kind of rare gun from outside the Juncture they're from, though, or if buying the gun furthers the plot somehow. Still...

I love this book posted:

...but generally the detailed portrayal of any shopping expedition is a major snooze. Players and GMs who wish to make a big deal of this are advised to watch a home shopping channel instead.

We then get a huge list of specific gun models. There isn't much difference between them, of course, but a gun character will swear there is and should probably know their favorite guns' model names by heart. I'm not going to bore you with most of them, but the book does suggest that if you have a Desert Eagle, it should be chrome, because why would you get one if it's not chrome? It also suggests that you should talk about fine German craftsmanship a lot if you get an H&K gun. So there's some wit in the list of guns. Interestingly, guns from 2056 are actually worse - the craftsmanship isn't as good, and they take 10 shots to clear out when jammed, though to be fair they also have the Buro Hellharrower, which is a giant-ass assault rifle with the biggest damage bonus short of Arcanowave Devices. (14, if you're wondering. Most handguns are between 7 and 10, most rifles and shotguns are between 11 and 13. Bows are a 7.)

Next time: My kung fu is superior!

I tried to use the cross-time cell phone Prof had given me to call for reinforcements, but I was getting nothing but static.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I tried to use the cross-time cell phone Prof had given me to call for reinforcements, but I was getting nothing but static.

Our intrepid and anonymous hero has gotten into a fight, but all his allies are down - Chen, the Bronze Mask, West Willow and McCroun. Jimmy even got himself killed! He's the last one standing as he faces the White Ninja, the Shattering Hand, C. C. Wang and the three Lee brothers...plus their 24 mooks. He calls for reinforcements, but the signal's blocked. The White Ninja attacks, her kung fu letting her run across the hail of bullets our hero sends at her. Before he knows it, she's on him, and he's just barely dodging. That's when something moves and distracts the WhitE Ninja, letting our hero coldcock her. That'd be when a team of merceenaries show up of nowhere, take out C. C. and the Shattering Hand...and shoot our hero with a dart which knocks him out. When he wakes up, he's in a strange and particularly stylish interrogation chamber with an old Scottish police inspector he knows...and he has no idea what's going on.

What's going in is kung fu . Any characters with positive Chi or at least positive Kung Fu can learn and use Fu Powers. Each Fu Power has a Chi Cost, the number of Kung Fu or Chi points you have to spend to use it. If your Kung Fu is higher than your Chi, that's how many points you have. It refreshes every sequence, but doesn't carry over, so you might as well spend it all by the end of the sequence. Spending chi points doesn't alter your Chi or Kung Fu ratings. Each power also has a Shot Cost, how long it takes to use. Very fast actions have a cost of 1, most have a cost of 3. Unless otherwise noted, the power only lasts for those shots and then goes away. Fu Powers require a Martial Arts roll to activate, but in many cases also include an attack, which the roll is also used for. (I think. I'm not sure if all powers require a roll, or just ones that talk about Outcomes and checks.)

Fu Powers come in paths , unlike Gun Schticks. You learn the first power on the path, then the second, then the third, and so on. You can learn multiple paths, but you can't learn a power without learning the ones before it on its path. Some powers will also have special requirements. Typically, you'll want to focus on one or two paths so you can get to the most powerful abilities at the end, but that's not universal. The cost of a new Fu Power is (3+X) XP, where X is the number of Fu Powers you will have when you get the new one. There is no training time, it's assumed to happen offscreen. Hell, maybe you knew the power all along and just haven't used it yet. So, what're the powers?

Path of the Shadow's Companion
Friend of Darkness - Chi 1, Shots 1. You can act without penalty in partial or complete darkness, and this power lasts until the end of the sequence.
Dark's Soft Whisper - Prereq: Friend of Darkness, Chi 4, Shots 3. An otherwise normal Martial Arts attack you make is completely silent - no one can hear any sound you or your opponents make during the shot the attack happens on.
Blade of Darkness - Prereq: Dark's Soft Whisper, Chi 1, Shots 3. You can turn chi energy and shadow into a six-inch blade. This blade lasts for a number of hours equal to your Outcome on the Martial Arts roll to activate this power. It has Damage equal to (Strength+3), and you get +3 to Intimidation checks when wielding it.
Gathering the Darkness - Prereq: Blade of Darkness, Chi X, Shots 3. You draw the shadows around yourself as a cloak, causing a -X penalty to all perception checks to detect you for X minutes after you activate this. X is how much Chi you spend.
Strike from Darkness - Prereq: Gathering the Darkness, Chi 4, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts attack on a foe who is unaware of your presence. If you hit, your damage is not reduced by their Toughness.
Shelter of Darkness - Prereq: Strike from Darkness, Chi 7, Shots 0. When you hit someone with a Martial Arts check, you can choose to activate this instead of dealing damage. An area with the target as the center is plunged into absolute darkness until the end of the sequence. Its radius is your hit's Outcome in meters, and anyone not immune to darkness effects suffers a -4 penalty on any attack made within, from or into the darkness. Other actions that require sight may suffer the same penalty at the GM's discretion. The shot cost of the power does not include the shot cost of the attack that triggered it.

Path of the Sharpened Scales
Bite of the Dragon - Chi 2, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts attack with a +2 Damage bonus.
Breath of the Dragon - Prereq: Bite of the Dragon, Chi 3, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts attack with a +3 bonus.
Claw of the Dragon - Prereq: Breath of the Dragon, Chi 5, Shots 0. You activate this after a successful Martial Arts attack. The Outcome gets +4.

Path of the Passive Wings
Crane Stance - Chi 1, Shots 1. If someone trying to hit you has Perception lower than your Agility, you get +5 to Dodge. Using Crane Stance is a defensive action.
Wing opf the Crane - Prereq: Crane Stance, Chi 2, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, you can subsitute your Chi (or Kung Fu) rating (not the number of unspent Chi points) for your Strength rating when making any rolls that require it, including damage rolls.
Beak of the Crane - Prereq: Wing of the Crane, Chi 1, Shots 3. On a succesful Martial Arts check, you may place an opponent in a hold that renders them immobile. Every 3 shots, the opponent may make a Strength check with your Martial Arts Action Value as the difficulty. If he wins, he breaks free. If you do anything but passively dodge, he breaks free automatically.
Talon of the Crane - Prereq: Beak of the Crane, Chi 3, Shots 3. As Beak of the Crane, but every time your foe attempts the Strength check, he takes 3 Wound points.

Path of the Hands of Light
Hands Without Shadow - Chi 1, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts attack which your foe can't actively dodge.
Dim Mak - Prereq: Hands Without Shadow, Chi 2, Shots 3. You attack with an unarmed Martial Arts attack. If it hits, you ignore any armor the opponent has.
Lightning Fist - Prereq: Dim Mak, Chi 6, Shots 3. You attack with an unarmed Martial Arts attack. If it hits, your opponent can't use Toughness to reduce the damage.

Path of the Clever Eye
The Fox's Retreat - Chi 1, Shots 1. You get +5 to your Dodge value. This is a defensive action.
Eyes of the Fox - Prereq: The Fox's Retreat, Chi 1, Shots 1. You study an oppponent in combat, and the GM must tell you the numerical value of one of their attributes, skills or current point totals. You pick which one.
Laughter of the Fox - Prereq: Eyes of the Fox, Chi 1, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts check against a foe, and if you hit, you steal the weapon from them. Until the end of the sequences, you get +3 to attack that opponent with this weapon. You get -5 to the check to steal the weapon if it's a signature weapon.
Vengeance of the Fox - Prereq: Laughter of the Fox, Chi 2, Shots 0. When you're hit by someone in hand-to-hand combat, you can make a Martial Arts attack. IF you hit, the opponent is thrown a number of meters equal to your Outcome in the direction of your choice. They take Damage equal to your Strength plus the Outcome.
Luck of the Fox - Prereq: Vengeance of the Fox, Chi 1, Shots 3. You draw chi energy in around you, and may spend Chi points as if they were Fortune points until the end of the sequence, but you take 5 Wound points each time you do.
Contract of the Fox - Prereq: Luck of the Fox, Chi 8, Shots 0. You activate this immediately after Initiative rolls. Your first shot is equal to the highest first shot rolled.

Path of the Tightening Coils
Eyes of the Snake - Chi 2, Shots 1. You execute a series of distracting moves. The shot cost of all attacks made on you guys up by 1 until the end of the sequence.
Slither of the Snake - Prereq: Eyes of the Snake, Chi X, Shots 1. X is the number of unnamed characters you want to hit. If they can choose targets, they can't pick you until next sequence. If all characters on one side of a fight use Slighter of the Snake, though, the power fails to work for any of them.
Strike of the Snake - Prereq: Slither of the Snake, Chi 3, Shots 0. You reduce any 3-shot action requiring a Martial Arts roll to a 1-shot action.
Coil of the Snake - Prereq: Strike of the Snake, Chi X, Shots 0. You may make a Martial Arts attack on the current shot even if it's not a shot you could attack on. X is the difference between the current shot and your next action shot. This doesn't change when your next shot occurs, it's just a bonus attack. It also doesn't change any costs of the attack you make.
Lunge of the Snake - Prereq: Coil of the Snake, Chi 3, Shots 0. You get +3 to your Initiative roll.

Path of the Brilliant Flame
Fire Strike - Chi 1, Shots 3. You make an unarmed Martial Arts attack. It gets a +2 Damage bonus, and if your opponent has flammable clothing, the clothing ignites. It takes 3 shots to put the fire out, and until it's put out the victim suffers 1 Wound Point for every 3 shots that he's on fire. Total damage from the fire effect can't exceed your Chi (or Kung Fu, if higher) rating.
Fire Stance - Prereq: Fire Strike, Chi 6, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, anyone attacking you unarmed takes 1 Wound point per attack, which is not reduced by Toughness.
Fire Fist - Prereq: Fire Stance, Chi 3, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack with your fist surrounded by flaming chi. The Damage rating oif the attack is 10, and even those somehow immune to martial arts or fu attacks take full damage unless they're also immune to fire blasts.
Eyes of Fire - Prereq: Fire Fist, Chi 3+X, Shots 3. As Fire Fist, but you don't have to touch them because you shoot fire out of your eyes. X is the distance between you and your foe in meters.
Gathering the Fire - Prereq: Eyes of Fire, Chi 3, Shots X. You can stand in the middle of a raging fire without taking damage for any number of shots in one sequence. For each shot you spend in the fire, you get a temporary Chi point. You may choose to spend these at any time to pay for any fu powers; once spent, they're gone forever. They don't change your Chi rating, just give you more points to spend. IF spend on this path's powers, the powers are half cost.

Path of the Selective Master
Signature Weapon - Chi 0, Shots 0. When you learn this power, you pick a specific single melee weapon, as per the Gun Schtick Signature Weapon. When using that particular weapon, you get a +3 Damage bonus and all other benefits of Signature Weapon.

Path of the Immutable Clay
Creative Thunder - Chi 1, Shots 3. You attack someone wielding an arcanowave device with an unarmed attack. IF you hit, you add the Difficutly of their next mutation check to your Outcome.
The Wandering Cow - Prereq: Creative Thunder, Chi X, Shots 1. When you suffer an arcanowave effect that would force you to make a mutation check at the end of the session, you can spend Chi equal to the check's difficulty if it were held immediately. You then apply that number as a bonus to your next action. The mutation check occurs normally at the end of the session.
No Medicine - Prereq: The Wandering Cow, Chi 3, Shots 8. You touch someone, including yourself, who will make a mutation check at the end of the session due to arcanowave exposure. You make a Martial Arts check with the difficulty equal to that of the mutation check if it were made immediately. If you succeed, the difficulty resets to 0 and must go up from there. If you fail, you must make a mutation check at the end of the session, with the victim's current Difficulty added to your own, if any. The victim's Difficulty is not changed. (And yes, we'll get to what all this means in the Arcanowave chapter.)
Unexpected Harvest - Prereq: No Medicine, Chi 0, Shots 0. If you've just used No Medicine succesfully, you may conver the dissipated arcanowave energy into chi power. You roll Martial Arts against the same Difficulty as No Medicine used, andi f you succeed, you get a number of Chi points equal to the Difficulty. Once spent, it doesn't come back, but it remains with you until spent. This doesn't change your Chi rating.
Clearing the Ground - Prereq: Unexpected Harvest, Chi 8, Shots 15. You can use your chi to cure an arcanowave mutant! You take their current value on the Mutation Outcome Chgart and treat it as a positive rather than a negative number. You then make a Martial Arts check with it as the difficulty. If you succeed, they're cured. If you fail, they remain mutated and you have to make a mutation check at the end of the session, adding the difficulty of the failed check to the difficulty of your Mutation check.

Path of the Empty Bottle
Drunken Stance - Chi 1, Shots 1. You must weave and trip drunkenly about as a continuous action (we'll get to what that means), but your opponent has to make a Perception check to attack you, which takes one shot to make. The difficulty is equal to the number of servings of alcohol you've had in the last half hour. A beer is half a serving, while a glass of wine or liquor is a full serving. When you use Drunken Stance, you ignore penalties from alcohol consumption for the rest of the sequence. You can also consume two servings of alcohol per shot by using Drunken Stance, which hits your bloodstream the moment you chug it down, no waiting, as you are a master of the ancient art of speed-drinking.
Drunken Fist - Prereq: Drunken Stance, Chi X, Shots 3. You make an unarmed Martial Arts attack, subtracting X from your target's Dodge value for the check, where X is how much chi you spent. In order to use this power, you must have had a number of servings of alcohol equal to to half your Constitution rating at most half an hour before the fight started.
Wily Stupor - Prereq: Drunken Fist, Chi X, Shots 1. You add X, where X is how much chi you spent, to your Toughness against a single attack made against you. This is a defensive action. To use this power, you must have had a number of servings of alcohol equal to half your Constitution rating at most half an hour before the fight started.
Aberrant Spasm - Prereq: Wily Stupor, Chi 3, Shots 1. You duck and weave unpredictably as a defensive action. After your foe makes a Martial Arts attack on you, make one of your own and pick a character within 3 meters as the poossible target of the attack. Your Difficulty is your opponent's attack result plus half the new target's Dodge value, rounding up. If you succeed, the new target suffers Damage equal to your Outcome plus the opponent's weapon's damage rating. In order to use this power, you must have had a number of servings of alcohol equal to half your Constitution rating at most half an hour before the fight started.
Spasmodic Leap - PRereq: Aberrant Spasm, Chi 3, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, any foes trying to attack you with guns or ranged weapons must make a succesful Perception check. If they fail, they must spend 6 shots firing at you to be able to hit you. The Difficulty of the check is the number of servings of alcohol you've had in the past six hours. Opponents who fail also may not act for 3 shots after the 6 shots of firing end.

Path of the Healthy Tiger
Claw of the Tiger - Chi 1, Shots 3. You attack with an unarmed Martial Arts attack, but the damage balue for your attack is Strength+3.
Tiger Stance - Prereq: Claw of the Tiger, Chi 1, Shots 0. After you are damaged in hand-to-hand combat, you may launch a free Martial Arts attack on the person who damaged you. This has no effect on your current Shot.
Unyielding Tiger Stance - Prereq: Tiger Stance, Chi 2, Shots 0. When attacked in hand-to-hand combat, you may respond with a simultaneous Martial Arts attack. This has no effect on your current shot.
Vengeance of the Tiger , Prereq: Unyielding Tiger Stance, Chi 4, Shots Special. When wounded in hand-top-hand combat, you can launch a Martial Arts attack on the person who just wounded you, using any Wound points you took after reduction from Toughness as a bonus to your attack. You then make a Constituion check with the Wound points just suffered as your Difficulty; if you get a negative Outcome, you're exhausted and can't act for a number of shots equal to that Outcome. If you succeed, you must wait 3 shots before acting.
Flow Restoration - Chi 0, Shots 1. You may touch someone to release them from the paralysis caused by the fu power Point Blockage.
Corners of the Mouth - Prereq: Flow Restoration, Chi X, Shots 1. Spend any amount of Chi while touching someone. They gain that amount of Chi and may spend it at any time during the current Sequence. At the end of the sequence, both your Chi total and theirs return to normal.
Healing Chi - Prereq: Corners of the Mouth, Chi Special, Shots 10. You perform crucial acupuncture jabs to speed the healing process. You make a Martial Arts check and subtract the result from your target's current Wound Point total. There's no way to save up healing and no negative wound point totals. If you're damaged while using Healing Chi, apply any Wound points you suffer as a penalty to your value for Healing Ch's check. If the check value is negative, the target suffers 5 Wound points. (I'm not sure what Chi Special means for the cost.)
Point Blockage - Prereq: Healing Chi, Chi 5, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack to block the flow of chi in a body. If you hit, you then make a Chi roll with your target's Chi as the Difficulty. If you succeed, the target is paralyzed for a number of Shots equal to the Outcome of the check. They retain all their senses, and if they realize that they're being attacked while paralyzed, they can make a Chi or Kung Fu check (their choice) against the higher of your Chi and Kung Fu. If they succeed, they break free.
Shadowfist - Prereq: Point Blockage, Chi Special, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack. If you hit, you don't do normal damage. Instead, you make a Chi or Kung Fu roll against the target's highest of Chi, Kung Fu and Will. If you succeed, you permanently reduce your Kung Fu and Chi ratings by 1 but the target's Martial Arts Action Value is permanently reduced by 5 and he permanently loses the use of a Fu Power of your choice.
Storm of the Tiger - Prereq: Vengeance of the Tiger, Shadowfist, Chi X, Shots 0. X is any amount of Chi you want to spend. You add (X*2) to the Damage of an unarmed attack you just made.

Path of the Storm Turtle
Clothed in Life - Chi 1, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, Damage done to you by those with a lower Chi rating than you is reduced by 2 per strike.
Armored in Life - Prereq: Clothed in Life, Walk of a Thousand Steps, Chi 3, Shots 3. Until the end of the sequence, add 3 to your Toughness for the purpose of resisting damage.
Inner Strength - Chi 1, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, you use Kung Fu instead of Magic to resist magic spells.
Eye of the Storm - Prereq: Inner Strength, Chi 2, Shots 3. You end the lingering effects of a single magic spell cast against you. It does not reverse damage from spells, but prevents any further damage from occuring once the spell ends.
Gift of the Storm - Prereq: Eye of the Storm, Chi 1, Shots 0. As you use another Fu Power, you can pick another character to benefit from it. That character gets all the benefits the power says "you" get. They must be willing, and within (Chi rating*3) meters of you. In the case of Drunken Stance and other powers on that path, you have to be drunk, not the target of this power.
The Storm Reverses - Prereq: Gift of the Storm, Chi X, Shots 1. You pick a new target for a magic spell cast at you by an enemy. X is the caster's Magic rating. This is a defensive action.
Tornado of Shelter - Prereq: The Storm Reverses, King on the Water, Chi 7, Shots 3. You are immune to all damage from magic spell and arcanowave devices until the end of the sequence.
Willow Step - Chi 1, Shots 0. You get +2 Dodge fur the duration of the shot.
Walk of a Thousand Steps - Prereq: Willow Step, Chi X, Shots 3. Until the end of the sequence, you add X, where X is the amount of Chi spent, to your Martial Arts Action Value when making active Dodges.
King on the Water - PRereq: Walk of a Thousand Steps, Chi 3, Shots 3. If your Charisma is greater than your target's, his next attack on you automatically fails.
Fortress of Righteousness - Prereq: King on the Water, Chi X, Shots 3. A Fu Power used by an opponent to strike you is neutralized. X is the Chi Cost of the neutralized power. The opponent still spends the Chi and shot costs of the power. This is a defensive action.
Natural Order - Chi 3, Shots 1. You take no damage from a single strike from a gun or arcanowave device. This is a defensive action which must be declared when you are targeted but before the attack is rolled.
Backlash of the Turtle - Prereq: Natural Order, Chi 3, Shots 3. A gun or arcanowave device that just caused you to take Wound Points is destroyed. Signature Weapons are immune to this effect.
Mirror of the Turtle - Prereq: Backlash of the Turtle, Chi 3, Shots 3. You make a Martial Arts attack with the number of Wound Points you have just suffered after Toughness from a single hit from a gun or arcanowave device as the Difficulty. If you succeed, the opponent that wounded you takes an equal amount of Wound Points, which are not reduced by Toughness.
Laughter of the Turtle - Prereqs: Mirror of the Turtle, King on the Water, Chi 7, Shots 3. You are immune to damage from guns until the end of the sequence.
Vengeance of the Turtle - Prereqs: Laughter of the Turtle, Chi 4, Shots 3. If you hit a non-living vehicle with an unarmed Martial Arts attack, the vehicle is destroyed.

Path of the Leaping Storm
Gathering of the Clouds - Chi 1, Shots 0. You can maintain a continuous action without adding to the shot cost of other actions you take.
Awesome Downpour - Prereq: Gathering of the Clouds, Chi 1, Shots 3. Using a single Martial Arts check, you attack two named characters within 3 meters of each other, using the highest of their Dodge values as the difficulty. Both opponents take the same amount of damage.
Rain of Fury - Prereq: Awesome Downpour, Chi 2, Shots 0. Immediately after making one attack on an unnamed opponent, you make another on the same opponent at no shot cost.
Torrent of Fury - Prereq: Rain of Fury, Vertical Charge, Chi 8, Shots Special. You spend all of your shots at once to launch a series of attacks against many foes. Each time you succeed a Martial Arts check, you can immediately make an additional attack on another opponent. You may attack each individual opponent only once per sequence.
Integration of the Clouds - Prereq: Torrent of Fury, Chi 1, Shots 0. You may combine the use of two Fu Powers into one action, provided the powers share a word in their titles. Fu Powers with contradictory conditions can't be combined. You pay the chi cost for both, but only the highest shot cost.
Prodigious Leap - Chi 1, Shots 1. You leap twice your normal Move rating, either horizontally or vertically.
Flying Windmill Kick - Prereq: Prodigious Leap, Chi 7, Shots 5. You make a normal kick attack with Martial Arts. If you hit, you make another kick against the same opponent at 0 shot cost. You continue doing htis until you miss, and the number of attacks you may launch is unlimited as long as you keep hitting.
Abundant Leap - PRereq: Prodigious Leap, Chi 2, Shots 3. You leap four times your normal Move rating, either horizontally or vertically.
Flying Sword - Prereq: Abundant Leap, Chi 3, Shots 3. You attack a foe by flying at them with sword outstretched as a Martial Arts attack. If you hit, add your Move rating to the Damage.
Water Sword - PRereq: Flying Sword, Chi 5, Shots 1. You make a display motion that causes your sword to become flexible and springy. Until the end of the sequence, opponents get -2 to their Dodge against your attacks.
Loyal Steel - Prereq: Flying Sword, Chi 1, Shots 5. You throw any hand-to-hand weapon at your foe, who may be up to (3*Chi rating) meters away. You make a normal Martial Arts check to see if you hit. If you do, you deal DAmage as if you had hit the enemy with the weapon in melee combat. Whether you hit or miss, the weapon flies back to your hand immediately.
Vertical Charge - Prereq: Flying Sword, Chi 3, Shots X. You run up a vertical surface. You choose the shot cost of this, and add that to your Martial Arts action value for a sword attack made immediately after using this power.

Next time: Oh, oh, it's magic, you know. Never believe it's not so.

I'm humiliated that you would even feel the need to ask.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

This'll probably be my last update today, since I have to get some work done, but it's been sitting here so I may as well get it out.

Feng Shui: I'm humiliated that you would even feel the need to ask.

We don't get fiction this time. Instead, let's learn about magic. First, all magic requires you to do something - chanting, waving you hands around or other ritual actions. You can stop someone from, doing magic by gagging him, binding his hands and seperating him from his ritual inks and papers. As a result, casting a spell is a complex action with a shot cost of 3, requiring a Sorcery check. The difficulty changes based on what you're doing. Also: feel free to rename your Sorcery schticks and special effects. Anything particularly cool-sounding to you is fine, especially since sorcerers often shout the names of their spells in dramatic situations.

The good news is that the rituals involved in spellcasting can be fudged a bit - they won't go bad if you dodge while casting, even an active dodge, though an active dodge will slow down the spell much as it slows anything else down. You can also perform snapshots to shave off the shot cost on a Sorcery check as per normal; we'll get to what that means later. Anyway, instead of dividing stuff into specific spells, Feng Shui goes with a set of basic effects tied together as a schtick and has multiple schticks. Each schtick has several special effects, broad categories that define what spells looke like and do. You have all the special effects of every Sorcery Schtick you have except the Blast schtick. You get 3 Blast special effects when you buy Blast and have to buy more with XP.

So, what if you want your spell to do something not covered by the listed special effects? Well, you tell the GM what you want to do, and he decides if it's reasonable to try. Then he lets you roll against a difficulty he's set. If you want to argue with him about what's reasonable, to keep the game moving he's instructed to let you roll and just automatically fail. Automatic failure also happens to spells that would completely derail the plot, but if a spell is necessary to advance the plot it auto-succeeds. Being flashy, entertaining, obvious or helping to move the plot along lowers difficulties, while subtlety, slowing things down or being born adds to difficulties. Further, each Juncture has a modifier to uses of Sorcery. In 69 AD, all Sorcery is done at +2. In 1850 and Contemporary, it's -2. In 2056 and the Netherworld, it is +1. There is an exception for Hong Kong, though. For some reason, Contemporary Hong Kong has a modifier of +0. No one knows why.

Naturally, concerted effort in the Secret War can change the Juncture Modifiers. It's rare, though. Changing one modifier will also change the Netherworld's. See, to get the Netherworld's modifier, you take all the major junctures and add up their modifiers. The Netherworld's modifier is whatever makes the number you get become 0 when added to it. So if sorcery gets harder in the Junctures, it's easier in the Netherworld, and vice versa.

We also get a note that Sorcerers may attempt to combine schticks to get more complex effects - for example, let's say you want to interrogate a corpse, but that doesn't fall directly under your schticks. So, instead, you combine Heal (to make the corpse take on a semblance of life) and Summoning (to call out the souls and question them). The GM buys this and lets you try it, but decides it's pretty tough. It's possibly to succeed with just one part of this spell, too - so you might get the corpses moving but not get the souls back. You can also perform normal stunts, like anyone else, using Sorcery. It's -1 per additional target to hit more than person with a Blast. When we get to combat, we will find that applies to all attacks. Likewise, Blasts can do called shots or cause ancillary effects (like igniting a drum of gas with a fireball).

Oh, right - and you can dodge with the Blast schtick. It creates a barrier of magical energy to deflect attacks. You may also fire counter-blasts to parry attacks or use Movement to telekinetically block attacks with objects lying around. Handy! It's also possible to burn your own chi if your roll's not good enough. You can spend points of Magic to increase your Sorcery roll by +1 per point spent for a single roll. However, this also lowers your Magic for the rest of the session by the amount you spent. Which means all your other rolls relying on Magic are going to be that much worse. Further, fueling a spell this way means that when you get boxcars, even if you succeed, you take backlash.

Backlash is what happens when you channel too much energy to handle. It varies by what spell you're casting, but it's never good. It happens when you get a Way-Awful Failure on a spellcasting roll, or any time you get boxcars on a spell which you shaved shot cost off of with a snapshot or fueled with your personal magic points. So that's risky. Anyone with the Sorcery skill can learn Sorcery Schticks, and it costs (16+X) XP per schtick, where X is the number of Sorcery schticks you'll have when you get the new one. No training time, as always. It also costs 3 XP per special effect to learn new Blast special effects. As for learning Sorcery - well, it takes two years apprenticed to someone with Sorcery total 15 or higher. At the end of those two years, to roll Magic against difficulty 10. If you pass, you can buy Sorcery and get two free schticks. If you fail, you have to wait 6 months to try again, but the next roll is Diff 8, and so on. Typically this will be a training montage in two years of time that nothing big happens, or it just won't happen at all.

So, magic schticks. Let's start with Blast . Blast is how you attack with magic. Pretty much every sorcerer has Blast. It's great, it's powerful, but it's not so good at esoteric effects. Your base Damage with Blast is your Magic rating + 2. The difficulty of landing it is the highest of your target's Dodge, Magic or Sorcery ratings. Backlash on a Blast is 10 Wound points suffered by the caster. What kind of Blasts can you have?
Acid : You shoot a stream of liquid or a cloud of acid that eats away at things. Also handy for damaging evidence, poisoning wells and removing serial numbers.
Chi : Too much raw chi energy is bad for things. If cast in a feng shui site, it will disrupt or sever the connections between the site and the people attuned to it, causing them to lose the benefits until they reattune. The Difficulty of doing this is (3*number of attuned characters), and you have to de-attune all of them. Also, unlike normal Blasts, you get +2 per Magic point spent to boost Chi Blasts instead of +1!
Conjured Weapons : You call a glowing, magical weapon or rain of weapons out of thin air, which fly at your enemy. Handy for hurting things immune to normal attacks, because the weapons count as magical. Also, scary.
Disease : This is more longterm and best suited for villains. Instead of causing Wound Points, you subtract the target's Constitution fro mthe Damage. The result is the disease rating. For every 5 points of disease rating, rounded down, the victim suffers 1 point of Impairment until cured. The disease can be cured by a Medicine check with the disease rating as the Difficulty, or by the Heal Sorcery schtick or the Fu Power Healing Chi.
Disintegration : Matter vanishes. At the GM's discretion, damage from disintegration blasts, especially called shots, may cause injuries that can on;y be healed by magic or arcanowave tech. If this is done, though, disintegration blasts are at +2 Difficulty.
Fire : Sets things on fire, starts fires, lights cigars and cigarettes impressively. Also heats things up and thaws frozen TV dinners!
Ice : Freezer burn. It also makes ice cubes, chills food, lets you walk across lakes and keeps you cool in summer.
Lightning : Electrical discharge. Good for recharging car batteries and overloading electronics, too.
Steam : Steam. Also good for fogging up car windows and glasses, and opening envelopes without ripping them.
Transmutation : You turn matter into other matter. You turn flesh to stone, or water, or primordial ooze. The new substance is very rough, though - you can't make gold pure enough to sell, or stuff that's durable enough to use. It just hurts people and breaks things. However, it is a very demoralizing power because it can't be healed except by magic or arcanowave tech. However, it's done at +3 Difficulty.

Divination is a schtick that lets you get information through magic. The backlash is bad luck. On your next three important rolls, chosen by the GM, you roll an additional negative die. Special effects?
Revelation : You can identify illusions as fake or learn the true forms of transformed supernatural creatures.
Prediction : You get good, if obscure advice. Usually this is done with the I Ching. When a PC uses this power, the GM gives a cryptic answer meant to be a puzzle and move the plot along by providing a clue to the next scene. The Difficulty is based on how good the GM thinks the clue is. Obvious clues are high Difficulty, subtle are Low. NPCs, well, they get warning about the PC's plans and, for some reason, there's a difficulty listed as if you're actually going to roll it! Specifically, the difficulty is the highest Magic or Chi rating of the PC group.
Warning : You draw a chalk outline on the ground around an area. There's no size limit, but it has to be an unbroken outline. You name any number of specific intelligent beings who can cross the line without triggering an alarm. Any intelligent being not on that list causes a shiver to run down your spine when they cross the line. However, the intruders secretly roll the higher of Magic or Sorcery; if they beat the original spell result, the warning isn't sent. As a note, a sorcerer with Blast can combine this with Blast to make a booby trap. This takes two checks - one for Warning, one for Blast. If the intruder triggers the warning, he makes a second Magic/Sorcery check. If the second check doesn't beat the check to set up the Blast, it goes off against the intruder and can't be dodged. The Sorcerer does not know if or when the trap goes off, just that someone crossed the line. The power remains as long as the chalk line is unbroken, and an intelligent intruder can't brush the chalk away without automatically triggering the warning. (Rain, however, can.)

Fertility is the shtick for measuring and modifying ambient chi flow. A Backlash on a Fertility effect decreases your Constitution by 1 until the end of the session. Special effects!
De-Attunement : You can sever a target's link to all of his feng shui sites, forcing him to re-attune to get the benefits back. The Difficulty is equal to the highest of the target's Sorcery or Magic ratings, or (the number of sites he's attuned*3).
Germination : You create powders and potions to make plants grow in the worst conditions or to make cows or goats produce more milk. This requires no roll. You can also cast this on people to make them more likely to conceive. The Difficulty is 5, plus the higher of the target's Magic or Chi if they're unwilling or unknowing. If the check is succesful, then the GM makes a special roll the next time the subject engages in any procreative activity, whatever that is for them, adding the Outcome of the spell to the roll. If the result is positive, someone got pregnant. If the result is over 15, animals get large litters and humans get twins or triplets. You can also create potions to stop plant growth, milk production or human fertility, same methods.
Growth : You make a potion causing all plants in the area to increase in size. Any plant within 5 meters of the spot the potion is poured on the earth is affected, and the size increase is 5%, plus another 5% per point of Difficulty.
Harvest Chi : You can spend a Magic point to add a positive die to any roll you make.
Observe Chi : You can see how strong the chi is in the area, allowing you to immediately ID feng shui sites and sense the Chi rating of any character you can observe for 30 seconds. You can also see lingering magical or arcanowave effects. All of this can be done without rolling.
Steal Chi : You can spend a Magic point to add a negative die to any roll attempted by someone you can observe - even if it's via video or binoculars.
Restore Chi : You can restore disrupted chi flows, cancelling any currently active magic or arcanowave effects. The Difficulty is equal to the Sorcery or Arcanowave action value of the character who caused the effect. You have to equal or beat that to completely neutralize the effect. If you do this at the same time that a Sorcery or Arcanowave check is being made and win, you prevent the effect from happening in the first place.

Heal is the schtick for restoring people and objects to good health. You're probably an alchemist if you have this, or lay on hands if you're Western. Backlash varies by what you're trying to do but tends to be the opposite of what you want.
Cure Diseases : You cure diseases! Difficulty is based on the severity of the illness. A cold is 6, heart diseas is 12, AIDS is 20. Arcanowave biohzards that cause disease are usually 15 or higher. In a Backlash, you catch the disease you're trying to heal. If trying to cure yourself, you instead infect a friend or loved one.
Heal Wounds : You make a Sorcery check and subtract the result from someone's Wound Points. You can't do this mid-fight, though. In a Backlash, you suffer Wound Points equal to the target's current total.
Immortality : Yeah, that's right. You can reverse one year's worth of aging. The Difficulty is the target's true age divided by 5. However, the target must reduce their Magic by 1 permanently, and it can't go below 0. In a Backlash, all previous Immortality spells reverse themselves. If this puts the target past their normal life expectancy, they die. Generally, if you're not using this on yourself, the person you are using it on probably has friends who will be upset about that.
Material Restoration : You can fix broken objects. The Difficulty is basedo n the size and complexity - smaller is easier, simpler is easier. Scissors are around 4. A gun or brick wall is around 8. A computer is around 12, as is a car. A jet would be 16. You can't fix Arcanowave devices. On a Backlash, you break the item permanently and it can't be fixed by any means.
Poison Antidotes : You can make a potion to neutralize poisons. The Difficulty is the Damage Value of the poison. If you succeed, all wound points done are canceled out. On a backlash, you suffer wound points equal to those done by the poison. This also works against the lingering effects of the Creature Power Corruption, with Difficulty equal to the Creature Powers value of the user. If you get backlash on that, you become corrupted.

Influence lets you manipulate the thoughts, feelings and senses of other people.
Emotion Potions : You can make a potion to create a certain emotion. Love potions are most famous. You roll Sorcery when you make the potion. When it is consumed, the total is compared to the target's Chi or Magic, whichever is higher. If you beat it, the subject is affected for days equal to the Outcome. On a backlash, you're the one affected.
Enchantment : You impose your will on someone. They must be in earshot, but the spell can work by telephone, recording or videotape. The target will obey a single instruction in both letter and spirit. The difficulty is the highest of their Chi, Magic or Will. Modifiers are added based on how likely the instruction is to be followed without magic. If the target would obey anyway, no modifier. If they'd be mildly averse, +3 to Difficulty. If actively unwilling, +6. If extreme coercion would be required, +9. If the target would die before doing it, +12. Mooks told not to attack usually fall into +9. On a backlash, you must obey the next instruction given to you by anyone - including billboards or TV commercials. It's the first instruction you see or hear.
Illusions : You send false sensory signals to the target. Any sense, even touch. They must be within (Magic rating*3) meters of you, and the Difficulty is the higher of their Chi and Magic, +3 for every sense after the first that is affected. The illusion is anything you want, and it lasts for a number of shots equal to the Outcome. On a Backlash, you're the one who sees/hears/feels the illusion.
Inspiration : You plant an idea in someone's mind. You can be any distance from them, but most have either something they owned and cared for or a part of their body. The Difficulty is the higher of their Chi and Magic, and they believe they had the idea themselves unless you want them to know you sent it. If the character thinks it's their own idea, there's no guarantee they'll think it was a good one - this isn't mind control. On a Backlash, you suffer -1 to your Mind rating for 8 hours and can't sleep for the same period.

Movement is the ability to move objects around. The Backlash for Movement is that you are violently hurled a number of meters equal to the Difficulty of the check you were making in a random direction. This will probably hurt.
Chucking Things About : You must be able to see hte target object whjen the spell is cast, but binoculars or live video work. Photos don't. The Difficulty is the weight of the object in kilograms, divided by 5. So a 50kg rock is 10, a 100 is 20. The maximum distance you can move it is (Outcome*3) meters. Objects under 5kg don't even need a roll. Sometimes you can make an object move on its own by pushing it - say, by moving the parking brake on a car on a hill. You'd use Remote Manipulation for that, and then a simple push with this.
Flight : You can fly at your usual Move rate without a roll. You have to roll to do complex things like picking people up, actively Dodging, zipping through hoops or whatever.
Remote Manipulation : You can do tasks based on Manual Dexterity without touching things. You have to be able to see what you're manipulating, and the Difficulty is equal to whatever the Difficulty would be normally, but you have to roll twice - once to cast the spell, once to do the Manual Dexterity check.
Speed : You can icnrease your Speed or that of another person for 1 sequence. The Difficulty is the target's current Speed + 5. The Outcome is the number of additional Speed points they get for the rest of the sequence. You have to be able to see the target, and if they want to resist you have to beat the highest of their Dodge, Magic or Chi. You can decrease Speed as well, with a difficulty of the higher of the target's Magic or Chi, or Dodge if they're aware of the spell. The Outcome is the number of Speed points they lose for the sequence.

Summoning is the schtick for dealing with supernatural creatures - that is, anything with Creature Powers or arcanowave mutations. (Arcanowave can mutate you, by the way.) Unless otherwise noted, the difficulty is the target's Will. Backlashes tend to involve accidentally summoning angry monsters.
Banishment : You drive away supernatural creatures. You have to be able to see the target, and they have to see you. If you win, the target must spend (Outcome) sequences moving as fast as possible away from you in any direction. It can defend itself from attacks but can take no other action. It must try to overcome any barriers in its path by any means, including finding a new route. It doesn't have to endanger itself to get around bostacles. If it can't leave, it will cower as far away from you as it can until the spell ends.
Corruption : You can ritually desecrate an area, making it amenable to supernatural creatures. This is difficulty 8. The area is a sphere centered on you, with radius equal to (Outcome) meters. It doesn't move after you cas it, and remains for (Outcome) days. If you spend a MAgic point before casting the spell, it is permanent. Supernatural creatures in the area get +2 to all action values. You can only corrupt a space, not an item. Corruption will also cancel out the efects of a Purification spell, but the difficulty for that is the result of the origina Purification check.
Domination : You try to control a supernatural creature. You must be able to see it and it must be able to hear you. If you succed, it must obey your instructions to the letter (but not the spirit) for (Outcome) sequences, to the best of its ability. If you spend a MAgic point before casting, it must obey for (Outcome) hours, instead.
Exorcism : You remove the taint of a monster from a person, such as a possessed person or arcanowave mutant. If the condition was caused by a monster or arcanowave device's user, their action value in the relevant skill is the Difficulty. If you're curing mutation, the difficulty is the victim's mutation point total. Against an unwilling subject, this lasts for (Outcome) sequences, while in a willing subject it is permanent. It can't be used on supernatural creatures, abominations or other beings to turn them human or suppress their powers. Just humans who have been changed.
Invocation : You can summon a supernatural creature. You need a part of its body - hair, a claw, skin, whatever. You can also use it on any monster you have used Domination on in the past. The difficulty is the target's Willpower, +7 if they're in the Netherworld or a different juncture when you cast the spell, +5 if they've had an arcanowave device installed since your last encounter. You must spend 2 Magic points to do this, and if you succeed, the creature materializes in front of you. This does not stop it from doing anything, so it can totally attack you if it wants.
Purification : You can ritually cleanse an area, the opposite of Corruption. This follows the same difficulties and rutles as Corruption, but any supernatural creature trying to enter the area must pass a Willpower check with the spell's action result as the difficulty. If they fail, they can't enter the area and suffer a point of Impairment for a number of sequences equal to the Willpower check's Outcome. Purification can cancel out Corruption via the same rules.

Weather lets you manipulate the weather. Difficulties are based on how big a change you're making - slight is 5, dramatic is 10, extrem is 15. Backlash causes a -1 penalty to your Chi for the duration of the session, but you can't go below 0 Chi.
Cold : You make it cold outside, causing people to go find scarves and coats. Guards will huddle together around heaters or garbage can fires, abandoning their posts. (This isn't mind control - it's just dramatic effects of cold weather.)
Heat and Humidity : You make opponents wearing armor or heavy coats feel very uncomfortable, make exertion tiring and make people thirsty enough to take the ice-cold but poisoned or potion-laden glass of lemonade.
Fog : You obscure vision and get partial cover! Also you look spooky and sinister.
Lightning : As per the Lightning Blast, but you made a storm to go with it.
Rain : Roads get muddy, vehicles get stuck, people go running inside so they don't get wet and can't see your fight. Also it makes your foes annoyed and upset.
Snow : Traffic problems, flight cancellations and you obscure vision.
Thunder : You impress mooks and hide noises.
Wind : You knock people over or slow them down, blow away light objects, damage buildings, knock down trees and power lines, or even create sandstorms.

Next time: So come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab. The creature feature!

Hey, I know my style, and whoever put together this interrogation chamber had it to spare.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

You know how I thought I'd have no more time today? Wasn't quite right.

Feng Shui: Hey, I know my style, and whoever put together this interrogation chamber had it to spare.

All right. Supernatural creactures. What is a supernatural creature? For our purposes: anything which starts play with Creature Powers and anyone who has failed a mutation check due to arcanowave exposure. The former follow a few rules. First: all supernatural creatures are horrific. You got to decide how, but they look awful. Maybe they're working corpses, or giant ogres, or demon heads with wings. They are immediately recognizable as inhuman monsters and terrify people. This can be handy - they get a +2 bonus to Intimidate when in their horrific forms, even if they don't actually have the skill. However, it does mean they have trouble moving through society. Most people want to kill them, though Abominations in 2056 can get buy if they have military escort. When in their natural state, supernatural creatures are treated as having Charisma of 2 when trying to make a positive impression, even if they have higher Charisma. You want to use that higher Charisma? Take the Transformation schtick and turn human. If you want to look scary, menacing or make a negative impression, you get your full Charisma in monster form, though. Also, all supernatural creatures, except ghosts, also look much slower than they actually are. They look like they stumble or hop along at a rate equal to half their Move, but actually move at their full Move speed. Ghosts look as fast as they actually are, though.

Like Sorcery, supernatural creatures get bonuses and penalties based on the local Juncture. However, the modifiers apply to all of their action values. In 69 AD, supernatural creatures get +2, and abominations get +1. In 1850 and Contemporary, they both get -2. In 2056, supernatural creatures get -1 and abominations, due to their arcanowave reconstruction, get +2. In the Netherworld, there is no modifier. In Contemporary Hong Kong, there is also no modifier. No one knows why. Supernatural creatures also suffer from the fact that they can't be healed by normal medicine. Creatures need to be healed by the mystic medicine taught in 69 AD, while abominations need the superscience of 2056. Mystic healing like the Healing Chi power, the Heal schtick of Sorcery or the arcanowave Slap Patches work as normal.

Only supernatural creatures can by Creature Powers - but that does include arcanowave mutants, so that's a plus. It costs (8+x) xp, where x is how many Creature Powers you will have when you gain the new one. No training time, these htings just spontaneously appear. So - what are the powers?

Absorption : When attacked by someone using a fu power, you make a Creature Power check with a difficulty equal to the Martial Arts action result. If you succeed, you can use that fu power for (Outcome) sequences, and your attacker loses it for that same amount of time. If you absorb a fu power, you get a number of points to spend on it equal to the higher of your attacker's Chi or Fu ratings. As far as I know, it regenerates each sequence as normal. Yes, if you somehow steal an Old Master's power that costS X, you can just unload all of that and be happy.

Abysmal Spines : You're covered in sharp bony spines, have jagged teeth, terrible claws or some other nasty natural weapon. This gives your unarmed attacks +2 to their Damage ratings per schtick spent on this, to a maximum of +8 damage (so four schticks).

Amphibian : You can move and breathe underwater. If you want, you can reduce your Move attribute by any amount on land in order to increase it by the same amount underwater. This decision is made when you take the schtick.

Armor : You get 2 points of Armor per schtick, to a max of 8 points of Armor.

Blast : You have an ability much like the Blast schtick of Sorcery. For each schtick spent, you get one of the special effects listed under Blast. You use Creature Power as your skill to use it, not Sorcery.

Blood Drain : You can drink human blood to gain some kind of power. You have some kind of body feature to do it with - fangs, sucker mouths on your palms, a proboscis, whatever. If you have the abilities Abysmal Spines or Tentacles, that can be your feeding equipment. When you hit someone with a Martial Arts attack, you may make a Creature Power check against the higher of your target's Chi or Magic ratings. If you succeed, you can choose to forgo normal damage in order to do one of the following effects. You have access to one effect per schtick spent on this:
Action Value gain : You choose a skill that both you and the target have. You get +1 to your action value for this skill until the end of the session; the target gets -1 to their action value for the skill for the same period. This stacks each time you use it.
Fortune drain : Your victim loses a Fortune point and you gain one. This stacks each time you use it, but does nothing to people with no Fortune points.
Memory drain : You gain the victim's memories. You lose them at the end of the session. Until the end of the session, your victim is haunted by nightmares, becomes distraught and is subject to memory lapses and hallucinations. There is no benefit to landing this more than once in a session on the same target.
Voice gain : You can mimic your victim's voice with perfect accuracy until the end of the session. There is no benefit to landing this more than once in a session on the same target.

Brain Shredder : You can cause a fear response in other intelligent beings which is so intense that it causes brain damage. You must be within (the higher of your Chi and Magic) in meters of your victim, you must be able to see them clearly and they must be able to see you clearly. You can't use this and the Transformation ability at the same time. Your base damage is 7, +3 for every additional schtick spent on this power. You roll Creature Power against the victim's Dodge, but damage is reduced by the highest of Chi, Fortune or Magic, rather than Toughness.

Conditional Escalation : You temporarily gain a point of a single, specified primary attribute each time a particular condition is might. These last until the end of the fight. You can add a second primary attribute by spending another schtick. There's no roll here, it just happens. When you spend your first schtick, you pick one of the following triggers:

Corruption : You infect your victims with your own essence. If this is not treated, they become supernatural creatures, too. Any victim who suffers more than 25 Wound points from your unarmed hand-to-hand attacks is in danger of being transmuted. They must make a Constituion check with a Difficulty equal to the number of succesful attacks you landed. If they fail, they will change into a monster after three midnights. Their attributes change to be identical to yours, except they lose 1 point of each attribute. They gain the Creature Power skill and retain all other skills. At first they retain their own will and consciousness. However, if ever given the chance to act savagely or monstrously, they must make a Willpower check with a difficulty of your Magic. If the target is a PC, the GM temporarily controls them when they fail a check, making them act against the PC's desires. Once the victim fails three checks, their old personalite is gone and replaced by a bestial one. If they were a PC, they become an NPC. This happens even if you, the infector, are "good" - Corruption is a tainting essence. It can be reversed before the third failure by using extensive blood transfusions or the Poison Antidotes power of the Heal schtick. For each living and active character you have corrupted, you gain 1 Corruption Point. Corruption Points can be spent at any time for a +1 bonus to any action value for one action. You can spend as many Corruption Points on an action as you like, and they refresh at the beginning of each session. If you spend a second schtick on Corruption, you gain the Domination ability with a +6 bonus, usable only on those whom you have corrupted.

Damage Immunity makes you immune to some form of damage. You never take wound points from attacks you're immune to, ever. For each schtick spent, you are immune to one type of damage, and you can't buy more than two immunities at chargen. This schtick costs four times the usual number of XP. The available immunities are:

Death Resistance : For each schtick in this, you get +3 to Death checks.

Domination : You can overcome the minds of others and force them to obey. You must be able to see the victim, and they have to be able to see you, but this can be via two-way video. You roll Creature Power and spend a Magic point, with a difficulty of your target's highest Action Value. If you succeed, the victim makes a check with their highest ACtion Value against a Difficulty of your check's Outcome. If they succeed, you don't Dominate them. If they fail, they must obey you for (Outcome) sequences. You don't have to voice your orders - they intuitively understand what you want and will obey to the letter and spirit of your commands. They will not perform suicidal actions but will go to severe risk. By spending extra schticks, you gain the following powers, in order:
1. They will remember being dominated but will not remember specific actions they performed. These memories can be recovered through hypnosis or the Influence schtick of Sorcery.
2. They have no memory of being dominated but have a sense of missing time. Their memories can be recovered as above.
3. Victims don't even know about the missing time until prompted by methods listed above.
4. Their memories can't be recovered, period.

Flight : You can fly at your normal Move rating. For each additional schtick spent, you add 2 to your Move while flying.

Foul Spew : You can spew something nasty from your mouth, firing it a number of meters equal to your Creature Power action value. This can do things like obscure windshields along with the specific effects listed. You pick one substance per schtick spent:
Glutinous Goo : You shoot a sticky substance which forces anyone hit by it or stepping in it to make a Strength check with your Creature Power action value as the difficulty to free themselves from it.
Nauseating Chunks : You shoot vomit which causes disabling nausesa in everyone within 3 meters of it. This takes 6 shots to activate; you fire on the 6th. For those 6 shots, your Dodge rating is halved. Anyone within range must make a Constitution check with your Creature Power action value as the difficulty. Those who fail spend 6 shots vomiting and may take no actions other than passive dodging; their ratings are halved. Actions they were engaged in are stopped.
Slippery Slime : You shoot a slippery substance that forces anyone trying walk on a floor or climb a wall covered in it to make an Agility check with your Creature Power action value as the difficulty. If they fail, they slip and fall, and must make a second Agility check to be able to stand up and get away.

Inevitable Comeback : When you fail a death check, you appear to die instantly. You then make a Magic check with the same difficulty as the death check you would otherwise have to make. (We'll get to that later.) If you fail, you go on to make death checks as normal. If you succeed, you return to life 10 sequences later, with your wound points reduced to 5. You may do this once per session per schtick spent on this ability. However, each time you recover in a session, your wound total when you get back up is increased by 5. If your wound point total on returning to life equals or exceeds 35, you have to make a death check. If you fail that, you can still use Inevitable Comeback if you somehow have any uses left.

Insubstantial : You may pass through solid matter with a Creature Power check, difficulty 1 per inch of thickness. You must specify four types of matter you can't pass through, and the GM picks a fifth. For each additional schtick spent, you can pass through one of the four types you picked; the GM's choice can't be bought off. You can't use this to avoid damage from being hit by matter, though.

Poison : You secret toxic venom with Damage 10. For each additional schtick, the Damage goes up by 2. Victims resist damage with Constitution, not Toughness. You pick a means of delivery with your first schtick:
Fangs or Stinger : You have to bite or sting your foe with a succesful Martial Arts check.
Gland : You can milk a gland to produce a poison which must be ingested.
Skin : You must rub your skin against your victim's for several minutes (so not just a handshake), and you can't do it in combat, but the poison is undetectable by normal means.

Rancid Breath : You can make your breath damage people. You must grab and hold an unwilling victim with a Martial Arts action. The base damage for this is 10, +3 per additional schtick spent on this. Victims resist damage with Constitution, not Toughness.

Regeneration : You decrease your Wound point total by 1 at the beginning of each sequence for each schtick you have in this. You can't have more than five schticks in this, and you can't reduce Wound point totals below 1. This ability stops workin when you fail a death check until you are somehow restored to 0 Wound points by other means.

Soul Twist : Your touch ruptures chi patterns. The base damage is 7, +2 for each additional schtick, to a max of four schticks (so 13 damage, since that base 7 is your first schtick). You must make a succesful Martial Arts attack against your victim. They resist damage via Kung Fu instead of Toughness. Damage dealt by Soul Twist can only be healed by the Heal schtick of Sorcery or the Flow Restoration fu power. Flow Restoration heals all damage caused by Soul Twist.

Tentacles : You have tentacles attached to you. You can make hand-to-hand attacks from range with them. They are elastic and can stretch out to your Creature Power action value in meters. They use your Creature Power skill to attack. You have a number of tentacles equal to the schticks you have in this power. Opponents fighting you hand-to-hand can normally not hit anything but your tentacles unless they use stunts or movement-oriented fu powers like Prodigious Leap. Your tentacles can take 20 wound points before being severed, but these do not add to your normal total and do not cause you any Impairment or otherwise affect you. Tentacles do not grow back when severed, unless you have the Regeneration schtick. IF you do, you may at any time choose to apply the wound point reduction to a tentacle instead of to your normal total. Tentacles can fully regenerate after being severed.

Transformation : For each schtick you have in this, you may assume one predetermined form. This can be an animal, a person, another type of supernatural creature or even an object. If you become an object, you gain all the normal abilities of that object. You can return to your normal form whenever you want with a Creature Power check. You can eliminate the need for the check by spending a schtick on this. You get to determine the visual characteristics of the form you take on. Transforming takes 9 shots. If you spend an additional schtick on this, you can take up hybrid forms, halfway between your natural form and your other forms. For example, if you can turn into a motorcycle, you might have a motorcycle with your monstrous head betwene the handlebars and your tentacles (if you have the Tentacles schtick). You may assign different attributes to each for, using your type's base attributes assigned differently. However, your Mind may not be altered from form to form. If you choose to give your forms different attributes, your transformations are lengthier and more painful than normal, and you suffer 1 point of Impairment per changed attribute for 3 sequences after transforming. If you improve your attributes during play, all forms' attributes change by the same amount.

Next time: You're not a man, you're a chicken, Boo!

If you meet someone mysterious and beautfiul who fears magic, she may not be what she seems.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Having buckled down and finished my essays ahead of schedule, I reward you with nega-furries.

Feng Shui: If you meet someone mysterious and beautfiul who fears magic, she may not be what she seems.

We get another bit of fiction. This time, our hero got knocked out in 69 AD and left lying around in a desert. He wakes up and finds a snake, prepares to shoot it and then gets smacked in the back of a head by a throwing club thrown by a beautiful woman. She talks to the snake and gets it to leave, then turns to him. He realizes she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, but there's something a little odd about her skin and eyes. That's when she tells him that she is no friend of the Lotus and hates sorcery, and he realizes: she's not a human being. She's a snake wearing human form. Too late, though, he's already fallen in love.

Transformed animals are just cool that way. They're not furries, falling in love with them doesn't make you a furry, and the reason for that is they're human . Sure, they used to be animals, but the only thing that's left of that is maybe some funny eyes, unnaturally smooth skin and a few magic powers. When you make a tranimal, you pick what animal they are. This gives them a package of attribute modifiers and powers they can learn. If a package says that you lower a primary attribute, you also lower all secondary attributes except those the package tells you to raise. So, for example, a Spider gets -1 Bod and +2 Mov. This means he gets Bod 4 and Mov 7, since the base Bod is 5 for tranimals. Each package has a limited list of schticks they can learn (except Dragons, who are special). If a tranimal power requires a roll, it probably uses either Martial Arts or Chi; in fact, tranimal powers resemble fu powers. They have a Chi cost and a shot cost. The difference is that you have to use your Chi pool - having high Mag or Fu doesn't help. It still refreshes every sequence, though.

It costs (8+x) XP to get a new schtick, where X is the number of tranimal schticks you'll have with the new one. No training time - you're assumed to have been meditating off-screen. Now, the real pain of being a tranimal: Reversion. You're not a werecritter, you can't naturally switch forms. You're human with some odd powers and animal chromosomes. (Don't ask how that works. Action movie rules.) If you get turned back into an animal, it's a one-way trip, and who the hell wants to spend the rest of their life as a chicken? Being in areas where the chi energy has been altered by sorcery is dangerous for tranimals. In 1850 and the Contemporary Juncture, the Ascended have control of Earth just so they can suppress magic, so they don't gety turned back. Tranimals from 69 AD, being the original generation, are better at resisting magic. For every 24 hours, consecutive or otherwise, which a 69 AD tranimal spends in an environment with a Sorcery modifier of +3 or more (which, remember, does not exist except in small pockets), they gain a reversion point. Tranimals from other junctures get a reversion point per 24 hours in an environmeny with a Sorcer modifier of +1 or better - that'd be 69, 2056 and the Netherworld, plus superpowered pockets. At the end of any session where you have reversion points, you make a check using your highest Action Value against your reversion point total. If you fail, you turn back into an animal forever.

Fortunately, the book says the GM can choose to create plot devices to allow you to be returned to human form. Still, dick move, game. Dick move. You can reduce your reversion point total to 0 by spending 24 consecutive hours in an environment with a Sorcery modifier of +0 or less. Oh, and if you ever learn and use Arcanowave Device schticks, you get 1 reversion point per sequience they're active, in addition to the mutation risks. So don't do that. And of course you can never learn sorcery. So, what kind of animals are available?

Bears get +4 Bod, +4 Wil.
Bellow : Chi 4, Shots 1. If you get wounded, you can make a blood-curdling bellow. You make a Martial Arts check against the opponent's Willpower, and if you win, your opponent suffers Impairment equal to your current Wound points divided by 5 until the end of the sequence. For every additional schtick spent on this, you can target an additional opponent at once, taking the highest Willpower among your targets as the difficulty.
Fortitude : Chi 8, Shots 3. You use this power when you hit 35+ Wound points. You can forgo making death checks until the end of the fight. Each time you receive more wound points during the fight, you have to use Fortitude again or immediately make a death check.
Slap : Chi 1, Shots 3. You make a backhanded slap as a Martial Arts attack. If you hit, your opponent is hurled backwards a number of meters equal to the Outcome. They must then make a Dodge check with your Action Result as the difficulty, or suffer normal damage from the attack in addition to the knockback.
Rage : Chi 5, Shots 1. Until the end of the sequence, you have an Armor rating equal to your current Wound points divided by 5.

Crabs get Tgh +3, Wil +3, Ref +3.
Impervious : Chi 3, Shots 1. After being hit by gunfire, you may choose to take no wound points and instead convert the damage you would have suffered into chi points, which you must spend by the end of the sequence. Any unspent chi points become wound points again at the end of the sequence, so you better start blowing chi on stuff. The good news is crabs are good at that. This is only gunfire damage, though, and nothing else.
Pincer : Chi X, Shots 3. You attack with a barehanded Martial Arts attack. If you hit, you add X, where X is however much Chi you want to spend, to the Damage of your attack.
Scuttle : Chi X, Shots 1. You add X, where X is however much chi you want to spend, to your active Dodge rating until the end of the sequence.
Shell : Chi 4, Shots 1. You get 2 points of Armor until the end of the sequence, plus 2 more for every schtick spent on Shell. No matter what combination of tranimal schticks you have, you can never get more than 8 Armor from tranimal schticks.

Dragons get Bod +4, For +3, Mnd +4, Ref +4. They start with no schticks - it costs all 5 to be a dragon. However, during play, they may learn any tranimal schtick. Any of them. It costs (12+x) xp per schtick, where x is the number of schticks they'd have when they get the new one. However, dragons are very vulnerable to reversion. See, they're really powerful in their natural forms, but they need a lot of magic to survive in them. If they revert anywhere that has less than a +4 Sorcery modifier - and those places are extremely rare - then they die immediately because the magical energy is too weak to support them.

Elephants get Bod +5, Wil +3.
Armor : Chi 3, Shots 1. You gain 1 Armor until the end of the sequence, plus 1 for every schtick spent on this. Again, can't get more than Armor 8 from any combination of tranimal schticks.
Herd : Chi 3, Shots 1. All tranimals within (Chi) meters get +1 to their action values until the end of the sequence. For every schtick you spend on this, you add (Chi) to the range in meters.
Trample : Chi X, Shots 3. You launch a flurry of kicks at a prone opponent as a Martial Arts attack. If you hit, add X, where X is however much chi you want to spend, to your Damage.
Trumpet : Chi 3, Shots 1. You send out a psychic signal to all tranimals within (Chi) meters. This signal is either a request for aid or a warning to flee the area. You can't send anything else. For every schtick spent on this, double the range.

Foxes get +3 For, +3 Mnd, -1 Wil, +2 Ref.
Borrow : Chi 3, Shots 1. You can gain a single tranimal schtick from any willing tranimal within (Chi) meters and use it until the end of the sequence. For every additional schtick spent on this, add (Chi) to the range.
Embezzle : Chi 3, Shots 3. Make a bare-handed Martial Arts attack. If you hit, you may choose to gain the opponent's rating in any primary or secondary attribute until the end of the sequence. They get your rating in it for the same period.
Mockery : Chi 3, Shots 3. You can mock any intelligent being that can understand you, distracting them. You make a Charisma check against the target's Willpower. If you win, the target cannot attack anyone but you until the end of the sequence. If, for some reason, two people use Mockery on the same target, the one with the higher Outcome becomes the one that can be attacked. Your range is (Chi) meters, plus (Chi) meters per schtick spent to increase the range. You can also spend additional schticks to target one additional opponent per schtick spent, using the highest Willpower among the targets as your Difficulty.
Swindle : Make an unarmed Martial Arts attack on someone who has used an ability during this sequence. If you hit, on your next shot, you can use that ability against any target, using the character's relevant Action Value to make any rolls. You may use this ability only once each time you land Swindle. You choose one type of ability you can Swindle when you take this schtick: Arcanowave Devices, Creature Powers, Fu Powers or skills other than Sorcery. You can spend additional schticks to add to the list. You may spend two schticks to add Sorcery to the list.

Monkeys get +2 For, +4 Cha, +3 Ref.
Bounce : Chi 3, Shots 3+X. You make X Martial Arts checks, in which you bounce off available vertical surfaces. Each bounce has a shot cost of 1 and a difficulty of 10. When you stop bouncing, you may make a Martial Arts attack on any available target. You add +2 to your attack for every bounce you made. If you spend an additional schtick on this, add 3 per bounce. For two schticks, 4 per bounce. You may not spend more than two additional schticks on this. If you are somehow stopped from bouncing against your will, you gain no bonus.
Caper : Chi 3, Shots 1. You skitter around doing flips and cartwheels when targeted by a ranged weapon or thrown attack. If the attacker makes their Guns or Martial Arts roll, you make a Martial Arts roll. IF your roll beats theirs, you may pick any other character within (Chi) meters to be the actual target of the attack. For every additional schtick you spend, add (Chi) meters to your range.
Diversion : Chi 3, Shots 3+X. You perform a dazzling seres of acrobatic maneuvers and roll Martial Arts against the Willpower of an enemy of your choice. If you win, they must stare slack-jawed in astonishment until one of two conditions is met:
1. You stop using Diversion. You can stop at any time, but must stop at the end of the sequence if you don't stop earlier.
2. The target is attacked. They may then dodge normally and your hold is broken.
You may spend addtional schticks on this to hit one additional target per schtick, using the highest Willpower of your targets as the Difficulty.
Throw : Chi X, Shots 3. Add X, where X is however much Chi you want to spend, to any Martial Arts roll using a thrown weapon.

Rats get +2 For, +3 Per, +3 Ref.
Disorienting Strike : Chi 5, Shots 3. You make an unarmed Martial Arts attack against a foe, striking at a nerve point to induce dizziness. If you hit, you do normal Damage but also add your Outcome to the Difficulty of the next attack your target makes. The opponent may negate thep enalty by doing nothing but reorienting for the next three shots. They may still passively Dodge in that time, though. For every additional schtick spent on this, increase the reorientation time by 3 shots.
Infect : Chi 3, Shots 3. Make an unarmed Martial Arts attack. If you hit, the opponent suffers normal damage and also 1 point of Impairment per 5 Wound points suffered, rounding down. Wound points caused by an Infect attack don't heal naturally, and must be treated with antibiotics or magic.
Lurk : Chi 8, Shots 1. You can make yourself invisible by hiding behind a stick or dust mote. You roll Martial Arts against your target's Perception. If you succeed, they can't see you. If you are anything but perfectly still, the Difficulty gets at least +2, or more if you move a lot. For every additional schtick spent, you can affect one additional target, using the highest Perception as the Difficulty. Once you make the check, you can continue lurking as long as you want, making another check only if you move, want to affect an additional target or someone you can't target enters the area and spots you, which ends the power.
Squeeze : Chi 3, Shots 8. You can contort your body to squeeze through holes as small as 12cm in diameter. For another schtick, you can squeeze through 6cm holes. You can't spend more than one additional schtick on this.

Roosters get +3 Mov, +3 Cha, +3 Spd.
Crow : Chi 5, Shots 3. You emit a piercing wail that causes deafness. You roll Martial Arts; everyone in (Chi) meters must beat your roll on a Constition check or suffer 1 point of Impairment for a number of sequences equal to their Perception rating. You may spend additional schticks to add (Chi) to the range per schtick spent. You may also spend additional schticks to be able to exempt one person per schtick spent from your power. Transformed roosters, including yourself, are immune to this power.
Display : Chi 4, Shots 1. You raise your arms in a stylized movement of size and intimdation against one opponent. If your Charisma is higher than your target's, you get a bonus to your Martial Arts action value equal to the difference between your Charisma and theirs, which lasts until the end of the sequence. For each additional schtick spent on this, you may target an extra opponent at once. Which I guess could result in getting insanely high Martial Arts values.
Flight : Chi 8, Shots 3. You become airborne and remain so until the end of the sequence. You can reach a maximum vertical height equal to your Move rating and travel horizontally up to twice that. Each additional schtick you spend on this adds a Move rating to vertical flight and two ove ratings to horizontal distance.
Peck : Chi 3, Shots 3. You make an unarmed Martial Arts attack on a target which ignores any armor.

Snakes get +2 Int, +2 Cha, +3 Ref.
Coil : Chi 3, Shots X. You remain inactive for X shots, then make a 3-shot Martial Arts attack on someone. Add double the number of shots you were inactive to your attack roll.
Shed Skin : Chi Special, Shots Special. You may abandon your human appearance for a new one. You can never return to your old appearance. This costs 8 chi points, which stay spent for 12 hours. The transformation takes 1 hour and leaves no residue whatsoever. If you spend an additional schtick, you may choose to perfectly recreate the appearance of someone you have studied carefully for at least a week immediately before using this schtick. However, even with this power, you may never go back to your old form.
Strike : Chi 4, Shots 1. You make a normal Martial Arts attack, except the shot cost is 1.
Warning : Chi X, Shots 1. You make a fierce display of martial arts moves while hissing and baring your teeth. You roll Martial Arts against your target's Willpower. If you win, your Dodge rating against that target increases by X, where X is however much chi you decided to spend, until the end of the sequence. For every additional schtick spent on this, you may target an additional opponent, using the highest Willpower among your targets as the Difficulty.

Scorpions get +3 Mov, +3 Ref.
Dance : Chi X, Shots 1. You execute a hypnotic dance. You roll Martial Arts against a target's Willpower. If you win, the opponent is distracted and suffers X points of Impairment. This lasts only while you maintain it - you must spend X chi each shot and devote all of your attention to dancing. You may spend additional schticks to target one more opponent per schtick, using the highest Willpower of your targets as the Difficulty.
Sting : Chi X, Shots 3. Make an unarmed Martial Arts attack. If you hit, you don't do normal damage. Instead, the opponent takes 3 Wound points at the beginning of each sequence for X sequences.
Surprise : Chi X, Shots 3. Make a Martial Arts attack against a target who is unaware of your presence in hand-to-hand combat, adding X to your roll.
Scuttle : Chi X, Shots 1. Add X to your active Dodge rating until the end of the sequence.

Tigers get +1 Str, +2 Ref.
Bite : Chi 7, Shots 3. Make a called shot with Martial Arts to bite your target's windpipe. If you do, you get your Outcome based on the target's Constitution instead of Dodge or Parry. If you spend an additional schtick on this power, you ignore any Armor the target has when using this attack.
Mark Prey : Chi 3, Shots 3. Make an unarmed Martial Arts attack with your target's Chi as the difficulty. If you hit, you don't do normal damage. Instead, for each time you successfully land this power, you get +1 to Martial Arts rolls to hit that opponent. This stacks with itself. For one schtick, it lasts until the end of the fight. For two, it lasts a week. For three, it lasts a month. For four, it lasts a year. You can't spend more than four schticks on this.
Pounce : Chi X, Shots 3. You leap at your foe, making a Martial Arts attack. If you hit, you add X to the damage, where X is the number of meters between you and the target when you made the leap. This is also how much Chi you spend.
Surprise : Chi X, Shots 3. This is identical to the Scorpion power.

Tortoises get Con +4, Tgh +4, Mov -1, Int +2, Ref -1.
Rebuke : Chi 3, Shots 3. Attack a sorcerer with an unarmed Martial Arts attack. If you hit, the sorcerer cannot use the Sorcery skill for (Outcome) shots. You may multiply the Outcome by the number of schitkcs you spend on this ability. You may spend an additional schtick to apply this ability to the Arcanowave Device skill as well.
Reflect : Chi 5, Shots 1. When you are succesffuly targeted by a Sorcery check, you may reflect the spell back at the caster. You are not affected by the spell. If you spend an additional schtick on this, you may choose to reflect the spell at any target within (Chi) meters, instead. You may spend additional schticks to add (Chi) to your range per schtick spent. You may spend an additional schtick to apply this ability to the Arcanowave Device skill as well.
Shell : Chi 4, Shots 1. You get 2 points of Armor until the end of the sequence. Each additional schtick spent on this increases the Armor by 2, but as always, no combination of tranimal powers can get you past Armor 8.
Wise Fist : Chi 4, Shots 1. Make a bare-handed Martial Arts attack, using Intelligence as the base attribute for the check. For each additional schtick you spend on this, increase the Damage rating of the punch by 1.

Spider-Woman, Age 60.

Next time: What we need more of is science!

Just call Mr. Browning a suspicious guy.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Just call Mr. Browning a suspicious guy.

We join our anonymous protagonist as he teams up with a cyborg from the future named Concourse Godard. The two of them head out and take down a gang of Netherworld thugs, our hero with a gun and Concourse with a giant-ass gun covered in skulls and bug parts which shoots glowing lasers and melts people. However, after the fight, Concourse goes into a seizure and briefly turns green, grows warts, has glowing eyes and sprouts hideous monster teeth. He turns back after, having fought off the Mutation Episode before it could become permanent. Arcanowave gear has problems.

Some time in the future, the scientists of the Architects of the Flesh discovered how to combine magical theory and science: life. Though it may look like machines, arcanowave gear is alive . It is created by growing living matter in a lab, infusing it with the spiritual essence of ritually slaughterd supernatural creatures or spirits, and then put inside a plastic housing, which it fuses to. The resulting material is called arcanowave resonating biopolymer, or ARB. ARB is so visually distinctive that anyone even slightly familiar with it can recognize it at a glance. It's often moist, slimy or covered in hard and bony substances that seem to bleed chalk. The outer shells are decorated with arcane sigils and often seem to resemble skeletons or crustacean shells. They tend to look very, very unnerving.

Most pieces of arcanowave gear need to fused to their users to work. Thus, to operate arcanowave tech, you need an arcanowave input/out port, or AI/O port. These get installed on your body and are roughly the size of a dime, looking like small rings of chalky ARB decorated with occult signs. There's a special kind of coaxial cable that you plug into them from your arcanowave device. The port itself extend below your skin, ending in a piece of microscopic optic fiber that ties into your nerves. It turns electronic and magical impulses into chemicals that can be transmitted and read by the brain. Any AI/O port works with any arcanowave device, but typically you can only plug one into a port at a time. Some Buro agents have jury-rigged splitters to let them use more than one device in the same port, but's recommended only for emergencies, such as when one port gets damaged. Plugging an item into a port has a 3-shot cost.

So why would unplug it? Well, arcanowave devices are viral. The chemicals they pump into you can alter your DNA, leading to mutation, birth defects and personality disorders. As a result, human users plug devices in only when they're needed, immediately before using them, and unplug them immediately afterwards. Abominations, being supernatural in oriigin, are already so stuffed with magical energy on the cellular level that they're immune to the mutagenic properties of arcanowave and don't have to care. Any character who begins the game with arcanowave schticks can have as many AI/O ports as they want, they just have to decide how many they've got.

Human characters using arcanowave tech have to keep track of the number of sequences or portions thereof, rounding up, that they spend with one or more devices plugged into their ports in each session. At the end of each session in which a device was plugged in, they need to make an Arcanowave Device roll, with the number of sequences as the difficulty. It's a closed roll, so that's a small blessing - you can't get a massive negative number. Or a massive positive one, sadly. This is a mutation check. If you fail, you take the Outcome and consult this chart:

You suffer the results that correspond to your Outcome and all Outcomes before it. When a mutation changes an atrribute, all secondary attributes also change accordingly, except Magic. Once you've failed a check, you take the Outcome and add it (since it's negative) to all subsequent mutation checks. So you'll want to write that down. Being a mutant pretty much sucks...but there is one upside: you can buy Creature Powers now! If you do, though, your mutations can't be reversed any more, I'm pretty sure. If a primary attribute other than Chi is reduced to 0 by mutation, you're dead or an NPC, reroll. The good news is that since fights rarely last more than 3 sequences, you should never have too hard a roll to make. If your GM runs marathon sessions with tons of fights, it suggests that you should get to add your Constitution as a bonus to your mutation check.

Just because you get a device doesn't mean you can use it, though. You have to pay (8+x) XP to attune to it, where X is the number of arcanowave devices you're attuned to when that one is added. You can be attuned to as many devices as you want, and if you've attuned to one copy of a device and it gets broken, you don't have to pay any XP to plug in another copy, if you should happen to find one. You're attuned to all devices of a type, not a specific device. Of course, getting a new device is hard, since...the Architects probably aren't fond of you. So you're going to have an incentive to go attack Architect forces and steal them. If you don't have any AI/O ports and want to use arcanowave devices, you're going to have to find a PC or NPC who can surgically install them, which requires the Medicine skill with Surgery subskill and the Arcanowave Device skill. Both rolls are Difficulty 10, and you need Architect biomedical equipment to do it. If both checks end up negative, the patient takes 6 wound points. If one succeeds and one fails, the operation is a failure but the patient's fine. When you get your first AI/O port installed, you have to make a difficulty 10 Magic check to attune to it. If you fail, not only can't you use it, but you can never use arcanowave technology, ever. You don't have the spiritual aptitude for it. The GM should add to the difficulty if oyu are particularly virtuous, and subtract from it if you're particularly wicked or depraved. This is not good mojo.

As with Sorcery, you can burn your Magic to get a bonus to a single roll. Each point of Magic you spend gives +1 to a single check, and then reduces the Magic rating for the rest of the session. Arcanowave devices are also prone to malfunction. Whenever an Arcanowave roll comes up 1s on both the positive and negative dice, there's a malfunction. You take 12 damage, add 3 to your mutation check difficulty at the end of the session and have a temporarily inoperable device. It is an 8-shot action to fix the thing, which is a Difficulty 10 Arcanowave Device roll. If you fail, you have try again. There's no limit to the number of times you can try to fix a device. If you're using two devices at once in the same port via a splitter, you also get a malfunction if both dice on the roll come up 2s, not just 1s. Damaging an AI/O port is hard - it takes a -3 penalty called shot to hit one, but if it does get hit, the port is rendered inoperable and you take 15 damage. They can't be repaired - they have to be surgically replaced. As with magic and Creature Powers, Arcanowave devices work better in some junctures. They get -1 in 69 or Contemporary, +2 in 1850 or 2056 and +0 in the Netherworld. Why they get a bonus in 1850, I have no idea. And as far as I can tell, they don't get the Hong Kong exception. Arcanowave weapons do not use conventional ammo, but do have Concealment reatings.

Aerial Mobility Unit : Wings. They're 3-meter wingspan wings that resemble robot bat wings. When plugged in, they let you fly. You roll Arcanowave Devices when you first plug them in, with your Move rating as the Difficulty. The Outcome is added, positive or negative, to your Move while in the air. This lasts for (Outcome) sequences, at which point you roll again to stay airborne and modify your Move appropriately. If you land, you have to roll again to take off.

Agony Grenade : This is a grenade in an ARB casing with a clawed demonic hand for a pin. To charge it up, you plug it into a port and leave it there until you get hit by an attack. Then you unplug it and wait until you want to throw it. Multiple attacks don't charge it more than once - it only holds one charge. You throw it per all throwing rules, and when it hits, it shoots arcane energy all over. You make a difficulty 6 Arcanowave DEvice check, and it hits an (Outcome) meter radius. Everything in that radius suffers Impairment penalties equal to the number of Wound points you took to charge the grenade, divided by 3, rounding down. This doesn't cause any actual damage - just pain sensation in the brain. Only living beings are affected, and it lasts for (Outcome) shots. There is a mystic link between you and the grenade - anyone else trying to throw it doesn't get any result. There is no addition to the mutation check's Difficulty for throwing the grenade, but there is for charging it in the first place - that one shot you took damage on. Agony grenades hold a charge until the end of the session. However, you get an unlimited supply of grenades! You can just only have one charged at a time per schtick you put into this. Of course, if you get sperated from your bag of grenades while captured or falling out of a plane, then you're going to need to get more.

Feedback Enhancer : This is a tiny radio dish made of ARB and covered in howling faces. Any Sorcery spell targetting you while the Feedback Enhancer is plugged in suffers automatic backlash. The spell still happens, though - the sorcerer just also suffers.

Helix Rethreader : This is a rifle which shoots a beam of arcanowave energy that temporary scrambles the parts of your victim's DNA that allow for chi flow. Anyone hit by it is affected for (Outcome) shots. The gun itself does no damage, but whenever the victim spends a chi point to activate Fu Powers, they take 5 wound points per chi point spent, which can't be reduced. For every 5 points of damage the Helix Rethreader causes, the victim also suffers 1 point of Impairment until the end of the fight. The gun has a Concealment of 6.

Helix Ripper : This gun actually does damage directly! It's a giant rifle that shoots a beam of energy that rips things apart on the cellular level. It has a Damage of 15 and a Concealment of 7, and is really good at taking out mooks, too. Helix Ripper damage can't be healed by the Medicine skill. However, the Helix Ripper can't hurt inanimate objects. Anything thicker than 12cm of solid matter stops the beam. Anything thinner it passes through without noticing, so it ignores armor unless the armor is alive. Helix Rippers weigh about 20kg when not plugged in, but because of magic, they weigh only 6 while plugged in.

Juicer : The Juicer is an insect-shaped ARB casing full of green magical goo. It doesn't plug into a port, but is actually surgically attached to you via a small tube. When activated by spending 1 shot to press a button on the casing, it negates any Impairment you might otherwise suffer for the rest of the session, except Impairment caused by arcanowave schticks. (I think it's meant to be just yours, but by RAW, any.) You take the highest Impairment you would have suffered and add that to the Difficulty of the session's mutation check.

Neural Stimulator : This is a coil of wires attached to a small ARB battery pack which you strap to your body. When plugged in, the pack writhes around and generates energy, which it shoots into your nervous system, making you faster. You roll Arcanowave Devices when you plug it in, with you Speed as the difficulty. You add the Outcome to your Speed for purposes of Initiative rolls. This lasts for (Outcome) sequences. However, having your nervous system overclocked is bad for you! Who knew? So you suffer one point of cumulative Impairment at the end of every sequence the stimulator is plugged in. Unplugging and immediately replugging in the stimulator is especially debilitating, causing 2 points of Impairment each time you do it, so don't get clever.

Pulser : The Pulser looks like a small lizard skull full of wires and diodes. You strap it to your head, arm, thigh or torso. When you activate it, you roll Arcanowave Device at Difficulty 5, and it alters the magical atmosphere in the area so that it has the same modifiers as the 2056 juncture. This occurs within a circle centered on you, with a radius of (Outcome) meters. This lasts (Outcome) sequences, and ends prematurely if you unplug the device.

Reinforcer : This is a three-foot skeletal needle full of green, shit-smelling ectoplasm. You inject it into an intelligent subject and roll Arcanowave Device against their Magic. If you win, they grow a hard, insect-like shell that gives Armor 3 and -1 Agility. This lasts for (Outcome) sequences. At the end of the session, the subject must make a mutation check with the Outcome as its difficulty. If they would make a check anyway, the Outcome is added to the difficulty. You don't need the thing plugged in to inject, but to refill it you need to plug it in. Refilling it has a shot cost of 8 and is a difficulty 6 Arcanowave Device roll. If it fails, you can try again immediately with no ill effects.

Robot Limb : You have an arm or leg that mixes steel and ARB alloy. You can buy this up to four times - once per limb. The limb moves as a real arm would and has a full sense of touch. When not plugged in, it is just a normal arm. When plugged in and doing something that relies solely on the robot limb, you have a Strength of 12. If you have two plugged in robot legs, you have Move 12. The limb uses an onboard power pack when not plugged in and so doesn't add to your mutation total unless it's plugged in. However, when not plugged in, the limb has a -2 to all Manual Dexterity-based checks. You add 1 to your mutation check difficulty at the end of the session for every fight in which you powered up your limbs, and for every out-of-combat check you make using an attribute boosted by a robot limb.

Slap Patch : This is a first-aid device that is a rectangular chunk of ARB with adhesive on one side. You tear off the wax paper on the adhesive, then put it on a living being. You roll Arcanowave Device and subtract the result from the target's Wound points. You can't save up the heal or go into negative Wound points. They heal immediately, as the ARB patch reconstitutes their DNA for rapid heals. However, the patient must make a Constitution check with the number of Wound points healed as the difficulty. If they fail, their system is too shocked and rather than being healed they take 4 wound points. They must also make a difficulty 3 mutation check, either way, at the end of the session, which is cumulative with other additions to the difficulty. You also have a kit to make slap patches, which can grow 1 patch per day. You add 1 to your end-of-session mutation check for each patch you grow.

Spirit Shield Generator : The spirit shield generator is a harness of ARB and lycra worn over clothes or armor. When plugged in, it activates spirits trapped in the ARB, which circle your body to guard against ranged attacks. When you suffer a ranged attack, you make an ARcanowave Device check. IF you beat the attack, a tiny spirit materializes and eats the projectile, then vanishes. YOu suffer no harm from the attack. Sorcery and hand-to-hand attacks go right through the shield. When you first get the generator, it has 8 spirits. That's its max capacity. It takes a four hour ritual to replace a spirit, and a diff 7 Arcanowave Device check. If you fail, you wasted four hours and the GM will probably make your life inconvenient because time should never be wasted.

Sucker Rounds : These are bullets for regular handguns, but they're made of ARB. They reduce a gun's damage by 2, but any victim hit must make a mutation check at the end of the session, adding the Wound points suffered from any sucker round hits to the Difficulty. Sucker rounds always make guns malfunction when used by a character who doesn't have the schtick. Characters with the schtick always have sucker rounds handy, though they reload as normal. You add 1 to your mutation check difficulty for every clip or revolver you fill with sucker rounds.

Threat Evaluator : This is a wet, insect-like eye encased in ARB. It can be implanted on your forehead or any large muscle. The eye is from a flesh-eating demon. It takes no AI/O port, but has a button to activate it on the casing. When activated, you make an ARcanowave Device check with the number of targets you're scanning as the difficulty. IF you succeed, then at the end of the sequence the GM tells you the wound point total for each scanned target. There must be a clear line of sight, so you can't cover the Threat Evaluator with clothing. If you get a Way-Awful Failure, you get the wound point total of the most wounded target but must attack that target. Unless restrained, you will try to devour them raw, as the demon's instincts override your own. This device also lets you use your Arcanowave Device rating instead of your Perception rating for Perception checks.

Tracer Resin Projector : This is a small rifle that fires hollow ARB bullets full of magical gummy...stuff. (Just stuff.) Any target hit is especially vulnerable to abomination-launched hand-to-hand attacks or attacks of any kind with arcanowave weapons. Against such attacks, their Dodge and Parry values are at -2. This is cumulative over multiple hits. When firing the projector, you need to have it plugged in, and you attack with Arcanowave Device. The effect lasts for (Outcome) shots, and the pellets do no damage. Oddly, no Concealment rating.

Wave Scanner : These are ARB goggles that make you look like you have fiery demon eyes. With them on, you can detect magical energies. When plugged in, you get +2 to Dodge against sorcery, fu powers and arcanowave weapons. You may also make an Arcanowave Device check to detect the presence of unusual amounts of magical, chi or arcanowave energy, which can identify feng shui sites.

Wave Suppresser : This is a grenade launcher that shoots blue ectoplasm. Any supernatural creature, ghost or abomination hit by it is paralyzed for (Outcome) sequences. If a paralyzed victim suffers wound points, they can make a Willpower check against your Arcanowave Device score to break free, adding the number of wound points suffered to their roll. They make one check per wound point-dealing attack. The Concealment is 6.

Next time: Everybody was kung fu fighting!

I just deliver 'em, I don't sort 'em out afterwards.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

To celebrate my success on exams, combat!

Feng Shui: I just deliver 'em, I don't sort 'em out afterwards.

Helicopters just can't take it when the Jammers start monkeying around.

We open with our hero in a chase with some Ascended bikers. He's trying to get a kid out - an important kid, by all accounts. There's no way he can escape...unless he can get to the elevator in the Yanjing Building, which has a Netherworld portal. He gets there, taking out some bikers and racing for the elevator. However, the kid's dying. He doesn't have much time. The elevator goes down, down, down - and then it opens up in the Netherworld...except that the place has changed hands since he was last there. Our hero hijacks a fire sled, which is sort of like a snowmobile. He gets lucky - the kid survives. She's turned into a half-human, half-tiger monster thanks to the sorcerous transfusion to keep her going, but, well, that's the breaks.

Now, this is the combat chapter. It starts off big: stunts. Stunts are the most important thing. If you're going to fight, we're told, you should with style. Visualize the fight as an action movie. Never say "I shoot him" or "I hit him." That's boring. Shoot up the bad guy's barrel so it blows up! Grab him by his neck and slam him his face into an oden drawer, then close it! That's a stunt. You can stunt with sorcery and arcanowave take, even creature powers. Just never be boring. That's the only thing you have to care about. Do cool stuff, make cool things happen. The most basic stunt, the one all others are judged by, is 'I hit/shoot/blast two guys at once somehow.' This is done at a -2 to the roll. Three guys, -3. Four, -4. Most other stunts will be -2, if they do something useful as well as the basic action you're trying to do. If a stunt is just a flashy description that only takes a guy out and not anything extra? Fuck it, no penalty, you can just roll it and do it because this is Feng Shui .

But, you ask, can I stunt out of combat? Well, yes. OF course you can. A stunt is any difficult physical action requiring whole-body agility. Usually you roll Martial Arts for 'em. Or maybe Creature Powers or Sorcery if you have powers or magic that'll help. Or whatever your GM will accept, really. What if you got thrown of a motorboat a fight was happening in? Well, of course there's ropes. There's always ropes. It's a difficulty 5 stunt to waterski with the soles of your feet, and I'm sure you can figure out how to get back on the boat from there. Want to hang onto the bottom of a speeding car? Difficulty 10 stunt. Want to walk on the wing of a flying plane? Difficulty 15. This should pretty much give you an idea of how to adjudicate stunt difficulties.

Anyway, back to combat. There's two types of NPC in Feng Shui: named and unnamed. Unnamed characters, or mooks, are...aggressive set dressing. They're easy to beat up, but if you're overconfident they'll take you down a notch on a lucky roll. They follow different rules than named characters, and we'll get to those later. (Yes, you can have mooks on your side, too. They're going to go down just as easy to the baddies.) Mooks tend to only have primary attrubutes and maybe two or three skills listed. Named characters, now, they're harder to take out. Having a name makes you important to the story. PCs count as named characters, by the way. Named NPCs can either be made the same way as PCs or the GM can just eyeball stat numbers, throw 'em down and pick some schticks. Either will work fine, since the book has plenty of examples of both.

So, how's a fight go? Well, a fight is divided up into sequence. One sequence is approximately three seconds long - but that's three seconds of movie time, with cuts and jumps to show simultaneous actions, slow-mo sequences, the lot. A scene lasts however many sequences it takes to resolve the fight. Each sequence is made up of shots , the number of which is variable and determined by the initiative rolls at the start of each sequence. You see, every sequence, you make an Initiative check. This is 1d6 plus your Speed. No exploding dice, no negative dice. The number you roll is the first shot you get to act on. The sequence starts on the shot equal to the highest Initiative result. So, let's say Boo the Chicken (Speed 9), the Iron Monk (Speed 8) and Jimmy Wales (Speed 11, he's a quick one) are all having a fight. They all roll 1d6. Boo rolls a 5 for 14, the Iron Monk rolls a 3 for 11, and Jimmy rolls a 3 for 14. The sequence starts on Shot 14, when Boo and Jimmy act.

Now that we know Boo and Jimmy go first, they get to act. Then we count down shots until the next person does. Whenever your shot comes up, you do something. Then you wait until the shot cost of whatever you did runs out, and act on your next shot. The GM chooses who goes first if people act on the same shot. Most complex actions (like attacking) take 3 shots. In those 3 shots, you can move up to your Move rating in meters. If you spend 3 shots just running, you can move double that. However, over a whole sequence, you can't move more than three times your Move (or four times if you're not in combat). Some simple actions take only one shot, like blocking an attack, drawing a gun, diving flat or catching a thrown object. Once you hit shot 1 and resolve all the actions that happen then, it's time for a new sequence.

So what happens on shots 2 and 1? Most actions take 3 shots, but you don't have 3 to spend. Well, you can still do a 3-shot action anyway, at no penalty and no carry-over. Anything with a shot cost over 3, though, that does carry over, and we'll get to that in a moment. Anyway, with all this, what happens if you're attacked before your next shot? Well, you can still take a defensive action as long as your next shot is 1 or higher. Defensive actions includ dodging, parrying or whatever. They just extends your next shot by 1, so instead of acting on shot 4, you act on shot 3. If your foe is significantly faster than you, it is in fact possible to spend all your shots on defense and not get to make any actions. Run away if this happens. Alternatively, find a stunt that will get you safe and give you an advantage - say, dodging away from a melee foe by jumping onto a passing bullet train.

You can also reduce the shot cost of an action (though not all actions - for example, you can't reduce the shot cost of running) by doing it recklessly. This is called a snapshot . You can take a -2 penalty to your action to reduce its shot cost by 1. You can take a -5 to reduce it by 2. You can't ever reduce a shot cost by more than 2. There's also continuous actions - stuff you're doing throughout a sequence while also doing other things. For example, driving a car, staying balanced on a slippery perch or using certain fu powers. These don't have a shot cost, they just increase all shot costs by 1.

Okay, remember two paragraphs ago when I mentioned that on shot 2 or 1 you could do an action costing more than three shots, but it'd carry over? Time to talk about that. If you want to do that, you basically take the shots leftover as a penalty to your initiative. You may roll an 11 for initiative, but you're not acting until shot 9 if you tried to do a 4-shot action on shot 2 last sequence. Pretty simple. It is the players' jobs to keep track of what shot they act on. It's the GM's to track what shot it is right now. Basically, the GM is supposed to call out the shot number and see who can act on that shot. Keeps bookkeeping down for everyone. Players always act before NPCs do on the same shot, and the GM can pick his own method to decide which player goes first.

So, we've gotten this far and you still don't know how to punch a guy. Well, you roll as normal, using your relevant skill - Martial Arts for hand-to-hand combat, Guns for ranged weapons, Sorcery for spells. Arcanowave Device or Creature Power for powers that use those as noted in prior chapters. If your opponent is standing still and not trying to defend themselves, it's Difficulty 0. IF they are dodging or parrying, the Difficulty is their Dodge or Parry action value. We'll get to how you determine that in a moment. Range, cover and Impairment can alter difficulties and action values.

So, now that you know how to throw punch, here's how not to get hit by one. Any character in combat is assumed to be moving around some and thus gets a passive dodge at no shot cost. Thus, the difficulty to hit them is equal to their Dodge Action Value. Your Dodge Action Value is the highest action value from the following list: Arcanowave Device, Creature Power, Guns, Martial Arts, Sorcery (but only if you have the Blast schtick) or the Agility secondary attribute if somehow you don't have any of these or they are somehow worse than it. You should always keep track of your Dodge value.

But maybe that's not good enough for you. Thus, you can try to make an active dodge . This is a defensive action with a shot cost of 1, and it increases your Dodge value by 3 for that attack. The GM may penalize your Dodge value if you're in very close quarters. You can also try to parry , a special kind of active dodge that puts some kind of hard object between you and the attack - maybe you grab the guy's sword arm, or maybe you block with a shield. Your Parry action value is equal to your Martial Arts action value (unless you're a Sorcerer, in which case you may use Sorcery if you have the Blast or Movement schticks). There is no rules difference between dodging and parrying, except that parries always use Martial Arts (or Sorcery) and the result is described differently. The GM might declare some attacks unparryable and say you need to dodge instead. You can also spend a Fortune point when making an active dodge. If you do, roll one die and add it to your Dodge for one attack. If you're being attacked more than once in a shot, you have to decide which attack you're spending the Fortune die on, but you can spend one Fortune die per attack.

So, let's say you got hit anyway . Or maybe you hit your opponent, that's nicer to think about. What happens depends on if you hit a named or unnamed character. Either way, you start by finding the Outcome of the attack, which as always is the difference between your roll and the Difficulty. We'll assume you hit and it's positive. So, you hit an unnamed character. If the Outcome is 5 or more, that guy's out of the fight. Boom, gone. If the Outcome is between 1 and 4, the GM will describe you hitting the guy and making him wince or puke or whatever, but you don't actually do anything. That guy's still there, still fighting. (Unless you're using a weapon with a special rule which lets you take mooks out at Outcome 4 or even 3. In which case that happens if you qualified for it.) If your action value for your attack is 10 or more - not after the roll, just in general - then you're so good that you even get to decide how you take out a mook when you take one out. Killed, knocked out, thrown off the truck and can't get back on, whatever. Even guns, sorcery and weirder stuff can be nonlethal - you're just that good, all they need is a lengthy hospital stay. (Or not, if you decide you want to kill 'em.) To save time, decide after you find out you took the guy out. (If you do something like shove your gun down the guy's throat, though, expect the GM to not let you go nonlethal.)

So, what happens if you hit a named character instead? Well, you take your attack Outcome, add your attack's DAmage to it, then subtract your victim's Toughness. That's how many wound points he takes. Every attack has a listed damage, just look up what yours is. If the result is 0 or less, than the victim is unharmed. He'll still get a bruise, he's just not taking damage. Named characters, including PCs, must track their wound point totals. Unnamed characters don't; it's a side benefit of being so easy to take down. Once you get between 25-39 wound points (unless you're a Big Bruiser), you suffer 1 point of Impairment. Your Impairment total is subtracted from all action values. Being Impaired sucks . When you get to 30-34 wound points (unless, again, you're a Big Bruiser), you're at 2 points of Impairment. Though it's possible to get 35 or more wound points, you will never go past 2 Impairment from wounds, though you might from other sources.

So what does happen when you hit 35+ wound points? Well, unless you're a Big Bruiser, you need to make a death check . This is a Constitution check with a difficulty equal to (your wound point total-35). Impairment does not affect death checks. If you get 0 or more on your roll, you're sitll up and fighting despite being loads of pain. However, you have to make a death check the next time you suffer a wound. If you get -14 or less on a roll, you're dead. You can't fight any more, you've got just long enough to live for a death speech and everyone to weep over you, then have a slow-motion flashback about the highlights of your career while a sad pop ballad plays. (The player is instructed to describe this.)

There's a chart for what happens if you fail your death check by less than that:

Each time a dying character gets hit in combat, the time until they die goes down by 1 increment. If they get knocked past 15 minutes, they're dying at the end of the fight and can't be saved. However, dying characters are prone and barely conscious, so in most fights people will be too busy shooting at the guys who aren't dying. You can save someone who's dying by applying medical attention - specifically, a Medicine check, a Sorcery check with the Heal schtick, or a Martial Arts check with the Healing Chi schtick. The difficulty is (the dying guy's wound point total-35). If you succeed at the check, then you stabilize the guy and can go on to try and heal them. A dying character must be stabilized before their time runs out, or...well, they die. Next time, we'll look at how you go about recovering from wounds.

Next time: The first rule of Fight Club is...

My chance of getting both of us alive to any emergency ward was less than zero.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: My chance of getting both of us alive to any emergency ward was less than zero.

So, how do you recover from injury? Well, at the start of every session, your wound points reset to zero. There are two exceptions. The first is if the last session ended in a cliffhanger! If you break in the middle of a fight or another situation where the heroes healing defies credibility, then they don't. However, it has to completely defy credibility, not just strain it. This is an action movie game, after all! Second, if you don't manage for some reason to have sessions with a clear beginning, middle and end, then you can have the healing happen at anytime in which a suitable break seems to occur, even if it's in the middle of a session. After all, not all gaming sessions are the perfect ideal of 'one episode in the story per session.'

But what about death checks? Characters who had to make death checks don't get off so easily. If they didn't get stabilized...well, they need to, or they die. IF they did, they still need to go to the hospital. How long? Well, what was their death check Outcome? Make it a positive number. That many days. The GM is encouraged to make sure everyone else hangs around to take care of the guy and stare at the tubes up his nose, to avoid pacing problems. A good way to do this, the book says, is to make them think they have to guard the hospital. In fact, if at all possible, you might as well stage the next big action scene in the hospital, just in time for the checked-in party member to recover. Of course, if someone's healed from near death by magic or fu powers or whatever, they can skip the hospital stay due to magic.

But what about combat healing? Well, you can heal someone mid-session. You will need someone with the Medicine schitck, the Heal sorcery schtick, the Healing Chi fu power or a Slap Patch. All of these let you reduce someone's wound points by the action value of your relevant roll. A healer can only heal any person once for each scene in which that person took damage. And no, you can't deliberately hurt yourself or allow yourself to be hurt in order to get more healing - the GM is encouraged to mock you if you do this and have all healing attempts automatically fail.

Now that we've got the main rules down, let's look at some details. When using guns or other ranged weapons, you can spend extra time aiming. Normal combat is assumed to be quick, oppurtunistic shots. For each shot you spend aiming, you get a +1 bonus to your action value, to a max of +3. How about called shots? Well, you take a -1 or -2 action value penalty depending on how hard the spot is to hit. Ad then the GM decides what happens. For example, if you aim for a guy's hands to knock his weapon away, the book suggests as an example that on an Outcome of 1-7, you knock the weapon away but it's unharmed. On an 8+, the weapon breaks. (Signature Weapons are immune, of course.) This is their one example; all else is left to the GM, but we are reminded that props exist to be destroyed in a spectacular manner.

Cover rules! When you're behind cover, your opponent's difficulty to hit you goes up. How much depends on how much of you is in cover. 25% of your body is +1 difficulty, 50% is +2, 75% is +4, 90% is +6. These bonuses are halved whjen the cover just reduces visibility but isn't tough enough to stop bullets - smoke, shrubbery, that kind of thing. If you're shooting from behind cover, calculate it as the amount you'd have covered in your most exposed moments.

Common damage values! Gun damage is fixed by gun. Melee attacks tend to be Strength plus a bonus amount - 1 for most punches, 4 for a sword, etc. +4 is wqhere melee weapons top it, +3 is where most weapons sit. Other things can deal damage, too. When someone takes damage from non-attack sources, well, it tends to be a flat amount, and you just subtract Toughness from it. GMs will have tro come up with values on the fly, but there are some good comparisons - for example, being hit by a car does between 15 and 22 damage, depending on the speed and size of the car. (22 is a speeding bus.) Falling 1 story is 15 damage, while five is 40 damage. Forty is 43 damage. After that fifth story, falling damage doesn't go up that much. Being soaked in gas and set on fire is 15 damage per sequence. Having a TV dropped on you? 13 damage. Jumping on a grenade? 23. Mild poison is 12, very toxic poison is 22. Driving into a telephone pole is 16, driving off a cliff is 22. You get the idea.

Armor! Armor gives you a toughness bonus equal to its rating. Most armor isn't that great - nonmagical armor tops out around +3 Toughness, and has an Agility penalty usually between -1 and -3. Bulletproof vests are less good armor but can be concealed; polymer shell armor is better but can't be. Explosions have example damage values on the damage value chart which are good for judging how bad it hurts to be in one. Use stunt rules to handle hand-to-hand attacks that aren't damage-dealing, like grappling. Inanimate targets have a Difficulty to hit based on size; anything bigger than a TV is diff 0, while a coin is diff 15. Moving targets get bonuses based on their speed.

Signature weapons are mentioned again: the GM will not take them away. They are damaged or lost only when it becomes a major focus of the story. They are never lost due to random events. We get range modifiers now, and difficulties in lifting stuff. We also get throwing rules. Throwing is a Martial Arts fcheck, with a penalty depending on what you're throwing if it's not meant to be thrown. (Large dogs are -2.) Also, alcohol rules: For every serving of alcohol you've had in the past 6 hours, you get -1 to all action values. Remember, two beers or one drink of liqour are a serving. If you know Drunken Stance, your Martial ARts never goes down due to drunkenness. Ever.

Now we've got the GM tips section. Mostly? Keep things moving, watch Hong Kong action flicks for ideas and skim through the rules so you understand them. Let your players change the details of their characters if they feel they're not having fun. Make sure your PCs understand the genre and make sure they understand that their heroes should be heroic . A little tarnished, maybe cynical, but basically good people. Also they shouldn't give 'why are we all together, anyway?' that much though. They're together because it's an action movie . There's some advice on junctures and how to handle PCs from different junctures. Also, on temporal confusion. Your character is confused when it is funny to be confused, but not when it would be disastrous or would make things tedious. People just learn fast in Feng Shui. The book also firmly advises using a tool to track shot costs and what shot it is. It's the only real bookkeeping you have to do.

Oh, right - and don't use maps. Maps, the book says, get in the way of visualizing the scene quickly. Players focus on maps and think in terms of concrete tactics. That's all well and good, but that's not Feng Shui . If you want that, go play a game that's meant for it. Maps are, at best, rough notes. Everything changes in play. Deal with it. You don't wnat to be locked down to the precision of a map. If you really must show players a floor plan, make it a rough sketch with the bare minimum of information. That way if you decide there's a spiral staircase in the middle of the room, no one will question you because it's a messy, incomplete scribble.

On tone - Feng Shui may sound like a comedy game from all this. It isn't, not entirely. It's a little tongue-in-cheek, sure, but it's an embrace of action movies, not a parody. Sure, there's flying monkeys. Sure, there's eunuch wizards. Sure, humor's a very important element - but one thing to understand about Hong Kong action movies? Tone whiplash is a thing . You can go from laughing to deadly serious in a heartbeat. Good people die - often hideously. Hong Kong action movies tend to lake unhappy endings. Violence in Feng Shui doesn't have to be like that - but it should be real. When a named NPC takes enough damage to die, don't save them out of nowhere . Even if the players love them. Describe the scene in detail. Give them a final soliloquy. Then kill them deader than disco.

Your bad guys will do terrible things. In Hong Kong movies? Bad guys kill kids. Babies, even. You'll have to be careful how much you put in about this, though. Tailor it to your players' sensibilities...but remember, if they're getting too silly, if they're acting like it's all a joke? Have the bad guy shoot a kid, or give them some other sudden shock so they understand: this isn't all for laughs. Also, don't break the fourth wall. Sure, talk about how there's a slow-mo shot or a pan, but don't let the players pretend their characters are on a movie set. Play to genre conventions but don't let them treat their characters as actors. Characters in a story, yes. Actors on a set, no.

Oh, and keep the pacing brisk. This is an action movie. Don't dither. Sometimes players can get bogged in plans and minutiae. Overcautiousness is bred into them by slower games and the fear of failure. Reward action. Remind players that this is a world where 'get captured so we can figure out their plan' is a good strategy . And if things really get bogged down, take Raymond Chandler's advice: if you ever get stuck for plot deveopment, have a guy come through the door with a gun. If the players dither, make the plot come to them. This should get them more active - no one likes to be caught with their pants down. Skim past irrelevant scenes quickly - this is not a game about haggling with shopkeeps over the price of an engine. Just decide whether you want something to be hard. If not, 'okay, you find one, it's ready, roll the dice.' Oh, and don't give the PCs dead ends. Clues should be easy to find, and shouldn't rely on a single roll. After all, what will you do if the roll fails? Make sure that if the PCs come up with a clever way to advance things that you hadn't thought of, they automatically succeed, because that's cool . And if your PCs are having fun just shooting the shit with each other...well, that's okay. The important thing is having fun, and what would Pulp Fiction be without Jules and Vincent just chatting? You just make sure that if someone's getting bored, something happens .

Your plots should be flexible - players are unpredictable, and if they get good ideas, run with them. Really, just come up with a vague skeleton of a plot and some set pieces. Have fights in the set pieces. Write down some goals for yourself in the fights - stuff like 'someone should get hit with an oil drum' or 'someone should get caught on a crane hook'. Stunt fodder. If you have the NPCs do it, players will follow. Come up with a little backstory about what the places are and who's involved. Get the players to care by making sure they want to find out what happens next. End a session on a cliffhanger or with a new question to be answered next time. Oh, and don't get bothered about language barriers. This is a Hong Kong action movie. Everyone speaks Cantonese. Perfectly. Ancient Egyptian pharaohs? Speak Cantonese. The Prime Minster of France? Speaks Cantonese. Demonic future monster-things? Speak Cantonese. And since you're probably not from Hong Kong, it's all translated into English perfectly. Including the puns. Just roll with it.

Next time: Feng Shui, Monsters and Mayhem!

And then after that it gets kind of confusing.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hooray, done with finals except for one last paper!

Feng Shui: And then after that it gets kind of confusing.

The next chapter is about three pages long, covering how much XP to hand out (around 3). It also has the XP cost for skills. A new skill costs (8+x), where x is the base attribute of the skill. Raising a skill by 1 costs XP equal to the new action value you will have in the skill. Normally, you can't raise attributes unless you are attuned to a feng shui site. Which you want to be. Feng shui sites give bonus XP at the end of each session. You get bonus XP equal to the number of sites you're attuned to times 3. If you're attuned to a site, you can also spend XP on attributes! It costs (new rating*4) to raise a primary attribute by 1, which also raises all of its secondary attributes that are less than or equal to it by 1. Raising a secondary attribute by 1 costs (new rating*2).

We now get a brief bit of fiction from our anonymous hero explaining feng shui sites. Essentially, he used to think that all that mattered was what you did, if you were smart enough to pull it off and whether you had the guts to get things done. Turns out that's not the case! In fact, what matters is how many feng shui sites you control. Get enough good feng shui and things just go right for you. Lose the feng shui, and your chi flow screws up and things go bad . The more sites you lose, the more vulnerable you get. It all snowballs. Yeah, if you believe in free will and self-reliance, it's a kick in the pants. But apparently, free will and self-reliance still exist. Somehow. Also, because of time travel, you've got to protect your feng shui sites in the past, so they don't get pulled out from under you and history doesn't get rewritten on you. It confuses our hero.

So, what is feng shui? It's the art of geomancy, the skill of understanding chi flow. If you have the Info: Geomancy skill, you can use it to recognize good feng shui sites without needing the Fertility schtick of Sorcery! It's not magic, just knowledge. The main factors of feng shui are angles and shapes. The right angles determine where and when chi flows and the relationships between them. Shape is also a big deal - if the shape of a place or something in it resembles an animal, that's a big deal. If you live on a hillside that looks like a dragon, that's good. However, if you're in the wrong place, it can be dangerous - you don't want to be in the mouth! You can improve a place's feng shui by setting up mirrors to adjust chi flow from bad angles, though they tend to be fragile, or by trying to rearrange things so your weird-looking lot resembles a good thing by putting out the right decorations. Likewise, it's easy to accidentally or intentionally ruin a place's feng shui. The easiest way is to blow things up. Beyond that, get a geomancer to put out those mirrors and decorations in the wrong spots . Geomancy can harm as much as help! A billboard in the wrong place, an excavation next door, ninja interior decorating - it can all do big things.

You can attune to a feng shui site by...well, being the legitimate owners of it, or going through a ritual of attunement. That gets you the XP bonuses and any esoteric benefits the place may provide. To do the ritual, though, you still have to be part of the group that controls the place. It also costs 1 xp to attune to a site. Then you have to guard the place so that no one else attunes to it, nullifying your attunement. (Unless they're on your team, that's okay and won't nullify you.) So you'll want security guards, traps and so on. PCs are not meant to start off attuned to a feng shui site, because motivation to find one is a good thing!

You need strong claim to attune to a feng shui site. If you can defend it from others, you've got strong claim. Taking a place over at gunpoint, not so much, because you can expect SWAT to show up soon. Legal ownership is only strong claim if you can enforce your legal rights. It's much easier, therefore, to take over a site in a lawless area. Of course, some groups are easier to take from - the Lotus and Architects tend not to call the cops much, because they don't like explaining the zombies and bioengineering vats on site. The Ascended, on the other hand, practically own the cops. Oh - and never, ever attune to a place with negative feng shui. You can't gain or spend XP while attuned, and you can't use fortune dice. Always check with a wizard or geomancer before attuning!

You can be forcibly de-attuned from a feng shui site, too. That happens when someone else attunes to your site, ruins its chi flow or using a power that de-attunes people. Yopu know instantly if you've been de-attuned, though you may not recognize that's what happened - it manifests as a sudden chill and series of minor bad luck. Others can attune to your sites only if they have a stronger claim than you, which usually means they've taken the place over for more than a day and reasonably expect you won't be able to take it back. They can ruin the chi by blowing up walls and putting out ugly lawn ornaments. You can't just de-attune yourself by meditating, though. Attune to a bad site and you're going to have to go to greater measures. The GM is also encouraged to make sure you never get so many feng shui sites that you're going to spend all your time guarding them and never taking risks, and so you will probably not get to attune to major feng shui sites much.

It is also possible to burn , or permanently destroy a feng shui site. To do that, you have to forever destroy its ability to have good chi. For example, you might blow up the building and then destroy all copies of the plans to it, so it can never be reconstructed the same way. (You need to do both, otherwise someone can just fix the place.) If you manage to burn a site, youy get a rush of chi and 5 bonus xp. However, you can't get the bonus for destroying a site you're attuned to or have ever been attuned to in the past. Taking a site and handing it over to a larger group because you can't defend it is also known as burning, because you just get a one-time advantage out of it even if the site is still there.

Now we get some monster stats! The gnarled marauder is a demon from the Underworld (not the Netherworld; the Underworld is the place demons come from and you probably can't get there) which resembles a sea anemone with dozens of tentacles with hooks on the ends. It is actually quite intelligent and loves poetry and calligraphy...but it loves the taste of human flesh even more . Gnarled marauders tend to be friendly with the Lotus-Eaters, who are happy to feed them screaming victims. They also get bigger when blasted by magic.

Then you have the famous jiangshi, or hopping vampires! It is both ridiculous and deadly. They aren't literal vampires, but they do corrupt their victims and turn them into jiangshi. A hopping vampire looks kind of like a decomposing human wearing ancient robes. Their eyes glow red and their fingernails are like claws. They can only move around by hopping, but that doesn't slow them down. They're not intelligent, can't talk and don't use complex plans - but they don't stop, either. The best way to deal with them is to put a piece of paper on their forehead with mystic symbols on it. Anyone with the Summoning schtick of Sorcery can create these papers easily. Then, anyone can put them on the jiangshi with a Martial Arts attack. Once it's on there - and you'll want glue to keep it on - then the thing goes dormant. It just stands there, unable to move. Also, jiangshi can't cross a line of uncooked sticky rice. Make sure that it's good rice - lower grades can't do a thing to stop the jianghsi. A pure diet of sticky rice also cures jiangshi corruption after a few days. As far as anyone can tell, jiangshi do not usually wear black and only very rarely angst. They're too busy menacing people to do that.

Then we've got the Reconstructed! They're ogres who have been kidnapped by the Buro and cybernetically enhanced to put down insurgencies in 2056. They're pretty bright, for ogres, and really like beating things up and killing them. They are also all installed with Neural Greppers, a device that causes instant hemorrhaging of the brain if the ogre knowingly disobeys orders. The Reconstructed die to this fairly often, since they have very poor impulse control and lash out at people easily, including their officers. They look like giant humanoids with metal implants and monster features, and tend to be bright-colored and really ugly.

Lastly, the Snake Men! You gotta have Snake Men. They're demons from the Underworld and sometimes mistaken for transformed snakes. But they're not! They are ugly humanoid things that resemble a person wearing a tunic made of living snakes. They fight using their special snake martial arts and fu powers. They aren't very clever or very motivated - they tend to fight only when commanded by a powerful sorcerer. On their own, all they want is to attack and eat helpless prey, and people who can fight aren't helpless. They do regenerate, though, and they're really good at snake kung fu.

Now, we get another bit of fiction. Our hero gets attuning explained to him, and talks about how when he attuned it was weird because they had to do yoga and then suddenly it was like a big weight was taken off his shoulders. At some point after that, he finds the old Jewish guy who'd been guarding the place duct taped to a chair which was hanging from the ceiling, with 50 sticks of dynamite strapped to him. And a countdown timer. There was barely enough time to shoot through one of the wires on the bomb to stop it. Fortunately, he picked the right one. Unfortunately, there were other bombs, which blew out the wall of the feng shui site they'd had. Which ruined the place's feng shui, of course. The old Jewish guy turns out to be a geomancer and helps fix the place up and make sure it's reconstructed right. He could handle that part - but he tells our hero to go and track down the sorcerer who bombed the place, so he won't do it again.

Now, let's talk about the factions of the Secret War. The Architects of the Flesh are the horrible mad scientists who support the police state of 2056. They're not just happy with ruling the future, though! They want to conquer all of human history, starting with the Contemporary juncture. The group that would become the Architects started in 2014 as the CDCA, the Cross-Disciplinary Convergence Association. The CDCA was founded to pursue connections betyween DNA research, quantum physics and parapsychology. The main figure behind it was Dr. Anita Dao, a physicist who believed that paranormal claims had some validity. Her study of quantum mechanics led her to identify the arcanowave , an energy pattern that was manipulated by those who did "magic." She said there were two kinds: high-end and low-end. Magic spells used high-end arcanowaves, and they didn't occur naturally and were had to create in the lab. Low-end arcanowaves, on the other hand, were all over the place, flowing through all living things and could even be amplified by certain geological and architectural patterns. Dr. Dao knew enough about feng shui that she was able to understand what she'd found: a scientific way to measure chi energy.

Young scientists in practically every field confirmed the math, though the establishment was less enthusiastic and blocked funding. Dao and the others made the CDCA to get free of the blockage and try to find applications for the arcanowaves. This originally innocuous program was transformed, though, a decade after it began. Dr. Dao vanished from her lab, leaving a new president of the CDCA in charge: a DNA researcher named Dr. Curtis Boatman. He had grand ambitions. He lobbed to get the UN's support for the CDCA, thus getting a steady flow of funding. By 2025,the UN was the primary tool of industrialized nations to enforce their will on the Third World. It had greater powers and even a standing army for its "peacekeeping" missions. Tensions were increasing, and the UN became an occupying power. In order to keep his funding, Boatman had to serve the Bureau of Tactical Management's military interests.

The BTM, also known as the Buro, was the great military might of the UN Security Council. Boatman worked closely with a little-known German functionary named Johann Bonengel to turn the CDCA into a huge operation dedicated to making arcanowave technology militarily usable. They quietly established CDCA bases at critical feng shui sites throughout the world, and as they got more, their political opposition faded, thansk to the chi power. Their top priority was making a new kind of soldier. High casualty rates were the main problem with fighting wars in the third world, and Boatman promised to solve the issue. He experimented with using arcanowaves to accelerate growth and give soldiers abilities beyond the human norm, but his political bosses stopped htat. They didn't want a superior human being, that'd terrify the electorate. Boatman switched the program to convert lab-bred apes into fighting machines. This, too, failed - the apes just weren't willing to engage in senseless violence.

The problem got solved in 2037, when the CDCA's quantum mechanics discovered a way to artificially create a portal to the Netherworld. They sent in exploration teams, capturing a number of supernatural creatures. When they studied the creatures, Boatman knew he'd found his test subjects. He'd use the ogres, the snake men and the walking corpses for his super-soldiers. They were already violent and would be in no way superior to humanity. These were the first abominations, which rolled off the assembly line in 2042. They were brutal and highly successful, allowing Boatman's political mentor, Bonengel, to be appointed the head of Buro, the Buropresident . The rebellious third world nations surrendered to the UN after the the Buro instituted a policy of assassinating heads of state with guerrila monster squads. The UN couldn't install democracy in these conquests for fear of losing power, so they reintroduced colonialism, directly running the defeated countries.

Does all this sound improbable? It is. But the CDCA had the feng shui sites, and that meant it didn't matter. The chi power made it happen, subtly influencing the minds of the people to accept what was going on because of who controlled the chi. It wuld never have worked without that. Anyway, things were tough until Bonengel and Boatman arranged for the construction of Buro or CDCA bases on the major feng shui sites in conquered nations. Then they used the arcanowave technology to warp the chi of these sites, so that only they would benefit. Soon, everyone saw Buro as the natural leadership. It took little for Bonengel and Boatman to realize the abominations were only half of their success. The feng shui sites were the other half. The next stop was obvious: take over the sites in industrialized nations. That was just a matter of building bases in the right places, and easily done. None of their potential opponents even knew enough to stop them.

In 2051, the industrialized nations dissolved the UN and voted to make Buro the legal authority of a world government. Boatman retreated to his lab for research, but Bonengel became restless. Despite their lock on the feng shui, rebels still existed. They had 98% of the population controlled - but Bonengel became obsessed with the 2% that wasn't. He wanted complete domination, an all-encompassing propaganda state. The hunt for dissidents became priority one. Today, the Buro spends far more hunting subversives than it would lose if it ignored them completely, and its heavyhanded tactics sometimes work against it, creating anti-Buro sentiment where none existed. Seeing that Boneengel was endangering things, Boatman proposed a new project: conquest of history. After analyzing history, Boatman's strategists came up with a theory on targetting feng shui sites in the past - if they took over a juncture, their control of history would be guaranteed up to the next breakpoint. If they went backwards from breakpoint to breakpoint, they could conquer all of history.

Thus, the Architects concluded that the best timeframe to attack first would be what we call the present. Their activities there have just begun, capturing a few minor sites. They've yet to figure out that most of the sites are controlled by one group, the Ascended. They also use the Nethrworld to make raids into the ancient past to capture supernatural creatures for raw materials. Thus, they often come into conflict with the Eaters of the Lotus, who need monsters for their own schemes. They are also opposed by a rebel group from their own time, the Jammers. Much of the Architects' anti-subversive activities are dedicated to rooting out Jammers. The Architects are the victims of their own disinformation about the rebels, though, and believe their foes are twice as organized and pervasive as they actually are. However, in one way, they underestimate their foes: they don't know that the Jammers understand the significance of the feng shui sites and are planning their own strategies to make them useless.

Next up, the Ascended! Everyone knows paranoids talk about the secret international conspiracy behind world events. Some say it's an ethnic or religious group, or the Pope. They are wrong. The truth is it's the Ascended. Influential people from every group - businessmen, politicians, journalists - either they're Ascended or hey willing serve them. But even those who serve do not know the true nature of the inner circle. These individuals are the descendants of animals who magically transformed themsleves into humans centuries ago. The blood of tigers, dogs and dragons runs through their veins. In the distant past, when magic was common, animals were often as intelligent and capable of reason as human beings. Many animals were happy to be animals, but a few envied human society and their opposable thumbs. They wanted to join that society. (And get those thumbs.)

Well, this wasn't without risk. Many believed such creatures were innately evil - not true, of course. An animal turned human can have a conscience as much as any human can. STill, many magicians and Taoist onks believed these creatures to be against the natural order. The animals succeeded in evading them, though, and tricked humans into accepting them. They were able to breed with humans, spawning the lineages that continue to this day. Though most of the early transformed animals were in China and Asia in general, they quickly covered the globe. They used their knowledge of magic to help the animals in the regions they entered, creating more transformed animals. These were the ancestors of the Ascended, the inspiration for myths worldwide about humans who took animal forms. (Even if the truth was exactly the opposite.)

The Ascended are genetically human - mostly. There's just a trace of supernatural and animal origin within their biology...but that trace is enough for a disastrous flaw: if magic ever becomes as common as it was in ancient China, they'll return to animal form. Though the Ascended do get benefits from being animal-blooded, they really like being human and therefore work as hard as they can to make sure the modern world is magic-free as much as possible. If the feng shui sites were to fall to the Eaters of the Lotus or the Four Monarchs, magic would become much easier to use - and this would threaten the Ascended with return to their animal forms, so those groups are the worst enemies of the beast-men. The Ascended have been active for centuries, acquiring a large number of feng shui sites. They control the majority of the most powerful sites in the modern world, using great political and financial resources.

The Ascended do not remember their early history; small wonder that no one else does, especially when the Ascended make sure those who get too close disappear. They seem to have been founded in the leventh century or so, when magic began to dwindle for some reason or other. Within a few decades of each other, two seperate but similar groups formed: the Order of the Wheel in Europe and the Jade Wheel Society in China. Both were secret societies with elaborate structures. The Order of the Wheel gained influence by promoting the Crusades, while the Jade Wheel Society subverted the Song Dynasty of China and aided their Mongol enemies. Both were secretly run by the descendants of the transformed animals, manipulating events to their own advantage. Over the centuries, the roots of their power went deep. Both still exist today. The Order of the Wheel is a fraternal order and service organization with chapterhouses throughout the Western world. Most members are small-town businessmen who know nothing of their leadership's nature or influence. The Jade Wheel Society is found in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singabpore, while a covert equivalent exists as a hidden cadre in the Chinese Communist Party. Most members still have no idea what it really is and think it's just a way to make contacts and get promoted.

The inner circle watches these two groups carefully. Those who meet their standards - and they are few - are given an offer to join the secret hierarchy of the Pledged . These individuals swear to take orders from the inner circle: the Lodge . The Pledged serve the Lodge over all other loyalties, renouncing friends, family, religion and nation for promises of wealth and power. They are highly motivated, skilled and often rather unscrupulous. And they can't quit. The Pledged know that they will be ruined if they blow the whistle on the Lodge...and the loyal are well-rewarded, anyway. The Pledged can be found in key government positions worldwide, as well sas on the boards of major corporations, among top scientists and doctors and even in the media. The Lodge is especially interested in putting operatives in military, paramilitary and police forces, as well as infiltrating all major churches that have centralized organizations.

The ultimate promise is that the Pledged will one day get to join the Lodge, but this never actually happens. The Lodge keeps the Pledged happy, but it itself consists entirely of descendants of transformed animals. Though they never use the name even with the Pledged, they privately call themseves the Ascended . Membership is essentially hereditary, and the Ascended are very careful about who they have kids with. When the kids come of age, they get inducted. Those few descendants who aren't part of the Lodge still have to stay in contact with it, swearing to keep the Lodge updated on their actions and never risking exposure of the secret of transformed animals. The Ascended will do anything to preserve their power, even kill their own relatives.

The Lodge is run as a cooperative board, with policy decided semi-annually at board meetings to which each family sends one member. Each family has roughly equal influence, though some may be more respected than others. Most decisions are made via discussion and consensus, with little formal voting. Power struggles are rare, and the families tend to agree on most things. They've got a program that's worked for centuries, after all. Every six years, they elect a chair for the board meetings. This person is the Unspoken Name , and no one but the Lodge members know the identity of the current Unspoken Name. The Ascended avoid public spotlight personally, preferring to use the Pledged for that sort of thing. Most of the families are very, very wealthy, but they don't like to flaunt it, never show up in the gossip pages and rarely get referred to by name in the news. They live quietly and privately, though sometimes decadently within those private lives. Ascended installations tend to center around major feng shui sites.

Still, when the time comes to act, they're ready to. Their blood gives them powers, and they also tend to be very good at kung fu. Some missions are too delicate to give to dupes, so the active Lodge members, especially young ones, take them on. These are the enforcers . While they and the Lodge rely heavily on chi manipulation, they are very opposed to any use of magic. Sure, the difference between chi and magic is just one of degree, but it means everything to them. When powerful magic appears, the Lodge sends out the Pledged or even the enforcers to either stop it or kill the users outright. They often have their scientists publically ridicule and debunk paranormal claims, and use their church contacts to suppress superstition. Witch-burnings in Europe were a Lodge effort. As the game opens, the Ascended have not realized their feng shui sites are being targeted by the Architects. The Architects know little about the Ascended, but the Ascended know next to nothing about them - they tend to avoid the Netherworld, you see, since it's got relatively strong magic.

Next time: The Dragons have fallen.

I guess he really was descended from African royalty. Least, he looked good in tweed.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I guess he really was descended from African royalty. Least, he looked good in tweed.

The Dragons are a band of heroes who rise again and again from the outcasts and humble to fight for justice, freedom and the right to be awesome. Unfortunately, the reason they rise again and again is they always get killed . Several times, a group has taken up the legendary Dragon mantle and then gotten killed. In Chinese legend, the Silver Dragons were a group of immortals who fought demons and despots in the old days. They saved many people, but every one of them died ihorribly. Despite that, many have taken up the name.

The Dragons entered the secret war thanks to Kar Fai, a monk from 1850, and the Prof, a techie from 2056. The two of them were former members of other groups. Kar Fai left the Guiding Hand because he saw them as too rigid, while the Prof rejected Buro's agenda and fled to the Netherworld to find a way to erase the discovery of the arcanowave. The two met in the Netherworld and joined forces, looking for allies. They found other Dragons in 69 and 1850, and set up a group in the contemporary world. Kar Fai travelled the world, recruiting all sorts of people and cluing them in, while the Prof directed their operations. For a brief period, the names of these heroes were legendary: Jack Donovan, Iala Mané, Mad Dog McCroun. Unfortunately...they all died recently during an incident involving the Lotus and some demons.

The Prof has found evidence that the incident was caused by the Lodge as part of something called Operation Killdeer. She and Kar Fai have have sworn to remake their team and get vengeance on those who killed their friends. Maybe they'll contact your PCs to try and recruit them. Of course, Dragons die horribly; it seems to be what they do when they're not saving the day. Still, they'll be fighting the good fight and will go out with a bang, at least. That's something.

Sidebar time - Operation Killdeer was an Ascended plot against the Dragons and the Lotus. Disinformation was spread to both groups, who went to battle over a minor Ascended feng shui site. This also served as a demonstration for Ming I, Queen of the Darkness Pagoda, and Li Ting, King of the Fire Pagoda, who were very impressed by the Ascended manipulation and joined the Ascended and Jammers in the creation of a powerful artifact: the Molten Heart. The Molten Heart would have allowed the three factions to control all portals into and out of the Netherworld, were it not quickly destroyed by a group of secret warriors including the Dragon known as Ting Ting. At least, that's how it went down canonically. Maybe your world is different.

The Eaters of the Lotus , meanwhile, are a secret society whose members control the Imperial government of 69 AD China. The leaders are eunuchs who have used their evil sorcery to enslave the Emperor's will. By custom, the only men who may live in the Imperial Palace that aren't the Emperor are eunuchs. The Emperor's will is served by administrative officials appointed by merit (ideally, anyway). However, they can't attend the Emperor directly. So they use the eunuchs as a go-between, and the eunuchs can thus twist policy to their own ends, setting up their own parallel government full of thugs and toadies. This really shouldn't be a surprise - being castrated and made to serve the Emperor tends to be a punishment for enemies, who become former enemies. The Eaters of the Lotus decided to skip that very last part.

Of course, in 69 AD China it's common knowledge that the Empire is going through one of its periodic bursts of eunuch trouble. The people know whose fault it is, too: Gao Zhang, the eunuch who is senior attendant to the Emperor. The bureaucracy can't enforce justice or even hope to control the eunuchs, who have strike forces of warriors loyal only to them. They use these to raid towns in the guise of emergency taxation. They also kill or intimidate anyone who speaks out against the eunuchs, like official bureaucrats, shamans, priests, teachers or reformers. Not evceryone in the official system is an enemy of the eunuchs, though. Some have been corrupted and serve them, knowing it's the only way to get ahead. They get secret payments and easy promotion, while most officials just look the other way and hope this all blows over without their having to take any risks. Thus, it's hard to tell if, when you approach a government official, they'll be sympathetic to your problems or will imprison you.

We get a sidebar telling us that the Lotus exist to be evil magicians. Their purpose in the game is to have nasty monsters and evil sorcerers for your players to beat up. Sure, the architects have Abominations, but those guys have guns and napalm. The Lotus mean a nice, knock-down brawl with some nasty snake-men armies or ogres with clubs. That's always fun! Anyway. Everyone knows tiems are bad and whose fault it is, but they don't know that Gao Zhang is the leader of a secret society of evil wizards. The name 'Eaters of the Lotus' means nothing to your average Chinese peasant or even official. Most of their flunkies don't know the name, nature or goals of the organization they serve. Most are just in it for the cash and the chance to bully people.

The truth is, the Eaters were orignally founded by Gao as a tool for his own political power. He was an ambitious official who overstepped his authority and was sentenced to castration. He decided to win the Emperor's trust back and use his position in the palace to gain authority, and he settled on sorcery as a great tool to get there. When he learned that a trio of outlaws were to be killed for summoning demons, he secretly got them rescued, demanding they teach him magic in exchange for freedom. He turned out to be naturally talented with dark sorcery and quickly surpassed his teachers, creating new spells and forging vile pacts with demon lords. It's that magic that has given Gao so much power - he's enchanted the Emperor, causing demons to attack him via dreams. The Emperor doesn't know Gao is responsible, and comes to him for nightly elixirs to lessen his nightmares. Whenever the Emperor threatens to rein things in, Gao threatens to stop the potions and the Emperor meekly caves.

All of the other palace eunuchs are members of the Lotus - those who wouldn't join or were deemed incompetent got killed, either via false accusations of crime or simple murder. Not all of the eunuchs are sorcerers, though you have to be a sorcerer to get rank in the Lotus-Eaters. Not all of the Lotus are in the palace, though. Many can be found in positions of power throughout China. Not all of them are eunuchs, though all of the inner circle are. Some ambitious members have even volunteered for castration in order to get into the palace! There are no women in the Lotus, though they do sometimes use the services of female sorcerers, warriors and demons. They love to use demons of all kinds, along with ogres, ghosts, zombies and anything else. Regions which rebel get put down by monsters, who run rampant for a while until Gao and his allies offer to exorcise them in exchange for loyalty. So, yeah, demonic protection racket. The connection between the eunuchs and the demons has not gone utterly unnoticed, but no one has any proof, and given how hard it is to get to the Emperor without going through the Lotus, even direct evidence wouldn't automatically end their control.

Until recently, all the Lotus wanted was to maintain their influence in China. Two years ago, that changed. Strange warriors began to appear in areas the Lotus sent their monsters to. These invaders were able to hold their own against the Lotus' best thanks to their strange devices, and they were capturing the monsters ands tealing them away! Eventually the Lotus tracked the invaders, and found they were able to enter strange doorways and vanish! The Lotus followd them through, discovering the Netherworld. Gao Zhang sent his most trusted wizards to check it out, and soon realized the significance of the Secret War. (So tes, this is entirely the fault of the Architects and their Monster Hunters.)

Since he learned about the secret war, Gao Zhang has expanded the Lotus-Eaters' mission. He has sent operatives to the contemporary juncture, to learn about Chinese history, and he found that the eunuchs were eventually removed from power by reforms. Using this knowledge, Gao has gone about capturing feng shui sites owned by the families the books say will eventually oppose him, so that he can turn the tide of history. This has alarmed both the Ascended and the Architects, who have a vested interest in keeping history from being changed and potentially displacing them entirely. The Ascended have begun to send the Pledged to fight, and at the same time the Guiding Hand has sent teachers back to 69 AD to form rebel groups, bent on overthrowing the corrupt government and replace it with a benevolent one. The Ascended and Architects want to stop them, too, since that'd change the timestream as well.

The Lotus have learned about their adversaries and have been sending out teams of sorcers, demons and swordsmen to attack the Ascended, Architects and Guiding Hand. They want to takle key feng shui sites and recuit new Lotus members from other junctures and the Netherworld. If possible, Gao wants to take over all the feng shui sites of another juncture and expand his empire across time itself! He's a very single-minded guy, and all he cares about is getting more powerful and more influential. When he sleeps, that's all he dreams of. He is a brilliant planner who grasps new ideas easily and folds them into his plans without any problems. He is always looking for flaws in his plans, looking for problems that he hasn't yet considered. He believes the biggest flaw in any plan is the weakness of his followers. Gao is not very trusting, and is always looking out for betrayals. This makes him hard to fool, but he also has no true allies. The Lotus-Eaters serve because it serves their ambitions, but if Gao were to lose power, he would quickly be deserted. The fact that he kills failures and suspected traitorsw out of hand doesn't endear him to anyone, either. Also, he is a eunuch wizard, and therefore has a funny, high-pitched voice. He loves gloating and evil laughter, as do most Lotus-Eaters.

The Four Monarchs are the rulers the Netherworld does not have. They don't control the place, but they are easily the most powerful beings there. They are each more than three hundred years old, and in their version of the 16th century, each of them ruled a quarter of the globe. At the time, magic was commonplace, and they were four siblings born in northern China. Their father was a great sorcerer who had a vision at the birth of the youngest of them, seeing that with his help, they would rule the world. However, his vision also told him a great calamity could happen just as they were on the verge of claiming their thrones. Still, he decided to make the prophecy happen. It was a time when the Emperor of China was weak, so the father got into the service of a local warlord, using him to capture feng shui sites. He taught his children all the secrets of magic, having each of them master a single force.

Li Ting learned the ways of fire. Ming I learned the power of darkness. Huan Ken mastered thunder. Pi Tui conquered ice. By the time they came of age, it was easy for them to take out their father's warlord and usurp his forces. The four acted together, becoming infamous. Entire armies surrendered when they took the field. Within years, they ruled half of china. Their power and their father's natural sense of which feng shui sites were best allowed them to roll through all of Asia. But their father insisted they could not be rulers until the entire world bowed before them. As their successes continued, though, infighting became more common. Their father remained neutral, prividing them all with geomantic and strategic advice. Pi Tui headed north, to conquer what we would call Russia and North America. Li Ting went south, taking India, the Middle East and Africa. Huan Ken took Europe. Ming I kept southern Asia and seized South America. At last, all the world was under their rule. They went to their father and demanded coronation, for even he could not say any longer that they were not monarchs.

Their father grew quite nervous, for her remembered his vision well. He stalled for years, until at last the siblings came together and decided he was cheating them of their destinies. They came to a conclusion: he would never crown them. They would need to declare their own titles. This would anger their father, so they would have to kill him. If he lived, he would surely swear vengeance, and he was the only man alive who know all of the locations of their feng shui sites. They'd kept their most important secrets from each other, but not him. They had reason to fear him, and he had power over them. Thus, they invited their father to a ceremony of reconciliation. He was overjoyed, he should have suspected, but he was too full of pride to see the truth. He arrived and found an ambush. Li Ting burned him, Ming I stole the light from his mind, Huan Ken turned his bones to dust and Pi Tui scourged him with ice darts. As the old man lay dying, he gave them his last secret: the locations of the entrances to the Netherworld, telling them they'd have to learn it's ways to keep their crowns. He then named them the greatest kings and queen that had ever lived, thinking this was the calamity of his vision.

The four soon crowned themselves. Ming I demolished the Forbidden City, replacing it with a tower of pure darkness, naming herself Queen of the Darkness Pagoda . Huan Ken destroyed the Vatic an and built a castle of storms, naming himself both Pope and King of the Thunder Pagoda . In the Bering Strait, Pi Tui raised a city of frozen water, naming herself Queen of the Ice Pagoda . Li Ting burned Jerusalem to the ground, building its place a grand palace of flame, and became King of the Fire Pagoda . The horror of their patricide destroyed any chance of unity between them, and they blamed each other for the terrible decision. They deceived themselves and their old rivalries became hatreds. They explored the Netherworld, hunting for ways to gain advantage over each other, and they ignored the Secret War in favor of wars against one another. Their father had balanced their empires perfectly, and each had an equal amount of chi. Thus, they could not defeat each other.

Despite all this, they fought for centuries, using immortality elixirs to keep themselves going. They missed the truth of their father's dying warning, did not think of expanding across time. Thus, they fell. They had warriors in the Secret War, but those warriors were but token forces. Some even rebelled against them, joining the forerunners of the Ascended in the 13th century to seize feng shui sites and set off a critical shift in history. The Ascended fostered the Renaissance and the loss of magic, changing all time ahead of them. The Four Monarchs awoke on March 10, 1988, to find themselves complete non-entities in a world of strange technology they did not recognize. They remembered their past, for they had been to the Netherworld, but they were shadows of their former selves. Their elixir was wearing off, their magic weakened. Crippled by age, they fled to the Netherworld to plot hteir combacks.

Because they had controlled so many feng shui sites, they were able to reshape the Netherworld to their whims. They were forces to be reckoned with there, and they created replicas of their palaces, summoning their former servants to them and recruiting netherworlders as vassals. They've been there for nearly a decade now ('now' being the 90s, this was a 90s book), and while they periodically try to work together, their old hatreds die hard. Much of the danger of the Netherworld is because of their infighting.

Next time: The Four Monarchs today.

He just muttered something about the Thorns of the Lotus being amateurs compared to the Gestapo, and got on the cell phone to a building contractor.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: He just muttered something about the Thorns of the Lotus being amateurs compared to the Gestapo, and got on the cell phone to a building contractor.

So, what are the Four Monarchs like? Well, Ming I, Queen of the Darkness Pagoda , is a cruel and mysterious figure. She's Chinese like the rest, but her time ruling South America left her in love with the Aztecs. She made herself their bloody sun goddess, and the priests serve as her advisors. She loves to use human sacrifice as a means of execution for prisoners and incompetent minions. She also likes setting her servants against each other. Apparently it's funny. She lost an arm while conquering Earth in the timeline that got unhappened, so she replaced it with a magical limb of pure darkness, which grants her awesome physical power. In battle, she is a terrifying foe, especially where magic is strong. When in 2056, her arm becomes an unpredictable cybernetic device.

Ming I is also known for her sharp wit and her love of banter. Her plans tend to be either subtle or needlessly convoluted, and she believes she is completely brilliant. She is the one most bitter about the loss of her timeline and she has a special hatred for the Ascended thanks to their part in it. When not plotting against her siblings, she's trying to hurt them. The Jammers are a secondary foe - they want to destroy all magic throughout the timestream, which she just won't stand for. She has an occasional alliance with the Eaters of the Lotus, and she and Gao Zhang have this weird relationship where they help each other out, openly declare that they will outwit each other and both admire and scorn each other. They betray each other regularly, but don't seem to hold grudges.

Then we get a sidebar on how the shift which erased the Monarchs from history is a great example of a worst-case scenario. If a critical shift were to happen for the Architects, for example, they would end up being the thousand-year-rulers of a global empire by 2056, with technology beyond their wildest dreams and a government that'd make Orwell shit himself, unstoppable without another critical shift. So: don't get caught with your pants down. Always remember that someone might be working to erase your time. (And probably is, but at least everyone else wants to stop them, too. Usually.)

Huan Ken, King of the Thunder Pagoda is prone to mood swings and loves nothing more than recognition. He spent a lot of time in feudal Europe, and he loves to come off as a noble king. He is the most Western of the four siblings, and his servants are styled after knights and squires, with an elaborate ranking system. Huan Ken regularly holds feasts and festivals, complete with jousting. He claims to be chivalrous, but it won't stop him from being utterly ruthless if his power is at stake. He also nominally claims to be Christian...and the Pope. And the King of Europe in Exile. In practice, this mostly means if you really piss him off he will try to burn you at the stake as a heretic, because opposing the Pope is clearly heresy. (Remember, he's kind of medieval in outlook.)

Huan Ken is quick to anger, but also quick to forgive if you're properly boot-licking and apologetic. He is the least organized of the Monarchs - he's more reactionary than schemer. When his honor or self-image are threatened, he'll team up with anyone who might be able to realistically help him. In the past, he's worked with the Architects, the Guiding Hand and even the Jammers, though not at the same time. He usually ends up taken advantage of in these arangements...but on the other hand, in personal combat, he is hands-down the best of the four. Which says a lot. He's proud of the fact that no one has ever survived a one-on-one fight against him.

Li Ting, King of the Fire Pagoda , is the calmest of the four. He's proud of his rationality and his skill as a calculating, logical planner. He wants to cut himself off from emotional concerns as a way of dealing with his guilt over the death of his father. He's pretty callous and vicious to his foes, though, so you could argue he just went full-on dark side. Just...don't tell him that. He denies that morality exists, as well as all forms of religion. He, he says, is the only thing to matter in the world. He doesn't even try to hide it, so he doesn't have that many followers. Typically, a follower of Li Ting is someone who idd something terrible and wants to avoid responsibility by being able to follow a charismatic leader. And Li Ting is that. He understands people and their weaknesses, and he's always ready to exploit them.

Li Ting sometimes helps the Jammers out, but only when their plans help his goals. He won't help the Battlechimp or his men when they might actually have a chance of lessening the magic of the world. He maintains contacts with Curtis Boatman of the Architects, unknown to Buropresident Johann Bonengel. In combat, Li Ting hurls fire magic around. He was notorious, in his Earth, for destroying entire armies with a gesture, but he's gotten rather weaker since then. Still nasty, though.

Pui Ti, Queen of the Ice Pagoda , is the only one of the four who genuinely, really regrets murdering her father. She sees her mission in life to be controlling the worst excesses of her siblings, and she maingaints her grip on power only in order to have a way to do that. She has no actual desire to bring back her timestream, though she has never told her siblings that. She thinks the world is better off as it is now. She's willing to take part in the Secret War, but only insofar as it relates to her family. If she thinks something will stop one of them or make it harder for them to reclaim their thrones, she'll support the people doing it. Otherwise, she does nothing.

Until their recent destruction, Pui Ti occasionally helped the Dragons out. She declined to take part in Killdeer, and she may or may not feel remorse over that. She definitely doesn't show it, though - she's a real ice queen, pun completely intended. It's hard to tell what she thinks or feels, and she keeps her plans to herself. She is extremely stingy with information and advice in general. While she can seem unhelpful, though, she's the only one of the four who's a reasonably loyal potential patron for PCs. She's fair and just, if not warm, and her subjects have rights specified in a written constitution. Her subjects tend to be loyal to the document and principles, rather than Pi Tui herself - she inspires respect, but not love. Though she has never entered combat personally since the shift that brought her to the Netherworld, she is known to have once used a sorcerous fighting style specializing in deadly thrown ice blades.

Now, on to the 1850s and the Guiding Hand . They are Chinese traditionalists at a very hard time to be Chinese traditionalists. The colonial powers want control, including control over opium sales. China would prefer if opium wasn't sold at all. But the British get rich off it, and they recently won the Opium War, making even the Emperor's wishes in the matter powerless. (For the record, anti-opium.) The Guiding Hand want to do something about this. They foresaw the end of their great civilization and they want to reverse it. They want to return China to its legendary might. Initially, they thought the problem was moral weakness of the Chinese, and created various cells and study groups, called the Golden Candle Societies, to educate and moralize at the Chinese people, giving them the spiritual strength needed to resist the West. Through these Societies, they exerted pressure on the Emperor and sabotaged colonial power, but they got nowhere.

It took a new leader, the Perfect Master Quan Lo, to make any progress. Quan Lo is an elderly master of Shaolin and a skilled geomancer. He, unlike the past leaders of the Hand, knew feng shui was more than superstition. He discovered that the most potent feng shui sties on China's coast were all controlled either by Europeans, Chinese allies of Europeans, or a mysterious secret group called the Jade Wheel Society. No wonder the West was so successful! Quan Lo realized no political strategy would succeed here, not while the sites lay in the hands of the enemy. As such, he shifted the Hand's strategy to the seizure of feng shui sites. Once they controlled enough, they'd turn the tide on the foreigners and return China to a golden age of Confucian values.

Unfortunately, the Guiding Hand lacked the resources for direct assaults. The Jade Wheel was even better connected than they were, and when they managed to take a site, the government immediately sent troops to reclaim it. They couldn't get the sites by political intrigue, either. So, they set out to find who the Jade Wheel Society was. It turned out they were run by the descendants of supernatural animals, the Ascended! Quan Lo decided not to reveal what had been learned immediately, and continued to spy on Jade Wheel leaders. He learned that they were allied with the Europeans, who were part of a similar group called the Order of the Wheel. The Ascended were backing Europe in an effort to industrialize the planet as fast as possible and drive out magic. As Quan Lo hunted for a way to stop the conspiracy, his agents found portals to the Netherworld.

The Guiding Hand travelled there and were appalled by what they saw in other junctures. The modern world was a chaotic and decadent place with no understanding of Confucius. The Architects of 2056 were even worse. They came to see themeselves as as the only hope for civilized values, and changed their goals. It was no longer enough to take 1850 China. They had to change the timestream so that it was orderly and respected virtues. They would replace the greed and villainy of other times with wisdom. Their strategy was twofold: first, pursue longrange plans in 1850. Build nfluence and create a structure to grow over time, like the Jade Wheel had done. Use their knowledge of future history to recruit families that would be influential. If someone would be important in the 20th century, recruit their grandfather. Thus, they could cement future power, and as a result they have permanent power bases in more than one juncture - specifically, the modern world, where a Hand innerwalker can find support, perhaps even from his own descendants.

In the Secret War, they're focusing on the contemporary era. They see it as a lawless one, in which the Ascended are complacent and overextended. They've been able to seize a number of important ites, particularly through manipulation of Communist China. If the Hand has one major impediment, it's their obsession with China. They don't really believe anywhere else matters, and they don't understand the West at all. They think that washing away western influence in 1850 and 1990 will be enugh to stop the Architects and prevent their terrible future, in which China has been wiped out. We also get a sidebar on how the Hand really hate modern Hong Kong. It's everything they dislike about the West, right in their backyard. Any Hand NPCs with the party in modern Hong Kong should complain constantly about basically everything, from the litter to the architecture to the pollution to the shoddy translations of Confucius.

The Hand have also made some forays into 69, where the culture is much closer to them than other junctures. They're setting up teams to attack Lotus feng shui sites, hoping to set off longrange social change that will ripple forward to their own time, so that the Chinese empire will be stronger and better able to resist hte West. PCs may be tempted to see the Hand as allies, but sooner or later they'll learn that Quan Lo's people are fanatics with a narrow worldview. Anything that doesn't fit their view of virtue is dangerous and bad. Extreme discipline, obedience and deference to elders are major virtues. Independent thinking? Bad. Younger operatives are epxected to obey to a degree must PCs will find humiliating. Even minor screwups get embarrassing and severe punishment. The Hand are just expected to enthusiastically accept this. Disrespect of any kind is a major screwup, by the way. So is any fondness for technology or pop culture. Sorcerers, monsters, transformed animals and cyborgs are all irredeemably corrupt to the Hand and not allowed to join or even be allies. It goes without saying, most PCs would not enjoy the Hand's perfect world. The leadership of the Hand also considers itself utterly beyond reproach. They may not be as sinister and evil as the Lotus or Architects, but they will absolutely sacrifice innocents and their own people for the greater good. Quan Lo may be humble and quiet, but he is uncompromising in his view of what is right. Anyone who disagrees is either an enemy to be destroyed or a dupe to be used and tossed aside.

Next time: Battlechimp Potemkin. And other stuff, I guess.

I looked down at what I was wearing. Some nasty flannel stuff. Not remotely GQ.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I looked down at what I was wearing. Some nasty flannel stuff. Not remotely GQ.

Jammers are a loosely organized group of rebels from 2056. Their cause? Destroy the Architects and Buro. Of course, 2056 opposition to the Buro is rare, thanks to the power of feng shui. The chi keeps people quiet, though most of the Buro itself doesn't know that. The Jammers? They know. They know that attacking the police and propaganda networks is futile unless they can cut off the source of chi power. Chi is what holds the masses, and no great change in history can be made without a shift in chi.

This bothers the Jammers. They don't like that free will and independent agency seem kind of meaningless in the face of chi's power. They rather liked the idea that history was determined by the actions of people, not some supernatural force. Unlike the other factions, the Jammers don't take over feng shui sites. They know that in their own time, they have no chance to hold them against the Abominations and military that Buro has installed. They don't have the resources or the patience to hold sites elsewhen, and besides, doing so doesn't bring them much closer to unseating Buro. They have decide their only way to go back and stop Buro before they happen is to make sure there are no feng shui sites in the first place .

If they succeed, there will be a side effect that they think is a good thing: chi will play no more role in human history. The winners of wars and conflicts will no longer be the ones with the most chi, but the ones with the most skill, courage and brains. At least, the Jammers think so. They find it easy to support wiping out chi because they're part of a very small percentage of the populace that are resistant to magic and chi. This is why they're able to see Buro for what it is in 2056, without being swayed by the powerful feng shui. If it weren't for that immunity, they'd be saluting the flag with everyone else. There are disadvantages, though - a lot of Jammers can't learn or use magic or fu powers. They rely a lot on technology. Some are great fighters without chi power, too, but most are dependent on really big guns and robot bodies.

The Jammers are highly secretive, and the Buro spends a lot of time trying to track them down. Most are now in the Underworld, where the Architects don't rule the place. The Jammers are philosophically opposed to most uses of arcanowave technology, but they've made an exception for the Buro GateMaker (and several other things that they find useful, they're very pragmetic). The GateMaker is a device which can open temporary portals to the Netherworld. The Jammers stole a prototype and have since built more, letting them move around fairly easily. From the Netherworld, they plot to sabotage feng shui sites throughout time and work on new technology - mostly big guns. They also like non-arcanowave cybernetics quite a bit, and many are hardware-based cyborgs. (These get covered in the Jammers book.)

Jammer scientists realise that the end of chi will cause a worldwide wave of ill health, so they are also trying to work on various drugs and devices to help cover for it, many of which have turned out to be useful for other things, too. They keep a low profile as best they can in the Netherworld, since it's heavily populated by people who like magic and chi, and they've made a lot of enemies with their anti-chi agenda. The Eaters of the Lotus have been hit by several Jammer raids are planning retaliation. The Ascended would be very happy if magic was destroyed, but they're heavily dependent on chi and have had to repel several Jammer raids. The Guiding Hand see the Jmmers as a force of chaos, and hate their anarchist and libertarian leanings. Also, they believe the world would be doomed if the chi was destroyed and thus believe the Jammers to be a horrible threat; they may be right.

The leader and founder of the Jammers is Battlechimp Potemkin, one of the CDCA's early experiments in biogentically altered primate supersoldiers. He was a normal chimpanzee once, but then his head was removed from his body and put into an eight-foot-tall cyborg one covered in weapons. He was then elevated in intelligence to lead armies. Unfortunately, the Buro made him smart enough to reject their orders, turn several scientists to his views and discover the feng shui secret before stea`ling a GateMaker and escaping to the Netherworld. Great job, there, guys . The Battlechimp is brilliant, but utterly uncompromising in his desire to see chi destroyed. He realizes that doing so will likely erase him, his allies and millions of innocent people from existence. He does not care - it's a small price to pay for wiping out Buro, too. He regrets ever being made intelligent or a killing machine, but it's not stopped him from producing even more cyborg killer apes, like the infamous Flying Monkey Squad.

Most of the Jammers are refugees from 2056, but the Battlechimp has had some luck in drawing malcontents, nihilists and anti-magic activists from other times to his side. Some join just because they like to blow shit up, while others hate the rest of the factions. Still others are fascinated by the idea of destroying Earth's life-force. Battlechimp Potemkin does not care about why his followers serve - he's sure he can outsmart them when their interests diverge from his. He's managed to unite them, mostly, with a strong hatred for the Bobos, as the Jammers call the Architects. (Potemkin came up with the name by combining the first syllables of Bonengel and Boatman.) The Battlechimp is a very active leader, handing out all important orders personally, and most Jammers follow out of personal loyalty to him. Still, he does have two lieutenants ready to take over if he goes down. The first is Furious George, a cyborg gorilla who serves as his liaison with the cyborg apes and other military aspects of the Jammers. The second is his head of research, a defector from the CDCA called Dr. Laura Villaverde, alias Green Rain.

One day, the Battlechimp says, when the feng shui sites are all gone, all people will finally be equal. History will be in the hands of humanity, for good or bad. Or, he admits, maybe we'll all shrivel and die without chi. Or maybe the world will explode. But, well, those are all better (to Potemkin) than being slaves, either to Buro or to the power of chi. The rest of the Jammers are rather simpler (and, in fact, often sub-literate), and they simplify this philosophy quite nicely: "Blow things up!"

We now get some fiction about our protagonist awakening in a place he doesn't recognize, having gone to sleep in his apartment. Now he's in a barracks, his gun gone. He realizes what's happened: someone changed history and initiated a critical shift. He's not sure who, or how, but it's not a good sign. After all, if he's in a barracks, he's meant to be under someone's control. He does not like that idea. As he awakens, he finds that his name is apparently 'Rennie' now, though it certainly wasn't before...and that the speaker is his friend Steve, whom we know something terrible happened to. Who is now Joe. He clocks the guy and escapes, feeling bad but knowing he's not really Steve, not the Steve that our hero knew.

And now it's time to learn how time travel works. We're told the main reason it's here is to let every action movie hero type exist alongside the others, and the price is dealing with the complexities of time travel. So, ho does time work in Feng Shui? Well, most people think it's linear and that the past can't be changed. They're wrong. The timeline is more like a pretzel than anything. History can be altered by those with access to the Netherworld, the innerwalkers or secret warriors. But you can't just go anywhen you want. There's only a few time periods open at any given moment. Each of these is a Juncture. For the last few years, it's been 69 AD, 1850, the modern day and 2056. They are connected via the Netherworld, and are more like different locations to secret warriors than distinct points on a line of history. Going to a different time is like going to a different place.

Time passes at the same rate in all four junctures and the Netherworld. When a day passes here, it passes in 69, 1850, 2056 and the Netherworld as well. Each juncture is essentially like a parallel line. You can go from one line to another, but you can't go backwards on any of the lines. Everyone moves forward on the lines at the same rate. If something bad happens to you, it stays happened. If a year passes, it's now 70, 1851, 2057 and so on. As a note, the four junctures we have now aren't constant. Sometimes there are more, sometimes less. Not even the Netherworlders understand what makes a juncture's portals open or close. They don't stay open for predictable periods and there is no pattern to how the junctures are chosen.

That doesn't stop people from theorizing, though. Most think that whoever discovers the secrets of the portals will be able to conquer all junctures, ending the Secret War forever. What is known is that whenever a new juncture opens up, it becomes a battlefield for the Secret War, with as many groups moving to try and get the feng shui sites as possible. Junctures also tend to refer to places, as well - most portals in 69 and 1850 open into mainland China for some reason, while contemporary portals tend to open up to Hong Kong or other cities on the Pacific Rim. In 2056, most open into the industrialized northern hemisphere. A portal could go anywhere and anywhen, though, wherever the GM decides.

Now, changing history. It's a common strategy in the Secret War - go back and change history, pulling the rug out from under your foes. It's possible to do things in one juncture that change things in later junctures. This can be hard, though, since you really need to seize feng shui sites to do so. The tide of history is always in favor of those with the best feng shui. You can change minor details of the past without it, but can't cause a new group of people to control those crucial sites. The big shape of history will go unchanged.

The best example history change is the Four Monarchs. In their time, our modern era was one of commonplace magic. The world belonged to them, and they controlled all the feng shui sites. However, the 11th century opened briefly as a juncture, and enemies of the Monarchs went to the 11th century, before the Monarchs were ever born. There, they allied themselves with the group that would become the Ascended, and they fought the various warlords who controlled the 1200s feng shui sites. They got enough to change history, and what they wanted was a death of magic. So magic went away. To cement the change, they had to make sure they held onto the sites for centuries. The suppression of magic had a huge effect on all later junctures, including the 20th century. t led to the REnaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. And that erased the timeline the Monarchs controlled. They lost their sites because they lost their history. In the new timeline, they'd never been able to seize the sites. When huge changes like this happen, only a few people can even remember the old history. Specifically, only people who have been to the Netherworld retain memories of past histories. To them, historical changes take place instantly.

So, without control of feng shui sites, no matter what you do, you can't change history significantly. You can change the personal history of some families, but not alter major trends. History is made by those who control chi. So, let's say you know that in 1862, some guy will commit mass murder. So you go to 1850 and cap his ass before he can. Then you go back home and check your history books. Someone exactly like that mass murderer will be there. It'll be a different guy, but because you didn't change the chi flow, the same thing happened. History is elastic. It reshapes itself as close as possible to accomodate any changes not made via chi flow. When feng shui sites change hands, it can be more dramatic, as we've seen. Losing feng shui sites will usually make your life much worse when you go to the future of wherever you lost the site. Your entire life will likely be different - and you won't know it until you get there, because you have your old memories.

This is called lateral reincarnation, and it happens to most innerwalkers at some point. Some deal with it by withdrawing to the Netherworld and abandoning the lives they no longer recognize. Others learn how to fake their new identities properly. See, sometimes the timestream can't perfectly recreate itself. Say someone back in time kills your great-grandfather. And everyone related to him. Well, you can't be wiped out of existence, since chi flow didn't change and anyway, no matter what happens, souls can't be wiped out by changes in history. Suddenly, you're not Donnie Cheng any more, you're Donnie Wang. Your life's been pretty similar to the way it was, but you have a different last name, a different set of ancestors and a different personal past. Which has, however, ended you up in exactly the same circumstances. Your life, unless it was a critical shift, is probably pretty similar to the way it used to be, at least. You'll just have to go find out what changed, since you have your old memories.

Of course, if something major has changed, your entire family may no longer exist, along with your friends. However, if you run into someone with the soul of a former friend or loved one, you will recognize them instantly. Their personality traits, appearance and mannerisms will likely be the same. They'll be different people, though, and probably won't recognize you, but they may feel an inexplicable connection to you - a friendliness with someone who, in another time, had been a lover. An unaccountable hatred of someone who, before the shift, had been an enemy. These are soul memories and make for great melodramatic hooks. It's a great excuse for love at first site, too - you met someone who, one critical shift ago, had been your lover, and the two of you instantly fall in love, despite having now just met for the first time.

Side note - reincarnation works normally, too. Souls aren't destroyed. So if your character dies, you can choose to play their reincarnation from another juncture. This has no game benefits, mind you - the new guy doesn't get the old one's memories, stuff or XP any more than normal. However, you might think it's fun. The reincarnation probably looks similar and has similar mannerisms. They have to be from another juncture, though - otherwise the reincarnation would be a baby, and you can't play a baby!

Anyway. Minor changes to time are called superficial shifts , which don't really change anything but the lives of a handful of people. Critical shifts are the ones that change history. They're caused when a group starts suddenly losing the balance of feng shui. At some point, after a series of losses, one feng shui site tips the balance and there's a critical shift, in which the lives of all those in later junctures are altered. See the Four Monarchs again for that. To make a critical shift, you need innerwalkers. It's impossible to change history without any outside tampering. The Ascended may have been native to the juncture they took over, but they had help from secret warriors of the Netherworld, which made the difference. Of course, you can't change history backwards - a shift in 1850 won't change a thing about 69.

From the view of people in the juncture the critical shift was caused in, changes are slow. They take centuries of real time, as the new history happens organically. For anyone from a later juncture, though, they are sudden, instant shifts that dramatically changed everything overnight. The world changes beyond recognition in an eyeblink. Fun! So, what do you do when you come home to find out you no longer exist in any recognizable form? Well, you can become an exile , or distimed person, going to live in the Netherworld. Some exiles try to make new identities for themselves, which can be easy in low-technology junctures with primitive record-keeping, or really hard in authoritarian ones like 2056. It's possible to get cut off from your home juncture by the portals closing, too. For example, there's a group called the Unexpected Deliverance Society that used to be a major force in the Netherworld...up until most of their leaders and agents were caught in the 1457 juncture when all the portals to that juncture closed.

In the Netherworld, time flows in a linear, unchangeable manner. Anyone who enters the Netherworld even once is now immune to lateral reincarnation - that is, they don't get their memories altered when the world changes, remaining with the memories they had when they first entered the Netherworld. Most view this as a curse or form of insanity for the first few times they notice the world changing around them. You can't change the Netherworld's history, either. Anything that happened there stays happened. It is never affected by critical shifts. Despite time being linear, though, there is no calendar. Most just keep using the dating system of their home juncture, as of the moment they first entered the Netherworld.

We then get some advice on how to handle critical shifts, in the form of an example in which the Guiding Hand take over 69 AD. They use their sites to get in good with the Emperor and displace the Lotus, reducing magic in the world to weaken the evil wizards. With magic already reduced in 69, the Ascended never band together in the 11th century to reduce it. They quietly live out their lives and the Hand create their own idea of paradise across Asia and Europe. If not stopped by other secret warriors, they come to control the world. It settles into quiet, peaceful stagnation as a culturally Chinese world empire. Technology does not advance perceptibly from 69. However, chi power is studied deeply and advances massively. In future junctures, it is possible to gain any fu power in the book for 1 xp per schtick, and a whole new range of chi powers undreamt of come into being.

Ironically, this destroys the stability the Hand so loves. It is impossible to control these unstoppable chi warriors, and they rise as new warlords of 1850, plunging the world into essentially a civil war between superheroes. By the contemporary juncture, the world is ruled by the descendants of the winners, who run a dictatorial state in which the greatest warriors compete in gladiatorial combat for rulership of various areas. In 2056 rebels against the chi elite begin exploration of technology. They invent rudimentary firearms and equip the masses for a bloody worldwide uprising. Note that this displaces pretty much all of the major pwoer groups. The Lotus, Architects, Jammers and Monarchs are all camped out in the Netherworld. The Ascended...well, they might be, or they might be okay with how things went, since they are in no danger of reversion and are pretty good at chi powers. The Hand is trying to hold onto its 69 AD sites and seize control of the others.

so - the background changes ocmpletely, and whenever you want to throw your players for a loop you can have the same thing happen - but no matter what, there will be a Secret War for your PCs to fight in, and there will always be evil to stop. Oh - and one important thing. Time travel can never erase what happened in the game. PCs will probably try to sometime - say, sending themselves a letter to warn them about an ambush they got into. It won't work. They experienced the ambush already, so it happened. It can't unhappen. The letter gets lost, or destroyed, or intercepted by one of their enemies. So you can't do that. If something hasn't happened yet, though...that can work. So, say that your PCs want to smuggle a document to the future but know the portals are guarded. They take it, put it in a chest under a tree, and head to the future, where they go dig it up. That can work! Or maybe it doesn't. Maybe you decide it's more interesting that an archaeologist dug it up and put in a museum, or their enemies found it, or a building got built over it. Up to you, GM. Oh - and no matter what happens? Neither PCs or NPCs can return from the dead. Lateral reincarnation only works on the living.

Next time: Rocking the Inner Kingdom.

And just like gangsters, Netherworld monarchs turn out to be impressed by a display of cojones.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: And just like gangsters, Netherworld monarchs turn out to be impressed by a display of cojones .

We now meet our hero in the Fire Pagoda. Which is made of fire. It's really hot, but apparently the fire won't burn you. The decorations are pretty grisly, and our friend is rather anxious. Still, he knows he can't fight Li Ting. Guy's a beast. He's trying to spy on Li Ting as he meets with his sister, the Queen of the Darkness Pagoda, because the Queen of the Ice Pagoda wants to know their plans. And she's promised to heal Steve, so he'll do it. Apparently, they're negotiating over a plan to block the entrances to contemporary Hong Kong. Negotiations are breaking down, and our hero sweeps the tapestry he's hiding behind aside, offering to mediate for them. It works .

So, what is the Netherworld? It's a pretty cool place! It can do more than just be your route between junctures. Physically, it is a series of twisting passages through a nondescript gray substance. There is no sky, just the ceiling, but it can be way overhead and in some places there can be something that looks like sky overhead. Undisturbed wall substance is gray and looks kind of like moist limestone, but is warm and smooth. Passages smell musty and damp, and the air is moist. Despite that, there is dust everywhere. In most places, it is 28 degrees Celsius (or 82 Fahrenheit) and 80% humidity. Those who're good at shaping the Netherworld can change those conditions, though. For example, the areas ruled by the Ice Pagoda are kept around -5 degrees C at all times. There is a dim light that suffuses most of the Netherworld, which has no visible light source. Light behaves weird in the Netherworld - sometimes, there will be stark, clear shadows with nothing causing them, and sometimes light will come out of nowhere to put a spotlight on absolutely nothing.

But some people can reshape the passageways. Countless small passages are in their undisturbed state, but just as many aren't. Caverns, which are in high demand as living space, tend to change hands over the centuries. Uninhabited areas can still have been shaped in the past to offer lots of features. When a shaper stops focusing on an area, it gradually returns to its former state, showing vague hints of the old shapes it held. A tunnel wall might have detoriated decorations that resemble...well, whatever the last people there felt like, really. The Netherworld is theoretically finite, but it stretches out hugely, and a lot of it is just uninhabited. Most people congregate in the Center , a rough circle with a radius of about 400 kilometers. Not all of the Center is inhabited, but beyond it are only outcasts in long stretches of empty passage. Everywhere we're going to cover is in or near the Center. As a note - because it's all tunnel, fighting in the Netherworld is like fighting indoors. The Four Monarchs have small armies, but mass warfare just doesn't work out well. As such, small guerrilla teams (like the PCs!) are the preferred means of combat, and there aren't many tasks which a bunch of fighters with good skills aren't suited for.

The Netherworld is full of gates or portals. Each is the end of a passageway, and they look like a hole filled with blindingly bright light. Step into the light and you end up somewhere on Earth in one of the junctures. Gates are two-way - they always drop you off on the same spot, and you can get back in from there. They tend to blend into the local landscape - doors, elevators, staircases, invisible holes in the air, waterfalls. On the Netherworld side, you can shape the appearance of gates much like anything else, so that they're less painful on the eyes and fit the decor. Many gates are shaped to resemble mirrors, doors, clocks, staircases - pretty much anything, really. Gates are stable and it's very hard to destroy them. There are dozens, even hundreds of gates to each juncture distributed throughout the Center and the rest of the Netherworld. There's no one who controls all the gates to any juncture. When new junctures open up, the first thing most inexperienced new factions do is try to control all the gates to their time frame. It never works - there's just too many. However, it's much easier to defend a handful of key gates which lead somewhere important. For example, there's a gate to the Emperor's palacei n 69 AD, which the Eaters of the Lotus have pretty much locked down with a formidable force of demons and martial artists. So far, no one has ever survived an attempt to enter it without Gao Zhang's personal invitation.

SHow do you shape the Netherworld? Well, anyone who has ever been attuned to a feng shui site can do it. Shaping is a unique form of manipulating chi energy, which some have speculated works because the Netherworld is made of pure chi energy. Though no one has ever proved that. Shaping works as a skill, but one not based on any attribute and one which can't be bought. Your rating in Shaping is equal to the highest number of feng shui sites you have ever been attuned to at any one time. The Difficulty of Shaping rolls is based on how big the area you're changing is, how long you want it to take and how complex the thing you're making is. The GM can also rule that you have to be familiar with what you're making to make it - so if you want a gun, you'll need to make the shaping roll, and then either Fix-It or Guns to make it so your gun isn't just a solid, useless model of a gun. To keep a thing or place shaped, you have to come back every once in a while and reinforce your chi connection. Typically, stuff won't start to revert for a number of days equal to your Shaping rating, and it's a difficulty 5 roll to renew the shape.

And yes, you can make items. If you're really good, you could will a gun into existence in a single sequence. For free. No cost at all. There are two drawbacks, though. The first is the reinforcing we just covered. The second? You can't take anything made of Netherworld out of a gate. Just doesn't go through. Still, some factions, most notably the Architects, have developed technology based on things that can only be made by Shaping. That's why they keep bases in the Netherworld. You can also shape feng shui sites into existence in the Netherworld! Of course, these sites don't actually provide any benefit to controlling history - they just provide the experience boost. The most powerful sites in the Netherworld are the four Pagodas, but they give the Monarchs no power anywhere except the Netherworld, and that power doesn't influence history at all, not even in the Netherworld.

There are no natives to the Netherworld. Everyone there is there because of the Secret War. Sure, some of them were born there, but their ancestors came through a portal. Most people aren't born there, though. Most peopl are dis-timed persons, also called exiles or the Netherworld Rabble, if you feel like being derogatory. These are folks who have been cut off from their home times, the descendants of those cut off from their home times or people who've had their timelines utterly erased. Many exiles want to reverse history to get their old lives back, but doing so is far too difficult for most to even bother to try. Some manage to find new life in the Netherworld villages. Most waste away their time in drinking and meaningless fights. Some people, on the other hand, got stuck because the gates to their junctures closed up. These people have it a little better - they can go back home one day, if the gates open up again. Their home time still exists. Probably. Hopefully. The exiles live in small, ramshackle villages put together by the inhabitants' limited Shaping abilities. They can be identified by their bizarre clothing styles - they always look like they've bought clothes a thrift store stocked by the entirety of human history. Roman breastplates, Elizabethan leggings and a Yankees cap. Not all of the exiles are human, though - there's a small contingent of demons and abominations, too. They tend to be pretty peaceful and trying to escape their monstrous origins, though they still have the full set of creature powers and/or arcanowave devices, so it's usually a bad idea to start shit with them.

The next largest group are the subjects . These are the guys who work directly for the Four Monarchs. They're hardly a cohesive group, given the infighting among the Monarchs, but they do all tend to look down on the exiles. None of them want to think of themselves as exiles, despite the fact that they're hardly any more likely to get the Monarchs' timeline back than any exile. The last major group? Secret warriors. Each faction has agents in the Netherworld. Some have powerbases and major presences, while others just hang around and run occasional errands, but everyone has someone there. The Monarchs, Dragons and Jammers are all based out of the Netherworld. The Monarchs live in exile here, the Dragons have a small outpost while their leaders desperately hunt for new recruits, and the Jammers prefer the Netherworld for ease of operation compared to 2056.

The Ascended avoid the Netherworld, as Lodge members don't lkike risking turning back into animals. This is probably the biggest liability the Ascended have - they have to rely on the Pledged to handle Netherworld and cross-time operations. The Pledged who operate here are usually the best and most senior humans in the whole operation. The Guiding Hand come because their shaping power can let them build perfect meditation chambers and harmonize them with the teachings of Quan Lo. The Eaters of the Lotus have yet to take real advantage of the Netherworld's properties and mostly use it for travel. Still, they do have a small force here to gather facts and thwart their foes when possible. They also keep that group I mentioned earlier to guard the portal into the Emperor's Palace.

So, where might you go visiting here? Well, there's the Temple of Boundless Meditation , a monastery complex guarded by the Guiding Hand. Here, high-level Hand monks go to try and follow in Quan Lo's footsteps. The secret heart is a series of seven meditation chambers, each of which manifests one of Quan Lo's Six Color Principles thanks to dedicated shaping, and the last of which manifests their grand synthesis as the Principle of Principles. The place also serves as a way station for Hand agents heading on cross-time missions and as a base for operations in the Netherworld.

Then we've got the Biomass Reprocessing Center , the Netherworld research station for the Architects. They use the place to perfect cutting edge techniques using equipment that must be shaped, because it can't even be produced in 2056. The complex is constantly working on new abominations, which it periodically sets loose on the local exiles to test. The place is heavily guarded, since no one at all likes it. While items shaped from Netherworld can't be taken to the real world, as a note, the Architect use them to manufacture items out of real world materials, which can be taken back.

The Ascended have the Hub , a modern military base commanded by a Pledged name Rebecca Dupree. It's been shaped to bend light around itself, so you can only find it if you know where it is - to everyone else, it's invisible. The place is laid out as a wheel, with a series of spokes radiating from the central hub that gives its name. Dupree has a lot of room to make decisions for the Ascended, mostly because her bosses don't come in. She's rumored to have agents in every other faction's installations, but whether it's true or just a rumor she started to demoralize people is unknown. She definitely has a crack team of fighters, though.

In less military news, there's IKTV , run by Columbia and Laurel Towson. They're from the modern world and stumbled into the Netherworld by accident. They love the place, and decided to set up shop there and make a TV station. It broadcasts 8 hours a day, but you need a TV set to catch it, and those are hard to come by in the Netherworld. Most shaped ones aren't very reliable. Neither is IKTV, though - it's run on the whims of its owners, and one day it might show eight hours of My Mother the Car while the next day is devoted to a speech against one of the Monarchs. The occasional news they run tends not to be very accurate, but it's the closest anyone's got to mass communications. The current base is shaped to have a giant TV screen on one face. It's had to move and rebuild four times so far due to being blown up by various groups, and is now guarded day and night by a fanatica band of exiles who love TV. They call themselves the Ickies.

Then there's Lusignan's Tower , home of Lusignan the Fool. He's a weird guy. He used to be Huan Ken's court jester, but he now seems to be an independent agent of chaos, switching sides all the time. His tower is just as strange - a huge structure of clown masks and grinning skulls which has a habit of becoming the site of crucial battles in the Netherworld's power struggles. Lusignan is clearly pushing an agenda and making some kind of point, but no one has figured out what either of them is.

Also strange is the Genocide Lounge , a night club known for being home to several Jammers and their fans. The Jammers have more influence among the Netherworld's inhabitants than in any juncture, and this is where a lot of their supporters can be found. It's been attacked several times, usually by Architects, and so the top brass and Potemkin don't hang out there, but if you want to get word to the Jammers, you head to the Genocide Lounge. It is also one of the few places you can find modern entertainment, as the Jammers are friends with several hardcore and edgy bands from the contemporary era. (No, really, it says edgy and hardcore. It was the 90s.)

Guiyu Zui is a demonic parody of the Emperor of China's palace. It is the sole connection between the Netherworld and the Underworld. The Underworld is the realm of demons and evil spirits. There's a giant hellmouth in the basement, and you jump into it, get eaten by the mouth, swallowed and eventually shit out in the Underworld. It's very unpleasant, but that's kind of the point. Apart from guarding an entrance to somewhere that no one wants to go, the Lotus also use the place to run their Netherworld operations and house operatives.

The Junkyard is a huge junkyard. It's full of stuff thrown out by people across history, both current and erased. Under the junkyard is a small but secure complex where the Prof, techie and leader of the remnants of the Dragons, hides out. She is currently unable to leave the Netherworld thanks to a curse cast on her by Lusignan the Fool. Oddly, she doesn't seem either concerned about the curse or in any mood to seek vengeance for it. She does want to set up a new team of Dragons, though.

Lastly, the Pagodas , homes of the Four Monarchs. They are the most famous structures in the entire Netherworld. The ICe Pagoda is a huge series of fortresses made of pure ice. The Thunder Pagoda is a mixture of Chinese and European castle features and is made of solid clouds. The Fire Pagoda is made of pure fire and mixes Chinese and Arabic features. The Darkness Pagoda mixes Chinese and Aztec, and it's a giant pyramid of darkness. Inside each the servants of the Monarchs live - humans, part-humans, spirits and, in the case of the Fire King and Darkness Queen, demons.

Next time: Hong Kong, Home of the Hong Kong Burger.

So I swallowed hard and did something potentially deeply stupid.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

My schoolwork is done for the semester and I'm getting antsy to get on to Golden Comeback, since it's got some really awesome stuff in it from folks like Geoff Grabowski and Greg Stolze...

Feng Shui: So I swallowed hard and did something potentially deeply stupid.

Let's take a look at Hong Kong - and get a promise for a deeper look in Blowing Up Hong Kong, a supplement that would not be released for something approaching ten years. 'Hong Kong' in practice refers to the island of Hong Kong itself, the New Territories or Kowloon (a chunk of the mainland that was leased to Britain for nearly a century) and the largely rural Lantau island west of Hong Kong. Also something like 234 smaller outlying islands. On June 30, 1997, it will return from Britain to China and become a special administrative region. China promised to maintain existing freedoms, but in 1996, no one is sure if they'll keep their end of the deal. From what very brief research I did, they...largely did keep their end of the bargain.

Hong Kong is semi-tropical, with good weather from September to November, relative cold from December to February and typhoon season from May to September. Typhoon season is very hot and very, very, very humid. The currency is the Hong Kong Dollar, and for purposes of the game one US dollar is equivalent to eight Hong Kong dollars. Anyway. There are three major parts to Hong Kong: Hong Kong itself, Victoria and Kowloon. This section is meant to provide some brief info on the neighborhoods for the GM and some ideas on what you might do with fights there. Hong Kong Island is home to Victoria Peak, the largest of Hong Kong's small mountains. It reaches to about 550 meters above sea level and can be accessed by tram. The book suggests a tram fight scene. The top of the peak is called the Peak and is a haven for nature lovers. Many rich businessmen and civil servants live around it, and would great kidnapping targets. There's also a zoo in the area, so make sure that you have a fight there involving the lian habitat. It's also a great place for the Ascended to have tense meetings with the PCs, so they can make veiled threats involving their animal relatives.

East of Victoria Peak is the industrial zone. Factories are a great place for fight scenes, as well as rendezvouses and portals. On the western end of the south shore is Little Hong Kong, refuge for the boat people. The boat people live on junks and sampans, which is why they are called the boat people. The area is also known as Aberdeen, and the reason the boat people tend to live there is that it's a great typhoon shelter. It is also full of smugglers, so there's plenty of Triads to fight. Oh, and it's home to the floating restaurants - they're ships converted into, well, restaurants. You should, the book says, have a fight on one. In which the boiler explodes. In fact, all boats in Feng Shui should have notoriously explosion-prone boilers. The rest of Southside is for the rich and famous. Golf ocurses, hotels, the Ocean Park aquarium and other great, relaxed areas of entertainment that'd make for great shoot-outs. Also the Middle Kingdom, a living history exhibit recreating Chinese history. Great for people from 69 AD who feel homesick! Southside is also home to Stanley Prison, which may be a place your PCs end up, either as prisoners or to stop a riot or even to go undercover for clues. Oh, and there's a fort owned by the Ascended - Stanley Fort. More on that later.

Now, on to Victoria. Victoria is the heart of Hong Kong commerce, and it covers most of the north coast. It's basically the Manhattan to Hong Kong's NYC. It's stylish and upscale...mostly. Central District is the financial district, built around Hong Kong Harbor. It's got great typhoon protection, and is home to office towers, government buildings, a park, and tourist areas. Great place for robberies, hostages, kidnapping, car chases...also anything to do with corporate espionage. Moving on, there's Happy Valley, where the British settled in the 1840s after finding their first area was full of malaria. It is known for its racetrack, historic cemetaries and the Aw Boon Haw Gardens amusement park. It's full of weird statues and a great place for action scenes, such as a bomb on a roller coaster or an assassin in the Tunnel of Love.

Then we have Wanchai, a former red-light district. These days, it's the center for nightlife, especially if you're Western. It's got topless clubs, prostitutes, nightclubs, the works. Most bars are open 24 hours. It's not all sleaze, though - it's also where to go for cheap tailoring work! The tailors tend to be open until midnight, just in case your PCs need to get a bloodstained, bullet-riddled suit fixed up late at night. There's also some great restaurants and two performing arts complexes, the Academy for Performing arts and the Hong Kong Arts Center. Also a lot of Taoist temples and two stadiums. Heading on West, we find...the Western District, which is very Asian compared to Central. This is where you for open air markets, traditional medicines, cheap Chinese goods and the famous Jervois Street snake restaurants! Also, the Hong Kong University.

Crossing the harbor by tunnel or ferry, we reach Kowloon. Kowloon is divided into several districts. The first we'll talk about is Tsimshatsul, the peninsula where all public transit ends. It's got shopping centers, hotels, a planetarium and museum, an art gallery and more - all great set pieces for fights. You get the Peking opera, cabaret, strip clubs...the lot. Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport is nearby, too...and it's terrifying. It's in the middle of the city and to land requires a very steep angle surrounded by high-rises. It's very busy and has immense security - but not so immense that a gunfight would be out of the question. During rush hour, of course.

Then, we've got Mongkok! Mongkok is the horrible stinking tenement district. Great place to hunt for informants, because...well, 165000 people per square kilometer. Stinking, enormous apartment buildings. Lots of chaos to run into. But it's a great place to lie low for a while if you can stand the rats and the roaches. From there, we move to Yuamatei. Ordinary people should stay out of Yuamatei at night, but PCs aren't ordinary. It is home to the Night Market, which we'll see when we get to the sample adventure, Baptism of Fire. It's also home to more boat people, as another typhoon shelter. It's also the place to go for jade, either to buy, sell or invetigate. Temple Street, home of the Night Market, is of course also home of many famous temples.

So, what's the Secret War like in Hong Kong, now that we've got the mundane stuff dealt with? Well, Hong Kong has the highest concentration of feng shui sites of anywhere in the modern world. Everyone has a theory about why, and everyone knows the important thing is to control the sites. The Ascended and the Guiding Hand care aobut Hong Kong because it essentially is a free-floating source of political power untied to any government (for now). The Lotus and Monarchs care because it's the only place on Earth that is both highly modern and highly magical - for some reason, negative juncture modifier just don't apply in modern Hong Kong for Creature Powers or Sorcery. :itisamystery: The Architects like it for similar reasons. The Jammers think it's important because its mystic nature is just what they want to destroy...so they want to find out how to wreck the place. The Dragons? Well, the PCs will probably end up being their representatives, if anyone is, and why they're in Hong Kong is up to them.

We are told that the PCs probably won't be running into any of the heavy hitter NPCs in this section, since many of them could kill starting PCs easily. Instead, mooks, lackeys and lieutenants. Even then, you might have some non-combat encounters with the big names. That way, when the fight inevitably happens, it can be personal . So! The Ascended. For them, Hong Kong is both great and terrible. On the one hand, the feng shui sites make controlling it vital, and it's useful for its role in the mundane world. It's a trade center and the Ascended get a lot of that action. On the other hand, the chi strength is a problem - sure, it's not quite enough to trigger reversion, but a lot of the Lodge still avoid the place. They've never been able to truly tame it. Thus, dominance is left to the Pledged.

The Ascended Hong Kong Operations Chief, or HKOC, is the highest post any full human can get in the Ascended. Only the best are considered. It's a great job, with a ton of power - but also temptation. The last HKOC, Connie Bo, was found dead last year in her home, shot seven times in the chest. Police officials made no arrests, and those in the know realize she was killed by her bosses for trying to expand her own power too much. The current HKOC is Colonel Baynes Wilhelm, but he knows it's temporary. When the Chinese take over in 1997, he's going to step aside for a Chinese leader. He's fine with that - he's near retirement, and while loyal, he's not ambitious. For most of his life, he believed the Order of the Wheel to just be a military club. He obeyed orders efficiently, and never believed he served anyone but Britain. He had no idea he was impressing the Lodge, and was shocked when he was told the truth. Since that day, he's been pretty scared, though he's hidden it well thanks to his natural restraint. He's really scared about his bosses finding out he's loyal more out of reflex than respect.

Baynes is cautious, conventional and out of his league. He follows instructions to the letter and all he wants is to last until his replacement comes in, then retire quietly. He's married, has three kids and two grandkids. He knows his bosses will use them if he reveals any secrets...but so far, he's never had to do anything too terrible. Still, he'd do anything to keep his family safe. He's got a ton of resources, including the toughest mooks in Hong Kong. If the PCs were to ever make him fear for himself or his family, he would not hesitate to kill them. He'd feel bad, but he'd do it. He's not the most powerful guy in the world - in fact, I'd say an average PC could beat him in a fight. But that's why he has commandos. His commandos are much better than most mooks.

Baynes commands Stanley Fort, a top-secret military installation on the western shore of Hong Kong. It's mostly an intelligence-gathering base monitoring satellite signals. Nominally, it's British, but in practice, it's Ascended. British intelligence in Hong Kong is full of Pledged. The fort is really useful - the Ascended use it to spy on their enemies. One group of satellites is very secretly capable of monitoring chi energy levels, allowing the Ascended to detect the locations of every major site on the planet, and to detect the tiny fluctuations when they change hands. Minor sites can also be detected, but only with extreme difficulty, and the Ascended usually don't bother to monitor them without very good reason. The reason they can do this is that Stanley Fort is built on the most powerful site in the entirety of Hong Kong. The chi flow is necessary for the physics tweaks that keep the monitoring equipment working.

Baynes makes sure there's always a Pledged officer in the monitoring room at all times. The displays are subtle enough that only the trained will notice anything unusual. When they do, they get on the horn to either Baynes or his second in command, Rain Yuen. They may then launch a commando team to reclaim critical sites, but that's only done in dire emergencies, since it draws more attention than anyone likes. More likely, Rain will be assigned to more subtle and covert measures to regain the site, assuming it was an Ascended site to begin with. If it wasn't, they probably won't do much but note the change in hands.

Rain Yuen is considerably better at fighting then her boss is, between her signature katana, her signature Colt, Both Guns Blazing and her good stats. She's a Hong Kong native and the liaison overseeing transition of Stanley Fort to the Chinese. She's Pledged and has a lot more authority than her official position says. She's going to be staying on when the changeover in bosses happens. Her real job is to manage counterintelligence in Hong Kong. Baynes wants her to be more distant, but she likes to take personal charge of field missions, especially violent ones. Recently, her lover, a Lodge member, got killed in Guatemala despite her best efforts to save him. Since then, she's been moody except when hurting people. When she finds out who was behind his death, she will go on a killing spree. Until then, she's taking out on anyone nearby. The Lodge is keeping her busy in the hopes that she'll come back to normal - she's one of their best field agents and they'd prefer not to lose her. She used to be a witty, talkative woman in her mid-30s, but now she just listens to pop ballads at insanely high volume when not on business.

Next time: Junk boats and English boys crashing out in super marts.

The Inner Kingdom was a nice place to visit, but I had no intentions of living here.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: The Inner Kingdom was a nice place to visit, but I had no intentions of living here.

The Architects maintain a good amount of R&D agents in Hong Kong, plus some security guys. The R&D team is there to see why the local chi is so good for both magic and technology. They've been personally sent by Curtis Boatman to study that chi and find out how to extend it throughout the modern world. That'd make an invasion a lot easier. The head of the team is Doctor Felix Mei, a genius in the field of chi study. He blends well enough despite his slighty 2056 accent, and has even been dating a local named Diana Ching. He's more absent-minded scientist than madman, but he is completely amoral. He doesn't care that he's working for horrible people, he just wants to advance arcanowave science. He knows he's got to keep a low profile but he thinks of it more as a way of avoiding interruptions. He's always sending folks back home to ask for more funding - the one thing other than science that he's really good at.

Felix has experimented on himself, despite it being against CDCA policy. He's turned himself into a cyborg, despite knowing he'd lose his funding and probably get arrested if he's found out. Thanks to his arcanowave schticks, he's actually not that bad at fighting, but he'll only use them when he really, really needs them. His goals are the expand his operation and figure out how to recreate the chi field of Hong Kong. The PCs are likely to run into one of his more blatantly horrible projects: he's got the security team kidnapping teenagers to use as guinea pigs. He thinks the unique chi of Hong Kong is due to the mix of ancient and modern beliefs held by the locals, and by turning kids into cyborgs, he thinks he can isolate the genetic component that helps generate the chi field. So far, he's just made them into twisted freaks.

His second-in-command is Denis Clech, head of the Buro security team. Technically, Denis is under Felix, but he thinks the doctor is an idiot, a danger to Buro's plans and, in fact, a danger to everyone nearby. There's always been a bit of a rivalry between CDCA and Security, which Bonengel encourages. After all, arcanowave science and conquering time aren't always goals that exist in perfect harmony. Security agents get told to keep the scientists under watch as much as they help them. Denis goes one step further. He hates his cybernetic form (by the way, he's a cyborg) and blames all scientists for it. If he could find a way to get Felix arrested and killed, he'd do it in an instant - and the same with any other arcanowave researcher.

In the meantime, Felix wants to please his superiors at any cost. He's a pretty good combatant, but he's a loose cannon. He'll go after anything he sees as a threat, throwing his (distinctly less skilled) subordinates and all other resources at them without bothering to get authorization. If the PCs start poking around in Architect affairs, he's going to go after them, and it won't be subtle. The Architects are based out of the Chen Chien Building, a huge office tower on the shores of Southside's Repulse Bay Beach. Even in Hong Kong, people protested it going up - in that rich neighborhood, no one wanted the bizarre, demonic-looking building. That was just what the Architects wanted. The thing is trying to funnel the chi down into the basement for experiments. So far, it's done nothing noticeable, but it only just opened. Felix thinks he can use it as a broadcast site for chi in the future, though that's up to the GM.

If Felix does managfe it, he will change the area's juncture modifiers to those of 2056. How wide this spreads is up to the GM, but it's sure to piss off the Guiding Hand and Ascended, neither of whom want a spike of magical activity. The PCs might be caught in the middle of a war, or might find Hand and Ascended allies to help blow up the Chen Chien Building. Inside the Chen Chien building, incidentally, Arcanowave Device rolls and all rolls by Abominations are at +2.

The Guiding Hand fucking loathe modern Hong Kong. They didn't like it when the British took it in 1841, and they don't like it now. Their infiltrators in the Communist Party are the ones agitating the most for clamping down on Hong Kong when 1997 comes. If they could just sink it, they'd do it, but they need something more sophisticated. They've decided on a two-way approach: spiritual and physical. They also have what is probably one of the best-organized groups in Hong Kong.

First, they have Xiaowen Hu, a ranking official in the Communist Party who's been assigned to oversee the transition of power. He's a member in good standing of the Golden Candle Society, the Hand's covert wing. His orders from China are to make the changeover as smooth as possible and avoid any repeats of Tiananmen Square. He's also got all sorts of Party cronies trying to get rich off the changeover. Xiaowen is seen as an unthinking instrument of his bosses' greed. He's efficient and never asks questions. It's all an act. Xiaowen Hu hates his bosses, their hypocrisy and their materialism. He's keeping a lid on it because he's got orders from the Hand. The Hand have many infiltrators, but the Ascended have more. The real struggle is between these two groups in the Communist Party. The Hand wants to control as much of Hong Kong's feng shui as possible, and the Ascended are the main obstacle. They already own the majority of the sites.

The Hand's plan is to use the 1997 changeover to shake things up. To do it, they have to beat the Pledged at bureaucratic infighting. For Xiaowen Hu, the Secret War is fought with memos, staff meetings and blackmail. He is not a fighter and in fact has no combat skills whatsoever. He is an excellent spy and bureaucrat, though, despite being ugly, somewhat inarticulate and badly dressed. However, sometimes Hu neds surgical violence to help him out. Some people need to be threatened, kidnapped or killed. Some files need to be stolen, copied or hacked. And it must be done without revealing his true allegiances, as the Ascended could easily get him reassigned. He can't risk being exposed. But that's where the second part of the Hand's plans comes in: Tortoise Shell Information Services. Xiaowen can't be connected to them and talks to them only via dead letter drop.

TSIS was founded by Reverend Charles Birdsall in 1930. He was a missionary who went native and came to believe in the Hand's cause more than even most Chinese did. He quit the clergy and set up TSIS as a spying operation for the Hand. It's changed with the times, and changed its name from Tortoise Shell Imports in the 80s, but it's the same group. It has a permanent staff of four, and often hires freelancers for really risky jobs. That makes it expensive, but it gets its funding from Golden Candle infiltrators in China. All four members of TSIS are part of the Golden Candle Society, but they also take part in the "decadence" of Hong Kong life. They love the game of the Secret War more than the Hand's cause, but while they might go rebel if the Hand actually won, they're loyal beyond question right at this second.

The leader of TSIS is Emma Birdsall, granddaughter of Charles. She's a beautiful young woman whose specialty is understanding human behavior. She spends most of her time at her desk, analyzing reports and constructing psych profiles on everyone even peripherally related to a TSIS operation. She is also a master of disguise and has a bad habit of falling in love with people her agency is targeting. Fortunately for her (and no one else), she falls out of love just as easily and never finds it hard to betray her targets. She's a pretty good fighter, but an even better liar.

The group's expert in breaking and entering is her mentor, 70-year-old Penelope Gidlow. She was once Charles' lover (but not Emma's grandmother; suffice to say there was a love triangle back in the 30s), and she's been mentoring Emma since childhood. Penelope's main skill is looking harmless. On the rare occasions she gets caught while sneaking in, she pretends to be a confused old lady and gets out fine. She's quite rich and owns a nice mansion, which gets her into the top of Hong Kong society easily. She loves tennis, watching cricket and day trading. She is also a really good martial artist with several potent fu powers.

The firm's assassin is Emma's younger sister, Judy Birdsall. She's barely 20 and resembles a spoiled rich kid more than a killer. In fact, she typically wears a baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans. It's very good at making her look harmless. She also rarely thinks about the consequences of what she's doing - she likes guns, she likes danger and she likes a challenge. The fact that she's killing people just doesn't mean anything to her. Emma finds her creepy at times and has thought of getting her pyschological treatment, but it'd make her less useful...and besides, she's very friendly for a psychopath. (And, needless to see, really, really good with guns.)

The last member of the team is Denholm Nuttall, information expert. He's not much of a fighter, but if he needs to know something, he can find it. Always. He routinely sends anonymous tips to Xiaowen Hu via encrypted email. He used to be a journalist and an alcholic until Emma's father kidnapped him, forced him onto the wagon and gave him a mission. After 20 years, Nuttall's still sober and still dedicated to the Hand in honor of the old man. He's the one of the team who really does believe in the cause. He also klnows more about the Secret War than practically anyone in Hong Kong. The only person we'll talk about whom he doesn't know the true identity of is the Lotus demon Kun Chau, and...well, she's special. He's also having an affair with an attendant from the Ice Pagoda. Denholm is kind, but believes that sometimes brutal things must be done for the greater good. He's a very modest but impeccably dressed man in his late 50s.

The third and final part of the Hand plan for Hong Kong is Shih Ho Kuai, martial arts master. His official job is as an assistant at the Man Mo Temple, the largest and oldest temple in Hong Kong, which is dedicated to two gods - Man, the god of literate, and Mo or Kuan Ti, the god of war, who is patron of cops, gangsters and martial artists. Shih Ho Quai's job is to monitor the factions that aren't the Ascended. He's especially interested in stopping Lotus and Architect activity. He's created a small secret society to help him: Tomorrow's Immortals. It's a mix of cops, triad members and martial artists who worship at the temple and learn kung fu from Shih Ho Kuai. They don't know about the Guiding Hand, and Shih Ho Kuai's teachings are only tangentially related to it. He knows that his students aren't much for strict obedience and self-sacrifice.

In fact, he himself has too much pride to get along with the Hand leadership, which is why he got assigned to modern Hong Kong. He's brash, impulsive and a little boastful. Still, Tomorrow's Immortals adore him and would do a lot to please him. Most would die for him, if it was a glorious death. Shih Ho Kuai doesn't expect them to break their other loyalties, though. Triads won't betray their bosses for him, cops won't break the law - but they might bend it a lot. This can mean that a cop and a gangster end up working together for the Immortals and against each other for their day jobs. It's even possible that there are Dragons among Tomorrow's Immortals.

Shih Ho Kuai has a quick temper, and in combat, his easy-going nature melts away. He becomes a terrible warrior, capable of horrific deeds. Several times he's killed people he meant to capture, and he's especially prone to losing control when he uses his (i]extremely[/i] impressive) fu powers. Seriously, dude's crazy good at martial arts. Quan Lo believes his anger and his chi flow are deeply connected, and he's been ordered to stay out of fights except in great emergencies. Though he gets angry easily, he's no fool and knows he's got limited resources. Mostly, he just engages in petty harassment unless his foes seem to be making some major advance. That's when he'll send out Tomorrow's Immortals, who are okay fighters for mooks. Oh, and unlike his bosses? Shih Ho Kuai likes Hong Kong. He sees himself as a defender of the colony rather than a servant of the Hand. He's never thought about it, but he just might rebel if he thought the Hand were going to do something terrible to Hong Kong.

The Jammers, meanwhile, have very little influence in Hong Kong. They've only got a single cell in the area, studying the high chi level in the hopes that it'll help them destroy all chi. This cell is run by Sabrina Ferran, daughter of a major Architect scientist. She's a very skilled arcanowave researcher, having learned it from her mother...but that's about all she can say for the woman. Her mother was cruel and distant, and she joined the Jammers to get back at the woman. Oh, and she wants to be a rock star.

No, really. In order to become one, she convinced Battlechimp Potemkin to send her to modern Hong Kong, where she has a small band of exiles to help her in her research. And by small band I mean they're rock musicians. They do work on the Jammer project, but their top priority is the Dump Warriors, their band. They want to move somewhere more open to punk than Hong Kong, which far prefers pop, but they know they'd be recalled if they left. When a Jammer op happens in Hong Kong, Sabrina hosts the agents, but she otherwise stays as far from covert ops as possible. The Architects so far don't know about her or the Dump Warriors and she wants to keep it that way. She's a vaguely passable fighter, but not much better than her Dump Warrior buddies, who...are average mooks.

All right, the Lotus! The Lotus have the smallest presence in Hong Kong, since they're relative newcomers to the Secret War. Gao Zhang has sent many agents to the modern era to learn about it and plans to establish powerbases there, but he doesn't yet have the knowledge or resources. His reach into Hong Kong is mostly some wizards from 69 sent to perform specific missions. We'll meet one in Baptism of Fire, named Ta Yu. He's setting up an alliance with a local gang and trying to steal some minor feng shui sites. However, they do have inarguably the single most powerful agent in the entirety of Hong Kong: the demon Kun Chau. Kun Chau is a small island off the coast of Lantau.

Yes, she is the island . In 69 AD, Gao Zhang and his followers bound a powerful demon into the soil of the island. In the current history, she outlasted the Lotus by centuries, and remained a terrible and malign influence in the South China Sea until the 11th century, when the magic was dampened and she went dormant. Ta Yu and several other Lotus sorcerers arrived a few months before your game begins and awakened her. She has been slowly growing in power, using her sorcerous Influence power to turn the two dozen peasant families that live on her into her slaves. She can control them at any time as long as they remain within 16 kilometers of her - so, effectively, as long as they're in Hong Kong. When they're under her influence, they will do anything, no matter how suicidal. However, since she has only a few slaves, none are expendable.

Kun Chau is extremely subtle and evil. She has been fully briefed on the Secret War, and as an island she has a bias towards long-term plans. Islands are, you see, very patient. Kun Chau wants to establish a permanent powerbase in Hong Kong and has thus been getting the headman of her fishermen to open negotiation s with a resort developer who wants to build a hotel on Kun Chau. She plans to use it to enslave the wealthy and powerful. In the meantime, she's using her slaves to gather news and gossip around Hong Kong, and she's now an expert in local politics, technology and society. The main aid she gives to Lotus agents is getting them up to date on modern ways; she won't risk her own resources to further the plans of others. This sometimes causes problems, as Gao's agents often want more concrete help. Still, there's not much anyone can do to force her to obey - she's very old, very powerful and is easily better at magic than anyone Gao has ever sent to the modern era.

Her greatest fear is that she will be exposed - especially to the Ascended. She knew about their efforts to suppress magic before she went dormant and she doesn't want to go dormant again. She has recently learned about the power of the Jade Wheel Society, and believes that they could easily get an atomic bomb to deal with a demonic island. She has no idea whether sh e'd survive it, but she doesn't want to find out. Instead, she wants to move slowly and avoid risk. On the other hand, if someone were to discover her, like the PCs, she'd stop at nothing to kill them before word got out. She is herself a feng shui site, and as long as she's alive and intelligente, only those she allows to attune to her can. She has attuned all her fishermen, by the way.

Kun Chau has effectively infinite Body, or no Body score, depending on how you look at it. Her stats are huge - she has Creature Power and Sorcery both at 40 - and she has plenty of both Creature Power and Sorcery schticks. She is immune to physical weapons short of a bomb, but can be damaged by sorcery, creature powers or arcanowave devices. She can see through the eyes of her slaves and can spend Fortune dice on their behalf. In fact, her slaves basically are extensions of her for purposes of using her sorcery. She will attempt to enslave any secret warrior on her, but even for her it's not that easy - she has to beat the higher of your Mag or Wil by 35. Enslaved characters are under her control until someone breaks the hold. Restore Chi from the Fertility schtick can do it at diff 40 on the island or the target's Will score off it. She will do her best to keep slaves from being taken from the island. She can materialize her Creature Powers anywhere on the island but prefers to do it via camoflauging her tentacles as tree branches or her Rancid Breath as bog gas, for example.

The Monarchs are peripheral at best in Hong Kong. Their power is weak here and they're busy fighting each other in the Netherworld. Still, they do have a few agents - allies more than underlings, really. The most notable is playboy inventor Leslie Lau, a drinking buddy of Huan Ken of the Thunder Pagoda. He discovered the Netherworld while working on a pollution-eating device; it opened a Netherworld portal instead. He has a lab in the Netherworld to make more really awesome devices, though he can't mass produce. He's not the best guy, but he won't sell any of his toys to the Lotus or Architects. He also keeps an eye out for Huan Ken's interests in Hong Kong and occasionally hosts parties for the guy and his Thunder Knights. They love modern fashion but still speak like medieval lords. Also, they sometimes get into huge brawls. They're pretty average mooks.

Leslie himself has a number of weird inventions. If a PC manages to get one, it'll break quickly unless they pay 8 XP and Leslie wants the PC to have it. What devices does he have? Well, there's the Dusk-O-Matic , a calculator which pulls in light and captures it in a chi field, rendering everything within five meters to 10 percent visibility due to darkness. It costs 1 Fortune or Magic point to activate, and it lasts for 1d6 sequences. The Speedball is a ruber ball with a guidance system. You throw it against a hard surface and make a Martial Arts check. It ricochets for shots equal to the action result, then strike a target you specified when making the check, using the original roll to determine if it hits. It has a base damage of 3 and takes just one shot to activate. Finally, the Ultraviolet Penetrator is a modified laser sight that can be installed on any gun. You make a Guns check, and if you hit, your target is bathed in an aura of light that makes all metallic, ARB and magical items glow, even through heavy clothing. This takes 1 shot to do.

Next time: The Baptism of Fire!

The Fire Pagoda I'd heard so much about was pretty weird all right.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: The Fire Pagoda I'd heard so much about was pretty weird all right.

Baptism of Fire is the adventure included here to familiarize you with feng shui. The premise is simple: the PCs protect a restaurant from gangsters. Except the restaurant is a minor feng shui site and the gangsters are Lotus pawns. The climax has the heroes fight it out with the bad guys in a burning apartment building. Sounds fun to me! When the adventure opens, everyone has some reason to be eating at the Eating Counter , a restaurant in the heart of Temple Street in Yauamatei district of Kowloon. It's one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong, so there's plenty of reason to be there. Maybe it's for the food. Maybe they're meeting someone here. (Those people never show.) Maybe they're gamblers stopping by before heading to a local illegal casino. Maybe they're working a case on the petty crime-filled Temple Street, or maybe they're hunting for goods on the local mob boss, Fast Eddie Lo. Maybe they're here to make a deal with Fast Eddie. Maybe they're from another juncture and wound up in the back alley thanks to a Netherworld portal. Anything works.

The major bad guys for this adventure are the Poison Thorns , a new street gang led by Furong "Sneezy" Teng . He's been in Hong Kong for around a year and has connections to the mainland mob. He's not happy being some street tough, and he wants to hit the big time, which means muscling in on Fast Eddie Lo's territory. If he can do enough damage to Fast Eddie's operations and not die, he can then ask Eddie's big brother (read: superior and mentor in the Triads) to take over his territory. Sneezy's right hand is Kaibong "Happy" Cheung , who does the dirty work and is the first of the three major villains of the adventure that the PCs will run into.

Sneezy and the Thorns haven't had much success until very recently. Lo's men were too professional for them. Sneezy's mainland buddies introduced him to Ta Yu , who has been giving pep talks to the gang. Since then, everything seems to be going their way. They've won some minor fights and are confident enough to go for a big move. What's the secret? Ta Yu is an ancient sorcerer-eunuch of the Lotus! He's here on a mission from Gao Zhang to find some feng shui sites, and he's using the Thorns as pawns to get access to the Chinese underworld. He knows the Eating Counter has good feng shui, and he wants the Thorns to intimidate the owner into signing it over.

Sneezy Teng was a poor kid with ambition. He's not going to die poor. He'll do anything it takes to get ahead - be a crook, ally with evil sorcerers, whatever. He hasn't murdered yet, but he'd do it without a second's thought to get money and power. Unusually for a gangster, he doesn't care much about respect, just money. He knows he needs fear and respect to get ahead, but the approval of others means nothing to him in itself. He's always working on the big picture and cares about no one except himself. Happy and Ta Yu are just tools for him. Happy's easy to manipulate, and Ta Yu is too dangerous to fully trust. Sneezy is called Sneezy because he has persistent and terrible allergies which make him sneeze every half minute or so. It kills most of his intimidation, but he's a great fighter.

Ta Yu, on the other hand, is a willing eunuch who got himself castrated to advance in the Lotus. He is a generic evil sorcerer. He gloats when he's winning, he goes nuts when challenged and he underestimates Sneezy's intellect. In fact, he underestimates a lot of people - everyone but his bosses, in fact. So he'll write the PCs off as idiots, too. He has no value for human life and will kill anyone to advance himself or the Lotus. He has a high, annoying and squeaky voice, because he's a sorcerer eunuch, and he loves big words. He is a potent and dangerous wizard with a magic ring that gives him +2 to Blast damage.

Happy Cheung isn't. He's a Big Bruiser who likes to break things and hurt people. He follows Sneezy because he gets the chance to do both. The two have worked together for years, but they don't like each other. In fact, Happy doesn't like anyone. He just likes hurting people. The Poison Thorns are terrified of him, especially after they saw him kill a man with his bare hands, just for bumping into him. Happy's biggest priority is proving he's the biggest, baddest motherfucker in the room. He gets mad when anyone stands up to him, and if a PC insults him - or worse, beats him in a fight, then Happy will do nothing but seek painful vengeance against them. This will distract him even from Sneezy's orders. Happy prefers monosyllables; he's not dumb, mind, but he is very single-minded and prefers not talking.

Now, bit players. The Thorns are generic mooks. If you care about personality for them beyond 'stupid, fearful and violent', you're trying too hard. The Eating Counter is owned by Shen Kar-Wai , an old man who hopes to turn the place over to his young nice, Carina Shen . He raised her after his brother and sister-in-law died in a boating accident, and he's very protective of her. Carina is the only family Kar-Wai has. If the PCs work in the restaurant, they know know Kar-Wai and Carina. Kar-Wai is a grouchy old man with a heart of gold. He yells at people all the time, but when they need it, he's happy to slip them some extra cash. He loves Carina more than anything in the world. He's got a heart condition and should be taking it easy, but he's an obsessive perfectionist, which is rather bad for his health. Carina is painfully shy, even around other employees, and decided not to go to college like she could've so she could take care of Uncle Kar-Wai. She doesn't think she's up to the challenge of the running place, but feels it's her duty to try. She wants Kar-Wai to retire before he has a heart attack.

What the PCs don't know is that the Thorns have sotpped by twice recently, looking for protection money. They came by after hours, when everyone else had left. Kar-Wai refused, since he'd already paid up with Fast Eddie. Sneezy threatened him the last time, and Kar-Wai is keeping it a secret from everyone but his most trusted employees, since he doesn't want to alarm people. Also he doesn't want them to quit for fear of gangster attack.

The Eating Counter is a pretty simple place in the middle of Temple Street. It has two levels, but most of it's on the second. Temple Street is famous both for temples and the Night Market, a row of shops and clubs. Temple Street also has horrible, horrible brothels catering to the less affluent customers. There's always something happening on the street, and people are everywhere. Everyone in the Night Market pays protection to Fast Eddie Lo, the local Triad boss. Fast Eddie is smart and cautious, never taking too much. The business owners see him as basically just another tax. When people in Temple Street get in trouble, they go to Fast Eddie, not the cops - though most of the local cops are on his payroll anyway.

We open the adventure with the PCs chilling at the Eating Counter when a bunch of Poison Thorns barge in, shoving folks around. A character with the appropriate Info skill can ID their accents as Fukienese - they're from the mainland. There's three of them for each PC, plus one more. That one is the leader, and he's taller than the rest. That's Happy Cheung. He's got a permanent sneer - literally. The left side of his upper lipe has been cut away and is replaced by a ring of scar tissue. Carina will come out to see what's going on, and she seems obviously frightened and worried about her uncle, in the kitchen. She'll try to pay Happy, but he's not in the mood to take it.

If the PCs don't feel like intervening yet, then Happy will have the gang swarm the restaurant and knock Carina over. Kar-Wai will come out the back. He's pretty frail and he will swear angrily at the Poison Thorns. If the PCs haven't intervened yet, Happy will hurl him to the floor. If the PCs still haven't started a fight for some insane reason, the gang will start kicking the old man while he's down, which should probably do it. If someone challenges Happy to single combat, he'll take the offer, and it'l llast until someone decides to escalate to a general brawl - either the PCs, or the mooks if it looks like Happy's losing.

Once the fight starts, the Thorns will attack anyone nearby. If the PCs directly attack, they'll at least ignore the bystanders. Until someone pulls a deadly weapon, they stick to martial arts. Once the guns come out, they'll shoot until they empty their clips, then move to machetes and stick to that. Happy will start with punches and move to a club after he gets hit. He'll also try to dos tunts, like hurling tables at people as if they were frisbees. He's smart enough to know the PCs are better than his gang, and he doesn't really care if he takes down a few of his own as long as it hits a PC - so he'll throw tables even at PCs in close combat with his men. There's all sorts of other stunts possible here - shoving faces into hot plates of food, throwing bottles around, smashing a lobster tank, smacking folks with a cash register, the works. Oh, and there's a big plate glass window to throw people through. Remember, the Counter's on the second floor.

The Thorns will flee if half of 'em get put down, and if the PCs give chase, they'll grab an old lady as a hostage to get the PCs to let them leave in peace. It is difficulty 18 to take the machete out of the hand of whoever makes the threat without cutting the hostage's throat. If the Thorns leave, they take the hostage with them, along with any KO'd Thorns. Dead Thorns are left to rot. Assuming they get away, they vanish into alleys and then roar off on motorbikes, dumping the old woman in the garbage.

The next major fight is going to be at a construction site the Thorns hang out at. To get there, the PCs need to find it. The GM should also establish some plot points first: 1. Fast Eddie Lo wants the Thorns dead for horning in on his territory and assaulting a "customer." 2. The Thorns are mixed up in sorcery, not just gang work. The PCs get get useful info from the Shens, talk to the local merchants, meet with Fast Eddie, interrogate any captive Thorns or even get in a fight with zombies. This doesn't have to be done in any particular order.

Kar-Wai will happily complain at the PCs. He will tell them:

I love this list. posted:

  • The Poison Thorns are stinking rat bastards.
  • They've been around twice before, asking for money. Last time, they threatened to chop off Kar-Wai's hands and feed them to his customers.
  • The Poison Thorns are scum.
  • The guy with the ruined lip is Happy Cheung.
  • The Poison Thorns shouyld be publically whipped and beaten.
  • The leader of the Thorns is Sneezy Teng.
  • The Poison Thorns stink of sewage.
  • The Thorns are mainlanders, mostly.
  • Kar-Wai already pays protection to Fast Eddie Lo. He doesn't need help from the PCs or cops. The cops are corrupt cowards. Eddie will deal with these upstarts!
  • If the Poison Thorns all dropped dead, they'd be doing the world a big favor.

Carina will confirm all that, and if taken aside, will aid that Kar-Wai has a heart condition and she's terrified the stress will kill him. Also, she'd prefer to go to the cops instead of Eddie - mobsters don't do favors free. She also wants her uncle to sell the place, but he won't if the Thorns are sniffing around. He's really stubbron, and while he wants to retire, he won't do it if it looks like the Thorns drove him to do so.

The local merchants are suspicious and temperamental, but will tell the PCs that they trust Fast Eddie to handle this more than the cops, that about half of them have had visits from the Thorns, that the attack on the Eating Counter is the first actual physical violence the Thorns have done and that it's odd that they went for the Eating Counter first. See, it's a big place full of people - a lot harder to shake down than some of the shops. Besides, several merchants have been nastier to Sneezy than Kar-Wai was. If any Thorns are alive and on hand, they're reluctant to talk. They've been hypnotized by Ta Yu, who has them all believing their heads will explode if they betray him or Sneezy. They won't talk no matter how rought the PCs get, but their fear is obvious. The PCs should be able to realize they're way more scared of their bosses than any street punk reasonably should be. The only way to get them to talk is to use Sorcery - the Influence schtick can break the fear response easily, as the Thorns have Will 4. However, if they do squeal...well, their heads explode. Ta Yu put a combined Influence/Blast on them to kill them if they ever think about uttering his name or giving away his or Sneezy's location. That should be a major clue that this is more than your every day extortion, though!

Next time: Out of the frying pan.

Air conditioning is not a factor at the Fire Pagoda. Ice-cold beer wasn't on the menu.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Air conditioning is not a factor at the Fire Pagoda. Ice-cold beer wasn't on the menu.

So, we left off with even more ways to find out this is a weird plot. If the Thorns died, either in the fight or due to brain explosions, well...there's a few ways to do this. If the party has a local cop and got the bodies sent to the morgue, this is easy. The morgue attendants show up at some slow point and tell the PCs that the bodies are gone! The PCs find out that no one should've been able to get past security - it's like they left on their own. Which they did. Ta Yu has used his Summoning schtick to reanimate the dead Thorns, using a mystic link via a personal item of each gang member. He wants to interrogate the corpses to find out what happened, but he suspects involvement from another faction, so he's playing it careful. Ideally, the PCs catch up with the zombies and fight them, using the same stats as the Thorns before. If the PCs are "inconveniently clever," they might follow the zombies instead, though. They'll head to a city square, where Ta Yu's Divination schtick will warn him of their approach. He will fly away with Movement, getting away too fast to be fought but getting spotted by the PCs against the moon or something.

But what if the PCs don't have a cop? Well, they don't hear about the morgue...but this time, Ta Yu's reason for making zombies changes. Instead, he sends the undead after the killers, since there's a mystic link between people and their killers. So the party now has to deal with zombies trying to ambush them. Either way, once killed again, the corpses stay dead. There is no further trace of occult power, and a coroner examining them would see only the wounds that killed them the second time. No authority figure is going to buy this crazy zombie story. But still - proof that something really weird is going on!

Sorcery can also determine this via the Divination schtick. Divination gives a vision referring to the next fight - it shows earth being disturbed (because it's a construction site) and danger (there's danger), but that doing it under cover of darkness will help. Still, it's a very obscure hint, because the adventure wants the PCs to go visit Eddie Lo. Fast Eddie's a bad dude, but the Thorns and Ta Yu are worse. Eddie is a Pledged, but not very high-ranking and unaware of the full nature of the Ascended. In fact, he doesn't know the word. He's been in the Jade Wheel Society since '65, and they got him his territory in Temple Street. Sometimes, a cop goes after him, but there's plenty of Jade Wheels in the cops, so investigations always get reassigned.

Fast Eddie is not physically fast. In fact, he's a fat dude, just under 150 kilos (that's around 300 pounds). Rather, he lives fast. He's got at least six mistrtesses, eats a lot, loves fine wines and smokes enough Cuban cigars to give cancer to a small town. The only thing he doesn't indulge in is heavy drugs. He sells 'em, but he won't take 'em. He's actually something of a role model for many poor kids in Kowloon, unfortunately, especially because he seems to lead a charmed life, having survived four assassination attempts. He's very clever and has read Sun Tzu cover to cover. He rewards loyalty and hates traitors. Any PC familiar with Hong Kong knows all that if they can make a diff 5 Police, Detective or appropriate Info check. If Sneezy didn't have magic on his side, he'd have no chance against Eddie. Unfortunately, Eddie's written him off as a minor threat, and doesn't even know Ta Yu (or sorcery, for that matter) exists.

Finding Eddie is just a short trip to the Bun Festival, a really crappy topless bar that he hangs out at. It's cheap and sleazy, but it's got top-of-the-line security gear, along with some really good guards on the lookout for assassination attempt number five. If the PCs barge in, they'll have a wall of goons to get past. They don't want a fight, though - not in the boss's place. They'll fight back if Eddie's in danger, but they'd like to talk things out. Approaching more subtly and asking for an audience is probably wiser, and that can be done by asking Bri Davis, the Australian bartender. (It's short for Brian.) He's also a Pl;edged, and is Eddie's chief fixer and adviser - though as far as Temple Street knows, he's just a tough bartender. He actually outranks Eddie in the Wheel, but he doesn't know the truth, either. He's loyal to the Wheel, though. He quite likes Eddie, though he rarely indulges in vice himself. Both he and Eddie are passable if not amazing fighters. Bri's the better of the two.

Bri will set up a meeting if the PCs mention the Poison Thorns or some other good reason, but being evasive gets him to brush them off and being rude gets a lecture on respect. This should get PCs to realize he's more than he seems. Once he lets the party through, he'll call in two guards and pick two PCs to go see Eddie - the two who did the most talking. The guards pat them down, take their weapons and give them to the rest of the party. (If there is no rest of the party around, Bri will hold onto them.) This is SOP for talking to someone on their home turf, as any professional PC in the know would understand.

Eddie will then show up and talk. He'd love to see the Thorns "taken care of," by whatever means, and will owe a debt to anyone who does it. He hates having to deal with upstarts, but it's the job. The Thorns are just the latest. Sneezy's got some mainland connections, but no protection in Hong Kong, so revenge won't be an issue. Happy is a pretty tough guy, and he's the real challenge for anyone raiding the Thorns. If someone did want to raid the Thorns, well, they might want to check out the construction site on Canton Street in Mongkok. He'll give an address if needed. The place is a high0rise being built by mainlanders who Sneezy has a connection to. He's 'guarding' the place and gets to put up his men in the shacks there at night. They're not there in the day, but at night, Sneezy and Happy should be around. Eddie knowsd nothing about sorcery. or weird stuff - that's all tourist crap.

The book says the PCs probably won't get in a fight at Eddie's, but if they do, Bri will pull a sword and there's four mooks per PC. Eddie will escape in a bulletproof Rolls Royce, and there's plenty of bottles and pool cues for good stunts, along with tacky wagon wheel light fixtures for swinging on. Also, lots and lots of innocent bystanders who can and should die in the crossfire. That's what happens when you start unneeded fights. This will make Eddie an enemy for life, and he will sned goons after them whenever the plot slows down in the future. Eventually, he'll even hire named assassins about equal to a PC to take them down. You can figure out what to do from there, but Eddie will accept apologies if the PCs are willing to bow and scrape and humiliate themselves before him.

Other sources of info can work, but leads should point back to Eddie, because the book wants the PCs to deal with Eddie. Alternatively, they bribe a Thorn who sends them into an ambush, and from there they chase the surviving ambushers back to the construction site. So, you know, whatever works if the PCs really, really don't want to talk to Eddie for some reason. There absolutely will be a fight at the construction site, though. It's an outdoor battle - the Thorns will come rushing out the moment they notice anyone - so you have wooden shacks to burn, a giant hole to throw people in, cranes with girders, porta-potties to hide behind, the requisite drums full of flammable oil...those, by the way, are there because you need exploding barrels. If you really need an excuse, the crooks behind the construction are using the place to illegally store dangerous chemicals or something, it doesn't matter.

There is a guy in this fight who isn't a Thorn, though: Paul Chang, a cheap lawyer who was here to meet Sneezy, arrived early and got caught up in the fight. He's a short, dumpy guy who has no combat skills whatsoever, and he's also not the best lawyer, but he is cheap. His main goal is to not get hurt. He'll try to run and hide, and if captured, he's the only one willing to talk - the rest are afraid of headbombs. Paul hasn't met Ta Yu, so he hasn't been enchanted. He'll reveal thath e was hired to draw up a contract between Kar-Wai Sheng and someone called Ta Yu to transfer ownership of the Eating Counter. This'll be the first time that Ta Yu's name gets dropped. The contract is odd - the payment for the place is ridiculously low, and Paul has never met either Ta Yu or Kar-Wai, just Sneezy. He was supposed to meet Sneezy tonight, but he was told the boss got called away unexpectedly. He's not sure where to. Sneezy found Paul in the phone book, and already has a draft copy of the contract which will hold up in court. If Paul dies in the crossfire, his briefcase contains the contract and most of the important clues.

This should tell them the Eating Counter is strangely important to the Thorns, which they can confirm by searching the shacks and finding several maps of Temple Street, which all have the restaurant marked in red. They also find a hand-drawn map of the restaurant's floor plan covered in scribbled notes containing several magical signs. A diff 6 Sorcery, Info: Geomancy or other relevant check will reveal that whoever made the map thought the Eating Counter had powerful feng shui. The plot should be obvious: Sneezy and the mysterious Ta Yu want the Eating Counter for its mystic properties! That should get them heading back to the Counter.

Whenever they get around to going back, the place is closed, but the lights are on. Kar-Wai will threaten them with a cleaver if they knock, believing the party to be Thorns. After the initial confusion, he will recognize them and let them in. Carina, he tells them, has been kidnapped! He got a message made out of newspaper clippings telling him to come to an aparment in a tenement somewhere in Kowloon. And if Eddie's men, the cops or anyone else comes, she'll be killed. A lock of Carina's hair is taped to the message. The red marker matches the maps from the construction site. Kar-Wai has no idea the Thorns want his restaurant - he thinks this is about money. But he'll do anything to save Carina, and if the PCs tell him what the Thorns want, he'll gladly sign the place over. IF the PCs are okay with this, they should be reminded that anyone familiar with feng shui wll know that the Thorns will undoubtedly prosper if they get ahold of the Counter - and that's bad news for anyone who's made them mad. Such as the party, or the people of Temple Street.

From there, it's off to the tenement for Carina. Sneezy kidapped her at her apartment, drugged her and brought her there. She's handcuffed the bed, guarded by at least one Thorn at all times. There's six Thorns, Ta Yu, Happy and Sneezy in the apartment, and eight more in the hallway. The last of 'em are in the lobby, watching for Kar-Wai. They've got Sneezy on speed dial to alert him if anyone comes with him, or if they spot any cops or obvious fights. It's up to the players how they deal with this, so the GM's job is just to react. Some notes - the apartment is super cramped, giving -3 to all dodge ratings and making some fu powers, especially those needing a lot of movement, impossible. Martial arts schticks involving long weapons like swords or clubs get -3. Happy will be using punches only for this reason. Sneezy will be hiding behind a couch and shooting from 90% cover until somehow removed from the couch. Ta Yu, meanwhile, wants to avoid using magic openly and has rigged up an air tank to look like a flamethrower, which he uses to disguise his Blast attacks. The device is completely useless.

These guys are bad people . Unless the PCs immediately burst in and get the drop on them, Carina is getting killed. This a Hong Kong action movie - sometimes, bad things happen. As soon as Ta Yu realizes the PCs are powerful fighters and more then able to win, he's going to run...but before he does, he's shooting a flame Blast at the gas outlet in the oven, igniting the entire building. He then will fly off out of a window, and can be pursued by anyone who can fly...though it should be noted that the Aerial Mobility Unit arcanowave device lacks the room to take off in the apartment. Once the place is on fire - well, the apartment is on the 21st floor. And the place is not safe by any means, even before being set on fire. And it's full of kids and helpless old people. If the PCs are intent on finishing hte Thorns off, they get to listen to screams. The fire can't be put out, even by magic - it's in the gas lines now. It really gets going two sequences after the blast hits, at which point the walls start to fall apart, sending flaming debris at a randomly chosen character until the PCs get out. That includes the bad guys - it's entirely possible that the fire will kill Happy and Sneezy.

Carina's been drugged. If she hasn't be executed, someone better remember to get her body out, since she's not going anywhere herself. If the PCs brought Kar-Wai, he collapses from smoke inhalation pretty quick and also needs to be gotten out. Escaping from the tenement is the end of the adventure, so make it dramatic. Lots of fire trucks, ambulances, concerned and terrified onlookers, that sort of thing. If Carina, Kar-Wai or any PCs die, give them a big and dramatic death scene. From here, you can surely find ideas for your own plots - after all, the Eating Counter still has to be dealt with, and if Ta Yu is alive, he still wants it. If the party understands the significance, well, they can try to buy the place. If Kar-Wai and Carina both survive, they'll sell some shares in the place to the PCs as a reward, thus letting the PCs attune to the site. If Carina dies, Kar-Wai will abandon the place, selling it if the PCs can make the payments. If Kar-Wai dies, Carina will sell because she's leaving the restaurant business. And Fast Eddie is still around as an NPC for you to use - maybe he'll find another threat for the PCs to handle, or become one himself when his superiors find out the Eating Counter is a feng shui site. And of course, if the PCs are running the restaurant, he'll want his protection money, which may start a gang war if the PCs are your average PCs and don't want to pay their unofficial taxes.

After this, the book ends with some movie suggestions - John Woo films, Jet Li, Tsui Hark, that sort of thing.

Next time: Golden Comeback!

It is the dragon, and even if it does not exist, its voice is the voice of freedom.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: It is the dragon, and even if it does not exist, its voice is the voice of freedom.

Golden Comeback is a bit of a weird book, in that every section actually tells you who the author or authors were. This includes such luminaries as Geoff Grabowski (Exalted 1e, Hunter: the Reckoning, Wraith: the Great War), Bruce Baugh (Hunter: the Reckoning, Adventure!), John Snead (Changeling: the Lost, Eclipse Phase, Exalted, most of the good nMage books) and Greg Stolze ( Greg Stolze ). We open with Geoff Grabowski and the history of the Dragons.

Y'see, there are more forces to the universe than light, electromagnetism and even the weird, nameless forces harnessed by the arcanowave technology. There's love, honor and courage. These have real power, as much power as magic, science or self-discipline. All factions do tap into these powers, though some more than others, only the Dragons hold them with highest regard. The Dragons are seen with contempt by most other factions. In a war dedicated to the shaping of humanity's future, they are standing up for the virtues of the individual - honesty, herosim. Under normal circumstances, rebellions are things to be manipulated...but as Innerwalkers, the Dragons cannot be controlled by destiny. They are unbribable, free agents and wildcards who threaten the paradigms of control. This is terrifying. There's nothing more dangerous to the plans of the other groups than idealism and free will, especially when used by the Dragons.

There has never been a time in the memory of even the eldest beings in the Netherworld when there were no Dragons. It might just be that they are some unstoppable part of human nature or the natural order. Whatever the reason, the Dragons are eternal. They are often decimated, but never truly destroyed. The original group of heroes that went under the name 'Dragons' are supposed the Silver Dragons, a group of Chinese knights brought together by the hero Jiang Zemin to fight wickedness in the end of the Shang Dynasty. Most of them died horribly, either storming the gates of Hell itself or fighting alone against impossible odds. It is said that they were given places in the Celestial Bureaucracy when Jiang presided over the creation of the gods.

What, precisely, that actually means is unknown. There are three two (the book says three, but lists two) major theories. The first is that the Silver Dragons never existed. They're just a legend that showed up a few critical shifts ago as a projection of anxiety by someone who helped cause the shift. The second theory is that there was a faction in the Secret War called the Silver Dragons at some point, whose real-life history has been hopelessly distorted by critical shifts. According to this theory, all the Innerwalkers who knew the truth either died or aren't talking. There are rumors of a hidden stronghold deep in the Netherworld, still extant after all these centuries. This fortress is often called the West Qi City, the stronghold that Jiang and his men supposedly defended. If it truly exists, it is more than just a curiosity.

You see, the legends say the Silver Dragons had an immense amount of powerful martial arts weapons, like the Universe-Muddling Dippers and Demon-Cleaving Halberds. Quan Lo, the Ascended, the Lotus and the Monarchs would love to get their hands on such weapons - as would the modern Dragons! The West Qi City may not exist, but every time a rumor comes up that it's been found, people go rushing off into the depths of the Netherworld. Sure, it's probably a waste of time, but what if it's not and someone else gets their hands on those weapons? And it's not just for kung fu! Some say the Silver Dragons were transformed dragons, the predecessors of the Ascended, supertech warriors in power armor or even masters of a strange and unique power different from anything in the Secret War today. Everyone wants to find this place.

Whatever the truth is, no one seems to have a definite answer. At least, nobody's telling if they do, despite an awful lot of looking. Since the legendary days of Jiang Zemin, there have been countless heroes using the name Dragon. However great they were, they're nothing but footnotes now - heroes fallen against the forces of tyranny. More interesting is their most recent incarnation, founded by the monk Kar Fai and the renegade arcanotechnician called the Prof. But first - a sidebar! Some ideas about why the Dragons seem to be so hard to wipe out. Maybe they are, in fact, a metaphysical rule - there just must be a certain amount of freedom in the world, to balance out the control of feng shui. The more control is exerted, the more the Dragons are forced to come into power. Or maybe there's someone or something backing hte Dragons - a powerful supernatural being, or refugees from a reality that no longer is, or even the ghosts of the Silver Dragons. It could be done out of philanthropy, or perhaps there's a secret agenda. Or maybe...maybe there isn't a reason. They aren't eternal. So far, they've gotten by on the fact that the Dragons are always badasses, but sooner or later, they'll be wiped out for good. After all, this is Hong Kong action movies - it's perfectly okay to end things in a massive battle where all the heroes die, as long as they get a montage about how they met, saved each other's lives and became best friends while they die.

Anyway. The modern Dragons begin, basically, with Kar Fai, Great Grand Master of Tiger Kung Fu and the Shadowfist (read: the entire Path of the Health Tiger, as well as a unique schtick that gives him +3 to death checks, called Tough Old Buzzard ). Some say he is a thief, a murderer or a rapist. He is none of these things. He stole only to survive, killed only in honest combat and all of the women were perfectly willing. He has never regretted a day of his lecherous and yet strangely virtuous life. Inevitably, Kar Fai heard about the legendary Quan Lo the Perfected of the Guiding Hand. It is said that when he learned of them, he scratched himself improperly, gathered his students and belongings and went to learn from Quan Lo. It wasn't easy to meet the man, so Kar Fai settled for joining the Guiding Hand instead. This was a bad idea. Everyone expected him to be amazed by their wisdom and be satisfied with learning one form every few years. And they didn't want him to teach the forms to his students! After his students got harrassed a bit too much, Kar Fai headed down to Canton to meet with the Perfected Master.

After defeating fourteen of the Guiding Hand, Kar Fai was finally allowed to speak with Quan Lo. The rumors which surround the fight are certainly untrue. They definitely didn't know each other on sight, and the fight they got into (which quickly spread to their followers) certainly wasn't over something as trivial as a women the two had once competed for. And it is quite unlikely that it ended with Kar Fai kicking Quan Lo in the dick, or that he laughed so hard that he had to be carried away by his students lest he be caught and hanged by Quan Lo's followers. This is all certainly nothing but scurrilous rumor.

Regardless of what actually happened, Kar Fai had to leave Canton after that, since the Golden Candle Society was hunting for him. As were the local cops, since he'd demolished a good dozen or so shops in the battle. Some very convoluted circumstances led to Kar Fai trying to infiltrate a Hand base in disguise, where he discovered that the gates he'd picked led not to an armory or treasury, but to a cave complex. There, he overheard discussions that filled him in on the depth of Quan Lo's plans. The answer was clear: anyone Quan Lo and his disciples hated as much as "modern Hong Kong" sounded like a good place to be, and it was far from the judges and courts. With a pair of stolen sunglasses and a swiped credit card from the base, he made his way to the 20th century. Though he forgot a map.

The Dragons also began with the Prof, real name Anita Dao. Anita Dao, the discoverer of the arcanowave. She has the Techie schtick and Weird Science Metabolism , a unique schtick that lets her regenerate 1 wound point per sequence due to mystic implants - but, if she leaves the Netherworld , she will die of cancer. Anyway. Anita Dao vanished from her lab one night mysteriously, dismaying the UN, who'd been counting on her to help them make new weapons. It also bothered her partner, Curtis Boatman, who witnessed the event. She vanished in a flash of white before he could shoot her with a prototype helix ripper! Still, he wasn't too bothered. Without a body, there was no chance that the damage done to her would be recognized as similar to that done by helix rippers when they rolled out.

It was years later, after discovering the Netherworld, that Boatman began to suspect his former boss wasn't dead. Especially when the Jammers began to use portal-making devices that made similar flashes. He realized Anita Dao must be alive - and there was evidence that she'd attuned to several feng shui sites before vanishing, so she could be hiding in a base of her own making in the Netherworld, still researching. Fifteen years, and Boatman still had no idea how she'd done it. He carefully concealed the issue from Bonengel to avoid a public hunt and began spreading around a computer-aged photo of Dao to get people to hunt her down. Unfortunately, Anita Dao hasn't aged a day and is not going to introduce herself to Architects easily.

Her escape from Boatman's attempted assassination had been planned for a while. She'd been very bothered by the amorality of the CDCA, and it was pointless to protest that her discoveries were only meant for peaceful uses. Besides, science didn't work that way and it was clear that Curtis Boatman thought she'd outlived her usefulness. She had to go somewhere else. She stayed as long as possible to make sure certain parts of her notes were destroyed, to keep Boatman and Bonengel from learning them. She knew it'd work - Boatman was never her equal as a scientist, and too much an egotist to hire anyone better than himself. So, in theory, the Netherworld would be safe until Boatman retired, if not longer.

In the Netherworld, Dao quickly picked up the nickname 'the Prof'. She kept a low profile, but when the Jammers appeared a decade later, she couldn't resist giving them her portal-making technology - though she made sure to make them practically impossible to reverse-engineer. She decided that even if it tipped the Buro off, they'd end up walking into a lair full of angry killer cyborg apes. (Also, she hated Buro.) Even if it was a bad idea, she's still pretty happy with the decision. If Kar Fai had not found her, Anita Dao would probably still be as she was then - researching things and occasionally sending Battlechimp Potemkin a new weapon. Luckily for everyone, one day Dao was awakened by a lost, delirious, dehydrated and barely alive Kar Fai falling unconscious on her doorstep.

Anita nursed him back to consciousness after twelve hours, and after a brief altercation involving Kar Fai leering and getting a gun shoved in his face, the two became acquainted and, much to their surprise, bonding over a shared love of freedom. The Prof taught Kar Fai about the modern world, but when he went to leave, she told him that maybe he should do more than just start a fight. He needed something bigger - an organization that could oppose the factions of the Secret War. A band of brothers and sisters like the famous Outlaws of the Marsh. Kar Fai could do the recruiting, and the Prof would lend her skills and technology, along with her Jammer contacts. Kar Fai agreed. After all, he couldn't fight all the time . He was getting old, and needed weekends off and some time to rest. With younger fighters around, there'd be more people to handle the minor stuff. More time to drink and fish. And so, Kar Fai headed to the modern world to start recruiting, and the Prof began to prepare.

Well, actually, Kar Fai's first stop was back in 1850s Canton, to grab his best student, Zheng Yi Quan, who was in hiding as an actress in Wuhan, hoping the Hand would stop hunting sometime soon. Kar Fai then dragged Quan to the modern world, petticoat in tow, and filled his underling in on the Secret War. The two spent some time getting oriented (read: visiting theme parks and watching Kojak until they understood the local slang, then learning how to drive) and began tracking Ascended agents. (Why the Ascended? Because.)

Fai and Quan both knew about transformed animals, of course. Most kung fu masters did - the animals were naturally good at kung fu, after all. Before meeting the Prof, though, Kar Fai hadn't realized they were organized. After learning that, they decided it'd be easiest to watch them in the 90s, when their agents would be most common. After surveillence (read: parties and dance clubs), the two latched onto a suspect: Johnny Tenfeathers, drug dealer. After tracking the guy to a chemical plant in LA, they witnessed a battle between Tenfeathers' men and a cop. The two decided to approach the cop, Jake Donovan.

Donovan. a maverick cop, alcoholic and excellent gunman, was won over after several attempts at persuasion, including a trip to the Netherworld. Together, the three fighters disrupted Tenfeathers' drug operation, and the man revealed himself as a transformed eagle. He escaped while his men get slaughtered in the battle - but more importantly, he left behind his arsenal and around a million dollars in unmarked bills. Suddenly, the Dragons were actually possible.

America was a bit hot for them now, though, and the two martial artists didn't want to take Donovan into the past yet. Before hunting Tenfeathers, they'd made some money doing street fighting, and had learned about the Death Ring, an underground fighting circuit where the fighters were slaves pitted in deathmatches against each other. It seemed like a great place to find the next Dragon. By masquerading as two fighters owned by an American, they got inside and found Mad Dog McCroun, a huge fighter with a heart of gold and muscles like steel. Kar Fai decided he'd be the next recruit - but his owner, One-Hand Billy King, wasn't in the mood to sell. Also he was in the pay of the Lotus, using special potions to keep his slaves addicted and loyal.

The three fighters went to rescue the big bruiser and botched things up. The battle ended with King's mansion reduced to ash and McCround wounded. They told him about the Secret War and took him to the Prof to recover, along with Zheng Yi Quan, who'd also been wounded. He also got his years of abuse and mind-control potion addiction dealt with. In the meantime, Donovan and Kar Wai went out to find their next recruit, in the Middle East.

While moving through former Soviet lands, they learned about something called Project Prometheus, an attempt by the Ascended to build a network of hidden feng shui sites in Russia and Afghanistan, which they could use to take over 2056. Securing these sites had dispossessed the family of the legendary Golden Gunman, the best killer in the Middle East. His father had been given a death sentence at a Soviet labor camp, and the boy had witnessed it all. When he grew up, the man dedicated himself to fighting those who would oppress Islam as his own village had been oppressed by the Soviets (under the command of the Ascended). Eventually, Jake Donovan and Kar Wai met with the Golden Gunman in Marrakesh.

The Gunman, equal in skill with guns to Jake and deeply connected with the Islamic underground, was reluctant to work with a Westerner or a Chinese, since both had persecuted his people in the past, but given the circumstances, he made an exception. Using his network of informants and contacts, the Dragons began their campaign. At first, they struck out primarily against Project Prometheus, travelling through the Soviet Union and burning feng shui sites. Of course, this pissed the Ascended off, and they had to deal with both Pledged and Lodge assassins. They managed to take out the ring of feng shui sites, but after that they needed to lie low somewhere that wasn't the contemporary juncture. For Jake, that meant going off to train with McCroun. For the others, it was time to recruit more Dragons.

Kar Fai and the Golden Gunman headed into 1850s Africa, to investigate the mysterious Leopard King, a legendary figure in Africa. He was said to be a warrior exiled from his people and infused with the power of the Leopard Spirits. He lived deep within Africa as a champion of the oppressed and enemy of the colonialists. The two headed from Mogadishu to the Congo, where they found the Leopard King's temple and the king himself: Iala Mané. He ruled a camp of fugitives from across Africa, sheltering them from danger. He wasn't too interested in the Secret War at first - he lived free, in the here and now. However, when Kar Fai and the Golden Gunman passed the Trial of the Jungle and proved themselves his equals, they got his attention.

With regrets, the Leopard King left his people to be guarded by his lieutenants, the Leopard Guard, and set out to fight in the Secret War...but before that, he swore an oath on the Iron Crucible that had turned him into the powerful being he was: he would return victorious or his spirit would forever haunt the tyrants who killed him. Incidentally, the Leopard King, while human, is a Pulp Occult Hero - a reskinned Ghost. So you can reskin if your GM allows it! Great, huh? He's also pretty damn tough to kill.

While Kar Fai and the Gunman fetched the Leopard King, Zheng Yi Quan headed to 69 AD to recruit the famous bandit-scholar Ting Ting, one of the great wise bandits of myth. His journey to find her is a legend itself, though one not told by the book, and he eventually did discover Ting Ting - to learn that she'd just founded the Dragons. She'd named her band of bandits after the legendary Silver Dragons. Zheng recruited Ting Ting into the larger Dragon organization and took her and her men to the Netherworld to protect them from sudden shifts in history. Then they headed back to 69, since Ting Ting was unwilling to leave her fight against the Lotus for other fronts, but she said she'd serve as their agent in 69. (Ting Ting and Zheng Yi Quan are both powerful martial artists, albeit of different styles. Ting Ting is more ninja, Zheng Yi Quan more 'jump around and kick things to death.')

Next time: Operation Killdeer.

There is no God but God, and no fate but that which he prepares for us.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: There is no God but God, and no fate but that which he prepares for us.

When we left off, the Dragons had finally finished recruiting. Over three years, they went up against basically everyone in the Secret War. Their first major target was the Guiding Hand and their efforts to take 69 AD. Quan Lo is backing the palace scholars and trying to create a purge of the eunuchs before instituting massive reforms, which of course nclude construction of Hand academies and monasteries on key feng shui sites. Ting Ting and Zheng Yu Quen spent months blackmailing people to sidetrack the reforms - something that caused them plenty of trouble sleeping, but it was more important to keep the Hand from controlling the future, even if it meant Gao Zhang survived.

That's why Mad Dog McCroun, the Golden Gunman and the Leopard King were on watch on the modern day, taking out everything the Lotus threw at them in contemporary Hong Kong. They did really damn well, in fact - most of the Lotus's agents ended up retreating to 1850, leabing the demon island Kun Chau as the only major Lotus agent in the modern day for a while. In the meantime, Zheng Yi Quan had made contact with cells of Dragons across the 1850s, and Pui Ti of the Ice Pagoda lent them secret help, possibly because she was in love with Jake Donovan. (Though most people believe they never had a real relationship.) The Jammers also occasionally helped the Dragons out, since they owed the Prof some serious favors. Having Furious George or the Orangotank blasting away at a site was a great help, and not just for firepower - their unsubtlety meant no one suspected the Dragons. The success couldn't last.

The Ascended hadn't forgotten what the Dragons had done to Project Prometheus. When they needed to make an example to impress Huan Ken and Ming I into helping them, destroying the Dragons seemed like a great way to do it. Thus, they deliberately leaked information to the Dragons that the Lotus were moving in on the Red Lantern Inn, a feng shui site in 1850s Canton which they made the Dragons believe was much more important than it really was. The Leopard King, Mad Dog McCroun and Jake Donovan set out to stop them. Meanwhile, the Lotus had been manipulated into believing the Tavern would be the site of a major emergency meeting of Dragons, so they came loaded for bear as well. The Ascended also sent Adrienne Hart, a Pledged, to make sure whoever was left got killed.

Including Adrienne. She'd become a liability - she was getting too close to the Unspoken Name, and to make things worse, she'd failed to kill Mad Dog McCroun in Caracas, leading the Ascended to investigate her past. Turned out she'd been in the same orphanage as McCroun and had been close to the big guy. The shadowy assassin called Mr. X was sent to deal with her after she'd killed anyone left alive at the Red Lantern. Things didn't go quite as planned - while McCroun, Donovan, the wizard Jueding Shelun and his demon servant the Thing With 1,000 Tongues all died, the Leopard King survived, blind in one eye. Kar Fai, Zheng Yi Quan and new recruits Johnny Tso and Tricia Kwok got out alive, too, as did Ting Ting. Mr. X didn't fail, however - Adrienne Hart never got out of the inn.

After Killdeer's success, the Dragons were shattered long enough that the Jammers, the Ascended, Huan Ken and Ming I could use the Jammers' portal generator as the core of a sorcerous machine called the Molten Heart. It was only when the Prof directly intervened by pleading with Battlechimp Potemkin that the Jammers stood down, allowing the Dragons into the Fire and Darkness Pavilion. Ting Ting, Johnny Tso, Tricia Kwok, Kar Fai and the Prof went in, taking down the Heart before the Ascended could use it. Today, the Dragons are a shell of their former selves. Ting Ting is the only one left in 69, trying to singlehandedly hold off the Guiding Hand. Tricia and Johnny have their hands full trying to watch the modern era, and Zheng Yi Quan is busy in the 1850s, trying to both foil the Hand and avoid moral issues while supporting the Hand and Manchu rulers. The Golden Gunman vanished, taking the Leopard King with him, as he suspected a traitor in the Dragons. He may or may not return. Kar Wai and the Prof know they need new blood if they're going to do anything but watch the Secret War. Maybe the PCs will be it.

We move now to a section written by Grabowski, Hal Mangold and Tim Toner. It talks about the current friends of the Dragons - not really Dragons themselves, but sympathetic to the cause. Of course, some of them may also be traitors, spies or turncoats looking to set the Dragons up. No, they're not about to tell us which are traitors - that's up to the GM.

We start with Sonny "the Pakman" Pak, an arms dealer. He is obsessed with guns. He's been wandering America, selling the guns to anyone who needs 'em. Of course, times change, and Sonny's changed with them. He used to drive a van in the 70s and 80s, but now he's moved up to a minivan, and he's even got an email address. The Korean arms dealer got his name in the early 80s, when one of his customers declared that he sold guns and made money the way Pac-Man ate dots. Other than his strange mission of selling guns to the needy, people know little about Sonny Pak. He plays to being an ethnic stereotype so he can hide his true self - you see, Sonny's a Pledged, and this is the best he can do as a rebellion against them. The Pledged are the family business, and he's...well, he's doing his best, but rebellion is hard. Sonny's not much of a fighter, but he does have a unique schtick: Van Full of Firepower . Whatever it is, no matter how big or unlikely, as long as it's man-portable and kills people, Sonny can spend a Fortune point to have one on hand.

"Suckerpunch Suzy" Wei, Two-Fisted Sysadmin is...well, a sysadmin in Hong Kong who decided not to stick around for the Chinese handover. Instead, she headed to Java, where there were banks to work at and parties to go to. (Suzy likes parties.) The problem? Well, trouble finds Suzy, much as Suzy finds parties. Java's clubs are great, but the bank turned out to be a front for Islamic militants, and she ended up being chased by the secret police. Then off to Russia, which...ended badly, but fortunately before that bank got raided she'd been arrested for drunken brawling in the disco. Now, she's off to Antigua, working for a Chinese expat named Johnny Tso - some kind of businessman with weird friends, but hey, Antigua's pretty fun. Suzy's an Everyman Hero, a computer geek and certainly going to be in more trouble than she'd bargained for.

Denise Levoussier is the daughter of a major Paris stockbroker and a British aristocrat of the Victorian era. She's got her mother's looks, her father's business skills and both parents' talent for magic, both her mother's Western style and her father's Mediterranean. It wasn't easy to raise her, but the family was happy enough. Denise studied history and sorcery, and married a young lawyer...who wasn't faithful. She decided not to curse him with anything but a rather expensive divorce. Since then, she's been in rural England, where she found a nice feng shui site. She's not an active member of hte Secret War yet, but she's both an idealist and an individualist - a natural Dragon. SZhe's just what the Dragons need, between her power and her money, and she'd do great in 69 AD. She's a Sorceress about on par with a PC.

How about Richard Armitage, the gambler supreme? He's so lucky that he's banned from most casinos - except for the high-stakes poker games, of course. He's short-tempered, used to getting his way and thinks he can buy anything...but on the other hand, he never goes back on his word. Ever. If he says he'll do it, he'll do it. He's also an okay guy underneath the self-centeredness. Oh, sure, he's out for himself, but he's not out there to wreck anyone else. He'll step on you if you get in his way, but there's no bad feelings about it. Armitage...well, he's not got much of a history. He was just a normal kid who got taught to gamble by his much more luckless Uncle Frank. Armitage still makes sure Frank gets enough money to survive, as a way of saying thanks. He paid his way through three years of college on gambling, then dropped out to become a professional. He could be a great rival or ally - and what's Feng Shui without a trip to at least one casino?

Next up: Tommy Donovan, the Detroit journalist. He's Jake Donovan's older brother, and like his brother and his father, he's an alcoholic. Jake always thought Tommy was too interested in fame and money, while Tommy thought his brother was going to go insane. When Jake dropped off the radar, Tommy, one of the world's best investigative reporters, was approached by ATF agents, who claimed Jake was part of a revolutionary group. Tommy knew they were lying...until the two Chinese men came to him, telling him that his brother had died in a righteous cause, and that if Tommy should ever need anything, he should call them. That night, he got abducted by the ATF, interviewed again and threatened. He was shown pictures of Jake with the old Chinese man that had spoken to Tommy the day before as well as the Muslim terrorist called the Golden Gunman. Tommy wasn't sure what was true any more - but he knew one thing. He was going to find out why his brother died, and it'd better be a good reason, or there'd be hell to pay.

Jade McGovern is a thief - a thief who steals from the wealthy for more reasons than boredom. She grew up in Hong Kong, the illegitimate daughter of a British aristocrat who paid her mother a small stipend to keep things out of the news. Jade told them anyway when she was old enough to understand the truth...and she did it by showing up at her legitimate half-sister's debut ball, telling everyone about the circumstances of her birth. It left Jade without purpose...until she transferred her hatred of her father to hatred of the wealthy and privileged. Of course, terrorism wasn't an option, and neither was infiltrating - she didn't want to risk losing herself to privilege. No, she would become the new Robin Hood, stealing from the reach and giving to the poor. (And herself.) Jade is very, very good at thievery, and even better at knowing what to leak to hurt the people like her father. She's had some friendly talks with the Golden Gunman, as she sympathizes with his cause - and besides, the guy pays well and his targets tend to be terrible people she doesn't feel bad about spying on for him. She won't kill, but everything before that? That's just fine. (Fun fact: she has Info: Vile Corporations and Info: Vile Rich People.)

Madam Li Chan is the top of the short list when the rich and famous of Hong Kong need some company. Her clients are the ultra-rich, and her girls live up to the price. She serves ambassadors, government officials, CEOs - and always with beauty, intelligence and culture. Her girls are also some of the best spies in Hong Kong. Sure, people know Li Chan as a high-class madam, but most of her money is from a combination of blackmail and information brokering. Finding out more about Li Chan herself is hard. She came from the mainland in the 70s, but beyond that, her past is a mystery. She looks like she's in her early thirties at most, but she's been around since the 70s....well, who knows the truth? She's been a useful ally to the Dragons in the past, and she knows quite a lot about the Secret War...but her prices are high. And she's as likely to sell anything she learns from you to your enemy as she is to sell their secrets to you. At least she's open about that, though. She claims to have heard nothing about Killdeer, but Kar Fai thinks she knows a lot more than she's saying.

Leo Mahoeny used to be a patriot in Special Forces...right up until Vietnam. He went off to fight and never came back. Deep in the jungles, something changed Leo forever. He won't say who or what, but it turned him into a paranoid sociopath who loved to kill...and it introduced him to the Ascended. Reliable witnesses say he was smuggling heroin for the Triads in the 70s and he was an enforcer for the Jade Lotus Triad in the 80s. He was named the White Devil for his brutality, and by the early 90s he was second-in-command of the Jade Lotus under "Six Fingers" Lao...until Leo learned his boss was part of the Jade Wheel Society. They say it took six days for Lao to die. Few questioned Mahoneye's command of the Jade Lotus, and he's moved them into arms dealing as well as drug smuggling. What the other Triads don't know, though, is that Mahoney is waging a war against the Ascended. He seems to know nothing of their origins or the Secret War, but he knows enough to hit them where it hurts. The Jade Lotus have taken or destroyed several minor Ascended sites in the past year, though Mahoney seems to have no idea why his enemies want them. He's spread his attacks out enough that the Ascended have only just figured out the Jade Lotus has something to do with them, and they still don't know how big a problem Mahoney actually is.

On top of Mahoney's anti-Ascended activity, he sends information and a few guns to the Dragons, and he had some respect going with Mad Dog McCroun. He's had no contact since Killdeer, but there's no reason he wouldn't pick up where they left off. Some might find it odd that a man like Mahoney is on the Dragon's side, sicne he's got no regard for anyone but himself, but his hatred of the Aszcended is even bigger than his self-preservation. Something happened in Vietnam to turn him against them, and it's made him ready to help anyone that's an enemy of the Ascended. Many Dragons don't like taking his help, and some have suggested the it's all an elaborate scheme to infiltrate the Dragons, but so far, Mahoney's help has had no strings attached. He's got a unique schtick, Pain Shot , which makes hi mgreat at causing pain. He can take a full shot to aim any attack, making it a pain shot rather than a killing one. The attack does half damage, but if it hits, named or not, the target gets 2 Impairment for 2 sequences. Robots and other creatures without nerves are immune.

Ho Li Kwan used to be a normal guy. He was your average and totally ordinary person in Kowloon, with average grades, an ordinary job, an ordinary wife and two ordinary kids. He made Deputy Inspector for the Hong Kong Public Works Department, with the job of making sure the sewers ran efficiently. Over 20 years on the job, he came to learn every inch of the tunnels, pumping stations and water treatment plants. He ended up, quite by accident, attuned to several underground feng shui sites thanks to his efficient and orderly running of them. To this day, he doesn't understand it - he just knows when something goes wrong. One day, while investigating one of those hunches, he came face to face with a Buro Abomination...and beat it to death with a pipe wrench. He realized no one would ever believe him - the thing melted, leaving nothing but a foul odor. He'd have to deal with this problem himself.

Ho began training, driven by the knowldge that something out there was threatening his sewers. With months of practice and the help of his feng shui, he became a great shot with many weapons. The next time something popped out of the sewers, he'd be ready. He's killed eight Abominations so far, from scouts to a full cyborg. (It took a lot of explaining to his wife to accept his new uniform getting trashed that time.) He's foiled two Jammer sabotage attempts on his treatment plants. So far, only those two groups have bothered to look for the underground feng shui sites. (Of course, the Guiding Hand and Lotus aren't used to indoor plumbing.) Ho's family suspects nothing of his crusade or his skill with weapons, and he'd lik to keep it that way - they'd have him committedd. His bosses are also in the dark, which is for the best - his direct boss is a Pledged, and if the Ascended ever learned about the sewer sites, he'd be in deep trouble. Ho tells himself that he's just a public servant protecting his place of employment, but in his gut he knows something biger is going on. So far, he's had the luxury of being reactive rather than proactive, but as the conflict escalates, that could change. He's never met the Dragons formally - and, in fact, they only know about him because of one encounter. The Prof and Kar Fai both want to recruit him - he could be very valuable, and he's almost unnaturally lucky. But someone's going to have to talk to him about what's going on, first.

Next time: More Dragons!

I would never do such a thing normally, but he was a hero, and it was how he would have wanted it.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Evil Mastermind posted:

Oh, I'd also like to point out that the particulars about Operation Killdeer were in "Back for Seconds", which was the first actual supplement for Feng Shui. So that part's not as much of a mystery as you might think.

Yeah, almost all the mechanics in Back for Seconds were backed into the Atlas core (except for a handful of schticks) and most of the NPCs get writeups in various books, but the details on Killdeer were made a lot vaguer in this edition. Speaking of which...

Feng Shui: I would never do such a thing normally, but he was a hero, and it was how he would have wanted it.

Next up, Billie Cho. She was just another kid from Kowloon - a petty pickpocket who got thrown out of her own home by her father. It seemed like she'd be on a downward spiral until the day she picked the wrong pocket. She remembers only that the man's knife was at her throat one minute, and the next she was saved by the mysterious and beautiful Ting Ting. Ting Ting told her that if she did not refine her guts into skill, she would die - and so she began to teach Billie the art of kung fu. She also taught the girl right and wrong, and when she was ready, introduced her ot the Dragons. Billie's never looked back. She was with the Dragons for almost five years, growing from awkward teenager to confident young woman, and in all that time, she knew that she would go back home one day and make her parents proud. She'd learned powerful kung fu and was quite a fighter.

Then it all went wrong. The mission was simple and successful - take a Hand feng shui site. However, upon returning home, Billie found that her mission had caused a superficial shift - and she had gone from street punk to musical superstar thanks to lateral reincarnation. That was the good news. The bad news? Her parents had died when she was sixteen. It was too much for Billie to handle. She abandoned the Dragons and the Secret War, decided that what she had caused was too much. She slipped into her new life easily, taking a brief vacation to learn all her songs, and then continued to sell out shows all across Asia. She's been buried in the life of the rich and famous for two years, but none of it seems to matter. She just can't get comfortable - or forget the people she turned her back on. A few months ago, she started to practice kung fu again, then look for her old friends.

Billie was shocked to find that they were either missing or dead. Now, Billie wants answers - but all the old gates the Netherworld that she knows are in Ascended hands. She's been spending lots of money to find out what happened to the Dragons, but all she can find are references to an Ascended project named Operation Killdeer. The situation's been complicated now - a few years ago, Billie's new self apparently had an affair with a Chinese rocker named Lucien, and he wants to restart the relationship. She's been tempted to file a restraining order...but then Lucien started to show up when Billie was looking for the Dragons. The two have fought alongside each other more than once against the Pledged, and Lucien claims it's all just coincidence (just before making a pass). Billie's pretty sure it's more than that. She wants to trust Lucien, but there's smething off about him. Despite that, she's starting to like the guy. Now if he'd just stop being such a pig...

Kang Pao, now...well, when the Ascended gather to remember their greatest hour, the time when they stole history from the Monarchs, they observe a moment of silence for the fallen - a dragon named Kang Pao, who gave her life to save the others as they attuned to the final site. Kang Pao is spoken of only in reverent tones, as a paragon of sacrifice for the cause. Except...Kang Pao's not dead. As she fell to earth, crippled by the thousand assaults on her, she remembered a lesson taught to her by a bear, long ago. She slept, and her allies placed her body in a hidden tomb, and the world changed around her.

When Kang Pao awoke, she was horrified. She remembered the plans for a better world, a world with less magic, but they hadn't been this . She'd feared that the Ascended had lost, but found it was not so. She was told it was the best they'd been able to do. The Ascended also told her to keep her identity secret. She "deserved a rest" - and she was a better symbol dead than alive. Kang Pao wandered for decades, finding good people and wonderful things, but she couldn't escape her sense that a terrible thing had been done in the name of righteousness. One day, she overheard a conversation in a bar - a group of people talking about the world they'd make if it wasn't for the Lodge. This was the passion she remembered...but they were too loud. She could hear the Lodge's minions arriving. She knew they'd take no prisoners.

And so Kang Pao fought, lashing out to allow the others to escape. She joined them later, acting as a mentor and teacher. The Dragons have no idea that their new ally is one of the original Ascended, or that she's an extremely powerful transformed dragon. However, she is conflicted. She doesn't want to face her former allies in battle...and she knows that a return of magic would kill her and all she fought for. She wants the Ascended to face conflict because it will keep them honest - and she wants to hear someone talk about a better world, one she can finally believe in. Kang Pao is quite powerful, but she's very vulnerable to magic - it left her strength reduced, and she has three permanent Reversion points. She also gets affected by magic as through she were modern, despite being ancient.

Oh, and she has a secret enemy: Drago, an Ascended enforcer, who had been told to stand by her in the final battle. When it all seemed lost, Drago fled like a whipped dog. Had he stayed, Kang Pao might not have 'died'. He spent years jsutifying his decision to himself so that he could live with his shame. Kang Pao's return has shattered his illusions. He has several times tried to destroy her, only to bring his own plans to a halt long before they could harm the woman. He's been getting a reputation for instability, and is consumed by guilt. Once, he tried to kill KAng Pao himself, but found his courage deserted him before her. He later killed all the witnesses to that, but realized that he was powerless against Kang Pao - which makes her the most powerful thing he's ever met. And does Kang Pao remember Drago's treachery? Well, sometimes Drago will bite into his food, only to find a live worm in it. That's all the answer Drago needs.

Theodosia Chen was a young girl of Chinese descent in Michigan, raised by her traditionalist grandfather. He told her about simple creatures who, through sheer will, rose above their humble state. After college, Theo found a job writing for an alternative weekly newspaper. Her grandfather died shortly after, and she found that his will contained an odd request. He wanted her to take his ashes home to Hainan. Except the shrine he wanted to go to wasn't on the maps. The keepr was cold and took the ashes only grudgingly. No sooner had Theo left than an explosion rocked the countryside. Theo found shelter, watching a terrifying pitched battle in which the shrine caretakers drove off their strange attackers. Theo snuck back, but took a wrong turn and found herself...somewhere. Later, she reawakened in Hong Kong, wearing different clothes, carrying a gun and with a wallet full of cash. She didn't remember how she got there or what had happened for the past three months, except for brief flashes. What she remembered was a kind face telling her about the Masters their secret war to enslave the humanity they admired. She hadn't wanted to believe, but the evidence was overhwleming. Something had happened in that shrine that had opened her eyes, and she wanted to convince others. She started working as a freelance journalist in Hong Kong, writing about Asian culture in popular articles for Western magazines...and also trying to find the truth.

The Ascended know the truth - but Theo doesn't. Her grandfather was a Rat, and so is she. Unaware of that, she nevertheless uses her hereditary power to make herself a better journalist. The Lodge sees her as a useful pawn, finding leaks that they can seal up. After all, she's never gottne deeper than the lowest level of the Pledged, and she thinks she's onto something big. What they don't know is that Theo has unwittingly found the Architects' plans to capture the Ascended's sites. They dismiss it as fanciful rumor. Theo herself doesn't understand what she's found, and thinks the Architects are a subversive group in the Lodge.

Theo Chen is, thus, a dangerous woman to know. The Lodge are watching her all the time, and few who get useful info from her survive to act on it. She survives only because it's against the rules for a Pledged to harm a transformed animal, so the Lodged clean-up crews deliberately knock her out and carry her to safety. Nonetheless, she's learned a thing or two about several Secret Warriors, and she's got evidence. She'll do just about anything for a good story, and she's no slouch in a fight. Some day, she'll be dangerous, and some of the Lodge know it. The memo orderng her death has already been drafted.

Art Maddox's parents were loyal Lodge members. His father was a Dragon, and his mother was a Bear. Needless to say, Art was a bit horrified to find that someone in the lineage had lied to impress their partner. You see, Art's a Cockroach. He's learned frsthand how brutal the Ascended can be, especially to the 'lesser' animals. Orwell was right - some animals are more equal than others. He knew he was an embarrassment, that he'd never get any higher than the Rats and Spiders and other vermin. He was meant for better things, though. He knew it. He'd prove it.

Art ran away from home, getting himself into every kind of criminality he could find. He knew there were places the Lodge didn't or couldn't get to - and like a good roach, he got in. He made himself useful. And somewhere in there, he stopped caring about what was good the Ascended and started caring about what was good for Art Maddox. Soon after, he stumbled headlong in the Secret War. His father's reports helped - he knew the major players, and that made him useful. He was everything to everyone, a provider of violence, depravity and secrets. Every day is a new chance, and he never worries about the bridges he burns. As long as people need something badly enough, he's open for business. They'll build a new bridge. So, whose side is Art on? Is he mad enough at his family to sacrifice the Ascended? Is it all a ruse to get close enough to another faction to strike a fatal blow? Art's taken to deciding such choices by coinflip - or so he likes to pretend, anyway.

Why are you here, Art? Wasn't this about Dragon-associated folks?

Our final character is Lucien. His parents were some of the first transformed animals (Cranes, if you care), and they made him a shrine guard back in 69 AD, when he was called Lu Shen. He was bored to tears. One day, he found a Netherworld portal, and he was entranced by the possibilities. He found his way to the contemporary era, discovered rock and roll, and fell in love. He abandoned the Secret War to start a rockabilly fusion band that, in a mere two years, made him a household name. The Ascended didn't even mind - they endorsed him! After all, Lucien's very valuable due to his resistence to reversion. Inevitably, though, he grew restless. That was when he headed off to a new juncture: 2056. There, he found a horrible, stifled world. There were a few folks who preferred old-fashioned music, but most music was government-made synthesized crap meant to control emotional responses.

Lucien was discovered as he sought out the traditional musicians...but even sixty years later, his fame lingered. Loyal fans had no idea what to make of his sudden reappearance. They figured he was a clone or reincarnation, sent to save the music. Lucien let them believe - he had a revolution to start. Initially, he approached the Jammers, but their anti-chi stance drove him away, so he started a war based on the principles of sonic anarchy. He and his followers rerouting communications, seized PA systems and coopted satellite feeds. They played raw, old school rock all over - and the Lodge loved it. They know the Architects underestimate Lucien's threat. His kind of freedo mis seductive to an enslaved people, and his fans are dedicated and dangerous - but because they're not bombers or gunmen, the Architects look the other way.

Lucien sitll heads back home every so often, and he enjoys the return to 2056, when his fans will suddenly recall whatever he just finished doing. He doesn't understand the complexities involved and doesn't care. He acts as if both eras were seperate. Eventually, he'll make a big change and regret it, but for now, it works. There's only been one big failure: Billy Cho. He saw her once, at a distance, when she was a thief. Then she got caught up in a critical shift, and he found himself sharing a torrid past with her. Amusing as it was, he'd met the love of his life - and she was reased by a shift. His memory still exists, but she doesn't...and yet. And yet, he finds he loves Billie. After all, he wasn't changed. Events were. Some part of him was in love with Billie the whole time. It took him several months of mind games with Billie to realize why, and how deeply he was in love. He's sure it's too late - that once she learns what he really is, who he really serves, that he's known all along that their 'past' was a lie...well, she'll want nothing to do with him. This hurts even more than the hole left by his vanished lover.

Next time: Being A Better Character.

Roll the dice, pass the chips.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Count Chocula posted:

Could a big enough Junction Shift restore rock and roll to the world?

Absolutely! It'd just also change a lot of other things, some of which you probably won't like and will have to fix. But, you know, that's normal.

Feng Shui: Roll the dice, pass the chips.

The next chapter is Being a Better Player, and it opens with a rather uninteresting essay by Tim Dedopulous on how to get in character and make a character with depth. We then get another essay, this time by Rob Heinsoo and talking about how you should be stunting and doing creative shit with the environment all the time . He is absolutely correct. Then we get Bruce Baugh on martial arts and how to emulate real ones in Feng Shui. For example - Capoeira can be done with the Path of the Empty Bottle, except that instead of drunkenness it requires dance checks. Jeet Kune Do is a max of Paths, but also has a unique schtick: you can reduce penalties for fighting multiple foes by 1, as long as you're fighting alone. Savate is pretty much Hands of Light and Healthy Tiger, maybe some Clever Eye and probably Signature Weapon: Stick.

Western wrestling is Path of the Tightening Coils, almost certainly. Aikido is...quite a few paths, potentially. Escrima is Healthy Tiger, but Escrima fighters get -2 to fighting unarmed; they prefer knives. On the other hand, they can use Hands of Light with knives. (But not unarmed.) Judo and Jujitsu can be done with Passive Wings and Tightening Coils. Karate can do...basically any path. Muay Thai likes Sharpened Scales, Hands of Light and Healthy Tiger. It also has a unique shcitkc that lets Muay Thai fighters combine attacks, acting jointly on the shot of the slowest team member. The one with the highest action value makes the roll, getting +1 for every other fighter to a max of +3.

Pencak Silat prefers a form of Empty Bottle that uses music instead of alcohol. It also does Healthy Tiger and Leaping Storm. (Silat isn't really one style, mind, but a mix of Indonesian fighting styles.) Tae Kwon Do likes Sharpened Scales, Clever Eye and Healthy Tiger. And, of course, you can learn sword schticks! Sword schticks are almost identical to gun schticks. Both Guns Blazing works for swords the same as it does for guns, though the GM can veto you using two claymores or whatever. Carnival of Carnage works exactly the same way, and sword fighters often combined it with fu schticks; we'll learn how to do that later. Eagle Eye only gives range modifier bonuses if you throw you sword. To be fair, sword-throwing isn't as dumb as it sounds. And it does still reduce cover bonuses! Fast Draw works the same way, as does Hair-Trigger Neck Hairs. Signature Weapon works fine. Lightning Reload doesn't apply in almost any circumstance.

We get a new schtick: Verbal Fencing . For every shot a fencer spends doing nothing but defending and mocking his foe, bantering and praising himself, he gets +1 to his next attack, to a max of +3. We also get suggestions on which fu powers might be best for which sword styles. Rapiers like LEaping Storm, Sabres also like it and Sharpened Scales, and...well, Kendo and Kenjutsu don't have a listed fu power tree that they like, but we learn that wooden swords can't do permanent damage. You roll damage normally, but if any of it gets past Toughness, the target doesn't actually take damage but instead suffers 1 Impairment on his next action unless he can incorporate dramatic pain and clutching at the bruised body part into a stunt.

Now we're at Chapter 3: Being a Better Character. We begin with Greg Stolze on Stat Schticks . What's a stat schtick? Well - let's say you have a stat at 11 or higher. Everyone loves big numbers. (No, no, don't protest about how your character concept required it, we don't care, it's fine.) Just like having massive Guns or Fu gives you access to gun schticks and fu schticks, all stats now do that! It's not easy, of course. You need the relevant secondary attribute at 11 or higher. And you (mostly) can't buy these at chargen. And they cost a lot of XP. Specifically, they cost (current secondary attribute score + number of schticks you have for that attribute already) XP. So if you have Magic 12 and a Magic schtick, your next Magic schtick will be 13 XP. Oh, and unless a schtick says otherwise, you can only buy each one once.

What Move schticks are there? Well, there's Monumental Leap . This lets you jump twice your Move, either horizontally or vertically. It takes two shots to use - one to crouch, one to jump. It can't be combined with Prodigious Leap or Abundant Leap. Strength has Shattering Blow . If you parry an attack where your attacker's action result is less than your Strength, their weapon breaks. (If you do this against a ranged weapon, you break the projectile, not the gun or bow.) You can only use this schtick if you've got a weapon that could break theirs, mind - a staff can't break a chainsaw, but a really big club could. If you're parrying an unarmed attack instead, you deal 5 damage to named attackers or nothing to unnamed ones. (Their lives are short enough already.)

Toughness has Tougher Than Leather . Normal unarmed martial arts attacks on you do base damage equal to (Strength+Outcome), without the normal +1 or +2 bonus for punches and kicks respectively. This has no effect on bullets or hand weapons, and the damage can still be improved by fu schticks. Agains the Old Master's unique schtick, you reduce their damage from Strength+6 to Strength+3, and the bonus damage from the Abysmal Spines creature power is halved. Constitution has Ich Bin Ein Bruiser , which gives you the Big Bruiser unique schtick: no Impairment until 40 wound points for -1 and 45 for -2, and no death checks until 50 wound points. It also has Immutable Self . Any time you fail a check that would physically transform you into something other than yourself, you get to make a second check at the same difficulty, this time rolling Constitution. This doesn't let you ignore attacks except from the Transformation and Disease blasts, in which case the attacker has to roll twice, and beat your Constitution instead of your Dodge the second time. But yes, that means a second roll for all Mutation and Reversion checks, as well as the Corruption schtick and anything else that might transform you. Your mind is still vulnerable to magical control or whatever, but your body's damn tough when it comes to magic.

Fortune gets you Double or Nothing . Once per fight (or per scene if there isn't a fight in the scene for...some reason...) then you can do one roll Double or Nothing. Instead of one positive and one negative die, you roll two positive and two negative dice. You can't do this on just any roll, though - it has to be something important. To judge it: are the other players looking at you like you're crazy when you use this schtick? You're using it right. There is no shot cost to use Double or Nothing. Kung Fu has Inner Might , which allows you to dig into your personal power, getting that extra juice when you need it - for a price. At any point in the middle of a fight, you may instantly gain five extra Fu points to spend as you like. However , doing this permnanently reduces your Fu score by 1. If your Fu score drops below 11, you lose this schtick, too. There's no shot cost to use it, though. Kung Fu's also got Dueling Fu . You lock eyes with a foe and the two of you begin pushing your chi at each other. Neither of you can do anything but passively dodge or talk until the duel ends. Every shot until the duel ends, each of you can do one of two things: You can look away, ort you can spend a Fu point. (If your foe looks away on a shot, you don't spend fu.) Whoever looks away first loses the duel. Losing the duel is bad - it costs 3 shots to look away, and the loser can't spend Fu points on schticks targeting the winner for three sequences.

Magic has Aura of Sorcery . This makes your personal magical aura so powerful that it overwhelms the local chi flow, rendering you immune to local modifiers to Sorcery. No matter what juncture you're in, the juncture modifier is always 0, even if it'd be a bonus or penalty. Yes, that means no bonuses, but that's what you get for being so individual. If you spend a second schtick, your personal modifier is always +1. For a third, it's always +2. You can't take more than three. Magic's also got Arcanowave Vibe , which is identical to Aura of Sorcery but for Arcanowave Device checks. Lastly, it has Toxic Karma . Your magic is so strong it leaks out around you, making you very dangerous to transformed animals! Every scene oyu spend in the presence of a tranimal adds one Reversion Point. (The Lodge encourages the Ascended to kill people with Toxic Karma on sight.)

Charisma has Unforgettable . Anyone who has ever met you, even once, even years ago, remembers you. Even if they met you before you took the schtick. Not only do they remember you, they remember you fondly unless you did something that'd specifically piss them off. The person you met wants to help you out, within reason. So that's the benefit for being instantly recognizable in police lineups. This has no effect on someone when trying to make a first impression, though - just meeting them again later. Intelligence has Quick Study , which lets you learn faster; mechanically, that means 1 bonus XP per session. I'm not sure this schtick was a good idea.

Perception has The Holmes Touch . This lets you spend a Fortune die to ask the GM one question. This can let you guess what skills, stats or schticks someone has, or find a way to push the plot along with your deductive power. The GM has veto power, but should give you some kind of clue, based on your superhuman ability to add up insignificant details into accurate deductions. Willpower has Unbreakable Spirit . Each schtick spent on Unbreakable Spirit reduces your Impairment from wounds by 1. So if you have 1 point, you don't take -1 Impairment until you would normally take -2 Impairment. If you take two schticks, you never take Impairment from wounds - you just die when you fail death checks. This doesn't reduce any other Impairment - just from wounds.

Agility gets Catlike Balance . If you take this schtick, you never get any penalty or shot cost penalty due to difficult footing or keeping your balance. You can also walk tightropes without even needing to roll - that's just way too easy for you! Dexterity gets Deflection , which allows you to parry bullets. In fact, you can parry them so great that they bounce back . If you successfully parry a bullet, you roll Dexterity against your target's Dodge. If you succeed, you hit them with the bullet. Deflected bullets do (8+Outcome) damage. You can only deflect a bullet into one opponent - unless you buy Deflection a second time, in which case you can attack two opponents, but only if more than one bullet was coming your way, say due to an autofire burst. Deflection takes 2 shots instead of the standard 1 for a parry. If you have a second schtick, though, it only costs one shot. You can't have more than two schticks in Deflection, and it can never take less than 1 shot to use. Dexterity also has The Perfect Cut . When using an edged weapon, you know how to cut perfectly. All attacks you make with edged weapons deal 1 bonus point of damage, and that point ignores Toughness. In facy, you're so good that you can kill people with a piece of paper. (As long as you're slashing with th edge, paper does Strength+2 damage.) If you buy additional schticks, you get another +1 bonus damage per schtick, but you can't have more than three schticks in The Perfect Cut.

Speed gives you Me First . This lets you roll two dice for Initiative, choosing the highest one. You're that damn fast. It also has Me Too , which lets you forgo rolling. Instead, you go at the same time as whoever rolls the highest - great if you've got a foe who's faster than you, a buddy with Me First or you're just really unlucky. On the other hand, if everyone else is slower, you're probably better off just rolling.

And that brings us to Andy Lucas's new Fu schticks. The first is said to be taught only by someone who masters both Storm Turtle and Leaping Storm, and it's said that only a warrior who has lost everything can learn it. And, in fact, you do need to mix those two disciplines. It's also a very risky power. You see...
Storm's Ebb : Prereqs: Integration of Clouds, Fortress of Righteousness. Chi All, Shots 5. Everyone within 20 meters suffers one point of Damage for each Fu point you spent on this power. Which is all that you had to spend. Neither armor nor Toughness can reduce this damage, but you're now out of fu points until the next sequence...oh, and one more thing. Every time you use Storm's Ebb, you reduce your Kung Fu rating by 1 permanently.

The next power was created by the Jammer master ?Jun Ken Pau, who is currently imprisoned in Buro's nearly impregnable prison Secure Facility #112. Buro's not about to kill the guy until they can figure out how to steal his secrets - see, he never took any students, but his technique is amazing! What is it?
Flight of the Crane : Prereq: Talon of the Crane. Chi 3, Shots 0. You use this on a foe you've grappled via Talon of the Crane. While the foe is grappled, he's immobile unless you move, in which case he moves with you. You can make active dodges and normal attacks while using Flight of the Crane, but not fu powers unless they're from the Path of Passive Wings, otherwise you release your grip. Your foe can break free as with the Talon rules. Flight of the Crane is considered a continuous action, and you may use it against as many foes as you have hands, gripping monkey feet, prehensile tails, tentacles or whatever. Each person you hold with it effectively halves your Movement score.

The next power is one traced back to the legendary Akira Leung. He took two students who, while both were great, became bitter rivals. He was forced to choose one over the other, and the one who was expelled sought out an assassin to address the wrongs. So began a ten-year feud between Leung's dojo and the Serpent's Venom clan of assassins. During that time, Leung expanded on his own experience, teaching students until even the weakest was a great fighter! Ultimately, the training was for nothing, as the dojo was burned and the students slaughtered, but legend says that one student escaped and now lives in anonymity to avoid being killed. But he might still know the Path of Sharpened Scales' ultimate technique!
Luck of the Dragon : Prereq: Claw of the Dragon. Chi 5, Shots 3. You immediately negate all damage from attacks that strike you until the end of the sequence - if you suffer enough Damage to force a Death Check. At the beginning of the next sequence, you are either at 40 wound points or the total you had before you activated Luck of the Dragon, whichever is better. Each time you use Luck of the Dragon, you permanently lower your Constitution by 1.

The next power is said to have been mastered only by a reclusive hermit in the Himalayas. The only way he will teach you is if you beat him in single combat - no easy task! Neither is finding him in occupied modern Tibet, for that matter.
Chained Lightning : Prereqs: Lightning Fist, Rain of Fury. Chi X, Shots All. You attack a foe barehanded. The opponent's Toughness is reduced by X for the purposes of the attack. You then attack a second foe, whose Toughness is reduced by (X-1). You can keep doing this, reducing the Toughness penalty by 1 each time, until you either miss or make X attacks. You can't hit the same foe twice in a row, but may alternate targets.

The next power is known only to the infmaous Teddy "Two Kegger" Russell, last seen in the US Midwest with a gang of bikers. Russell is an experienced drunken master thanks to his gang's many enemies. A particularly bitter rival is the Devil's Lotus, a biker gang that's said to be led by a demon in human form. Hunting out Russell is dangerous - no one's seen the guy in two years, and you'll probably find the Devil's Lotus instead. Russell will only teach someone who can outdrink him - and he's a master of the Path of the Empty Bottle.
Drunkard's Dance : Prereq: Spasmodic Leap. Chi 5, Shots 1. Pick two foes attacking you. They must be able to hit each other. If either foe fails a Perception check, he resolves his attack as if attacking the other foe. If one failed, he attacks his ally. If both fails, they attack each other. If neither fails, both attack you as normal. The difficulty of the Perception check is equal to the number of servings of alcohol you've had in the past six hours. (Remember, one beer is half a serving.)

The only man to know the next power is Chang Ng. He was executed for treason by the Chinese Army in 1850. And 1855. And 1860. And every five years up to 1995. The executions and trials are state secrets, as is the fact that he's had to be executed every five years for centuries. So...good luck finding the guy.
Venom of the Snake : Prereq: Lunge of the Snake. Chi 5, Shots 2. You attack a foe. If you hit and and cause damage, your target suffers several effects until the end of the sequence. First, every action suffers a 1 shot penalty. Second, the target takes 1 wound point ever 3 shots. These effects are cumulative, so you may as well keep laying it on them!

The final power is taught only by a wandering priest in the Netherworld. Of course, he wanders with his wondrous Netherworld palace, carrying the castle with him. The monk who owns the palace will teach anyone - but there's a catch. You can't sleep in his palace, and its constant movement means you have to seek it out each morning. Again.
Eye of the Typhoon : Prereq: Integration of the Clouds. Chi All, Shots Special. You concentrate, stopping chi flow in a 30 meter radius around you. You can do nothing but concentrate on inhibiting fu powers (magic and Fortune dice work just fine). The effects last until the end of te sequence or until your concentration is broken, whichever comes first. Taking Damage or actively dodging breaks your concentration. It's important to note: this prevents all Fu power use, including that of your allies.

Now we move on to Tim Toner's work on new tranimals. After all, the stuff given in the core limited you to certain animals, and maybe you wanted to be a duck. Now you can!

Mantises get +1 Bod, +2 Per, +2 Wil, +3 Ref.
Pincer Strike : Chi 3, Shots 3. You attack a foe barehanded or with a melee weapon. If you hit, you use your current shot value instead of Strength for the damage. Attack sooner for more damage!
360 Vision : Chi X, Shots 1. You get +X to your Perception for the rest of the sequence, which can be used to notice ambushed, invisible foes or surprise attacks. Among other things. It's also great for finding your keys.
Jump : Chi 2, Shots 3. You jump up to twice your Move rating, horizontally or vertically. For every schtick spent in this, the multiplier increases by 2. So two schticks is Move*4, three is Move*6, etc.
Blinding Spit : Chi 6, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack on a foe. If you hit, they go blind until the end of the sequence, taking -4 to all actions. If you spend an exta schtick, your target's effective Armor is halved. A third schtick negates Armor completely.

Cockroaches get +3 Con, +4 Tgh, +1 For, -1 Mnd, -2 Cha, +2 Ref.
Survive : Chi 7 (3 permanently), Shots 4. You ignore all damage you would receive this sequence. Instead, you appear to crumple into fetal position. In fact, you have discarded the husk of your body and your clothes, getting away in the confusion. This allows for some great escapes. However, each time you use it, you permanently reduce your Chi rating by 3. For each additional schtick, this permanent loss is reduced by 1, to a minimum of losing 1 chi permanently per use of Survive.
Chemical Irritant : Chi 3+X, Shots 3. You shoot out a cloud of toxic fumes, forcing all foes within X meters to make a Constitution check against your Chi rating or take 1 Impariment until the end of the sequence. Unnamed characters who fail are considered out of the fight. Each additional foe past the first targeted reduces the difficulty of the Constitution checks by 1, but spending a second schtick on this negates that dilution.
Armor : Chi X, Shots 1. You gain X points of Armor, where X is 8 or less. Every attack that hits you decreases the Armor by 1 for all subsequent attacks, and it goes away at the end of the sequence. No combination of tranimal schticks can give you Armor over 8. For every two additional schticks spent on Armor, the armor lasts for an extra sequence.
Scurry : Chi 2+X, Shots 1. You can disappear as long as there's something to hide behind or under. You make a Will roll with a +X bonus against your target's Perception. This is the last action you can take in a sequence. If you win, they can't see you. Each additional schtick spent on this increases the number of targets affected by 1, to a max of 4 people. You use the highest Perception among the targets as the difficulty.

Dolphins get +2 Mov, +2 Con, +2 For, +2 Mnd, +2 Ref.
Stunning Strike : Chi 3, Shots 3. You make a barehanded attack on a foe. If you hit, they get 1 Impairment for the rest of the sequence as well as the normal damage. An opponent can recover from this strike by doing nothing but passively dodging for 3 shots. This can be used once per sequence on any given foe. Each additional schtick spent on it increases the Impairment by 1, to a max of 4.
Sonar : Chi X, Shots 1. You can see in total darkness out to X meters for the rest of the sequence, or double that underwater. This also negates any attack that would impair your vision.
Swimming : Chi 3, Shots 3. You may swim up to (Move*5) meters. Each additional schtick doubles this, to a max of (40*Move) meters.
Ultrasonic Shriek : Chi 6, Shots 1. You emit a devastating burst of sound. You make a Martial Arts attack on anyone within (Chi rating) meters. If you hit, they take damage equal to (your Constitution*2). All uses of sophisticated hardware, such as most Arcanowave gear, are made at 2 Impairment until the time is spent to fix the equipment. Each additional schtick spent on this gives +2 damage, to a max of +8.

Mallards get +3 Con, +3 Cha, +2 Ref.
Virus : Chi 3, Shots 3. See, Chinese mallards are disease-carrying little fuckers. You make an unarmed attack against a foe. If you hit, in addition to the normal damage, your target gets -1 to all all Action Values derived from Body, Reflexes or the secondary attributes of those primary attributes. This can't be fixed without 24 hours of bedrest, but can't be used more than once on any given foe. Each additional schtick spent on this increases the penalty by -1, to a max of -3.
Perching : Chi 1, Shots 3. You're able to weather anything. Once you set your stance and move no more than 1 meter from your starting position, you take no Continuous Action or Difficulty penalties to maintaining a dangerous foothold. This can be anything from treading water to standing on a flagpole to being on a speeding bus to being on a frayed rope above the Grand Canyon. It's all level ground to you.
Foot Spike : Chi 2, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack against a foe. If you hit, in addition to normal damage, you snag the target. You get +2 to all Martial Arts attacks until the end of the sequence. (I think they meant attacks on the target, not in general, but they don't say.) The target can spend 2 shots to get free (and thus presumably negate the bonus). Each additional schtick spent on this increases the time needed to disentangle by one shot. The schtick isn't cumulative - if you use it twice, you still only get a +2 bonus.
Mandarin Shout : Chi X, Shots 2. You make a bellowing quack that inspires your allies. This creates a pool of X, which your allies spread amongst themselves a Damage bonuses to their next attacks. Each additional schtick increases the size of the pool by 2, to a max of X+6.

Next time: Boars, Salamanders, general animal powers and guns, guns, guns .

Look, the boss said we help you, so we help you. Don't ask so many questions.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Look, the boss said we help you, so we help you. Don't ask so many questions.

We were mid-animals last time! Boars get +3 Bod, +1 For, +3 Wil.
Obscured Strike : Chi 3, Shots 3. You must make a full-out charge at a foe before attacking, spending 3 shots prior to the attack and running your full Move. At the last second, you throw something like sand, cards or papers at your foe and make a Martial Arts roll. If you hit, you get +2 to Damage for the attack and +2 to your Dodge against attacks from that target for the rest of the sequence.
Gore : Chi 5, Shots 3. You make an unarmed attack against a foe. If you hit, in addition to normal damage, the target's Armor goes down by 5 until the item is repaired ot the schtick that made the Armor is renewed. Each additional schtick spent on this gives another -2 to Armor, to a max of -9.
Snuffle : Chi 3, Shots 1. You can attune your sense of smell to a single object, from a person to a specific gun, that you have encountered before. Unless the object is sealed in a vbacuum, it can't be hidden from you. You can detect it if it comes within (Chi) meters. Every additional schtick spent on this doubles the range.
Enraged : Chi X, Shots 3. After you get hit, you can spend X chi, where X is any number up to the amount of Wound points you currently have. Your Strength goes up by X, and your Intelligence goes down by X. You must make an Intelligence check to tell friend from a foe. A second schtick halves the Intelligence penalty, and a third eliminates it entirely.

Bats get +3 Wil, +3 Int, +3 Per.
Echolocation : Chi X, Shots 1. You can see in total darkness out to X meters for the rest of the sequence. You get +2 to any Martial Arts rolls agianst foes unaware of your presence. Each additional schtick spent on this increases the bonus by +2, to a max of +8. This schtick also negates any attack that impairs vision.
Tracking Scent : Chi 1+X, Shots 1. You can mark a target with a potent scent. Marking takes 1 chi point and a succesful Martial Arts check if the target is unwilling. The scent lingers for 24 hours, during which the chi point is not regained. The range of detection is X kilometers. Each use is a difficulty 7 roll to get a rough estimate of distance and direction. Each additional schtick doubles the duration of the power, to a max of 4 days.
Gliding : Chi 6, Shots 4. You can extend your arms and glide for the rest of the sequence. You can move horizontally up to (Move*2), rise up (Move/2) and fall (Move*4). Eahc extra schtick adds (Move*2) to horizontal distance, (Move/2) to upwards and (Move*4) to downwards.
Eviscerating Bite : Chi X, Shots 3. You make an unarmed Martial Arts Attack on a foe. If you hit, you not only deal normal damage but also cripple the foe. For the rest of the sequence, every action they take deals X damage, reduced by Toughness, unless they make a Constitution check against your Chi rating. If your foe does nothing but bind the wound for 3 shots, the damage stops.

Salamanders get +1 Mov, +2 Con, +2 Tgh, +2 Wil, +2 Ref.
Regenerate : Chi X, Shots 1. You may regenerate! You regain X Wound Points, where X is any amount up to your Body score. However, you must also pay 1 Chi point per shot for the next X shots, or the regeneration doesn't take and you get all the Wound points back. You can also recover from loss of limbs - the damage heals right away, and it takes an hour for a small body part (like a hand) to regrow or a day for a full limb. Breaking the spinal cord negates this schtick.
Samandarin : Chi 2+X, Shots 3. You can exude a powerful toxin from your skin. Anyone exposed to it, either from a hand-to-hand strike, contact with your skin or eating an item tainted with the toxin must make a Constitution check against your Chi rating or suffer X damage, in addition to any other damage. The toxin loses potency within a minute away from your body. Alcohol renders it ineffective, and it turns pink in water. Each additional schtick gives -1 to the target's Constitution check, to a max of -5.
Heat Resistance : Chi 7, Shots 4. You get +5 Toughness when resisting fire damage. Uou get +3 Toughness against all attacks that "burn", including energy weapons, radiation and acid. When this power is used, all reactions that generate hit within (Chi) meters are dampened. Cigarettes go out, lights dim, car engines start knocking. Each additional schtick increases both Toughness bonuses by +2, but you can't take more than three schticks of Heat Resistance.
Footpads : Chi 3, Shots 1. Your hands and feet exude mild adhesive, letting you scale walls and ceilings for the rest of the sequence. Your Speed is limited to your Move rating so that you always remain in contact with the surface, or else you fall. You adhere to objects with a Strength equal to your Chi rating.

There are also General Schticks now, which any transformed animal can take as long as it somehow pertains to the animal. These are:
Predator : Chi 3, Shots 1. You're high on the food chain. For the rest of the sequence, everyone that can see you gets -2 to all Charisma-based skills when dealing with you unless their Willpower is equal to or greater than your Chi. You can't have this and Prey.
Prey : Chi 3, Shots 1. You're low on the food chain. You become hyper-aware of the world around you and the threats in it. When you are threatened, the GM rolls a Perception check against your foe's Intelligence to see if you notice. The ffective range of this sixth sense is (Chi) meters, and it produces only a general feeling of danger. Intentionally wlaking into danger negates the schtick. Each additional schtick spent on this gives +2 to your Perception check. You can't have this and Predator.
Fu Advantage : Chi 4, Shots 1. Animals are naturally good at kung fu that draws on their own nature, as those styles were designed to emulate them! New fu schticks based on your animal side (so Healthy Tiger for Tigers, for example) cost you (2+X) xp. In addition, anyone using a Path based on your animal type gets -1 to roll against you unless they are also a transformed animal of your type.
Doolittling : Chi 2, Shots 1. You can recall the language of your animal cousins. It is an Intelligence check to talk to your kin, and they tend to be pretty dumb and unlikely to do anything harmful to themselves. Still, you can talk to them. Each additional schtick widens the animals you can speak to - Monkeys to Primates, or Primates to Mammals, for example.
Hibernate : Chi Special, Shots Special. You can go into suspended animation. You appear dead, but do not require food, water or air. Violence will kill you as easily as if you were sleeping, though, so be somewhere safe. While asleep, your wounds heal, your mind is rested and you become immune to Reversion, no matter how magical the environment. When you enter Hibernation, you name a specific trigger that will awaken you - passage of time, the local penalty to Magic reaching a certain level, or even someone entering the are your body is stored in. When you awaken, you feel as though you are coursing with chi, but your body still needs time to reawaken. You have full Chi, but it regenerates at a rate equal to the number of hours since you awakened - so one hour after waking up, you only regain 1 chi per sequence, for example. Awakening in a feng shui site reduces the hours to minutes. After awakening, you can't re-use Hibernate for (Chi rating) days. The maximum time you can Hibernate is based on how many Schticks you have in it. Base is one week, then up to month, year, decade, century and millenium.
Pheromones : Chi 3, Shots 1. You've learned to adapt your animal biochemistry to the human brain. You get +2 on all social checks against those who find your gender appealing, though you may enrage those who see you as encroaching on their territory. Each additional schtick raises the bonus by +1, to a max of +5.
Latency : Chi 3, Shots 1. Animal genes are weak in you. If you were born in any juncture but 69 AD, you make REversion checks as though from 69 AD. Each additional schtick gives +1 on Reversion checks. Spending an additional schtick also lets you temporarily 'jiggle' your DNA, making DNA identification nearly impossible.

Now, guns by Andy Lucas. We get a long list of even more guns, including the Luger, the Sterling , the Steyr AUG and sniper rifles! Sniper rifles can't be used under 10 meters away, as they're too big and awkward. Trying to use 'em against a close, moving target gets a -3 penalty. However, they halve all other range modifiers. And they tend to do really, really good damage.

More importantly, though, new Gun Schticks from Andy and Greg Stolze. We get Cover Fire , which lets you shoot wildly at up to five characters. If you roll higher than the highest Dodge among the group, you do no Damage but force all of them to act one shot later. If you have two schticks in this, you delay them two shots instead. Sadly, you can't get more than two schticks in Cover Fire. And yes, this takes five bullets. You still only need 3 shots of time in the sequence, but you fire five times. If you have autofire, you can target up to 8 people with six bullets. If you're using a Buro Godhammer, you can empty the five-shot clip to get the autofire bonus. God is dead, and we have his hammer: cool names have power .

10,000 Bullets makes you an expert at fighting groups. You take no penalty to attack two people at once. No bonus against single targets, mind you. If you take a second schtick in this, you can attack three people without penalty. You can't get better than that, though. On the other hand: between this and Carnival of Carnage, you could pretty easily take down 30+ mooks in a single sequence, as long as you have enough ammo. Concealed Weapons lets you hide a gun anywhere . It was apparently inspired by the Negativland song "Guns: Now" and for each sthicks in it, you reduce the Concealment of all guns you're carrying by 1. You can't reduce Concealment below 1 and carry an infinite number of guns, though. For each additional schtick you spend, you reduce the Concealment by another 1, still to a minimum of 1, but you can't spend more than 3 schticks in this. The original name for this was 'Where the Hell Did That Gun Come From?' but apparently it wouldn't fit on the sheet.

Dismantle Gun makes you an expert at field-stripping weapons in combat. When they're being used on you. If you have this schtick, you may use Guns instead of Martial ARts in hand-to-hand combat, but only when targeting a foe's gun. If you hit, you grab, twist and pull the weapon so that it is either jammed, emptied or otherwise made non-deadly. Field-stripped guns take 8 shots to reassemble. Each additional schtick gives +1 to the roll, and if you have 3 or more schticks, you make a second check to see if a dismantled gun is permanently damaged. This has no effect on hand-to-hand weapons, and presumably Signature Weapons can't be permanently damaged. Shoot Weapon is like Eagle Eye, except it specializes in shooting weapons out of hands. Each schtick in Shoot Weapon gives +1 to attacks targeting the foe's weapon. A successful hit disarms the foe, possibly destroying the weapon. You get +1 to any Intimidation roll made immediately after a succesful disarm. Each additional schtick in this adds +1 to the Intimidatiob bonus, too.

Bullet Storm is all about shooting lots of bullets. It requires a fully automatic weapon, and it costs you all your remaining shots. While using Bullet Storm, you can't actively dodge and can't target any specific foe. Your attack is to distract, not harm. Sparks, cement shards and wood splinters fly up everywhere. At the end of the sequence, your clip is empty, but you won't run out until then. Each schtick in this gives all of your foes -1 to attacking, regardless of whom they're targeting. They get no dodge penalty. Additionally, all unnamed attackers must make a Willpower check against your Charisma or be forced to actively dodge the shot you open up with Bullet Storm on. Bullet Storm never hurts anyone. Ever.

Now, Andy Lucas gives us some new Arcanowave Devices, some of which are not purely made by the Buro! We get the Gun Eye , a small tube housing a living demon's eye in an ARB casing. It has a number of sticky legs that let you fasten it to any gun barrel, and a coaxial cable to plug into an AI/O port. It takes 3 shots to activate the Gun Eye, and it lets you use the Arcanowave Device skill in place of Guns. Additionally, a Gun Eye can be fired around corners without leaving cover, as you see through the eye. This gives +1 to any cover bonus. Finally, you can detach it from a gun and use it to look around corners or into holes. It can move slowly and silently, and the cable stretches out up to ten meters at full extension.

The Resin Cord means your body has been modified with some glands attached to a dedicated subdermal AI/O port, usually in the forearm. Wherever they are, a small mouthlike aperture oozes spectral resin on command, forming a viscuous substance. This stuff can either harden instantly or remain slack and sticky until it dissolved. You choose how fast it extrudes and what consistency. Thick bars can be made, or strands that serve as ropes or whips. There's plenty of uses for this, limited only by your imagining. A 3 meter rope might take 3 shots to make, while a 1 meter pole takes 1 shot. A sticky immobilizing mass takes 3 shots per target. The resin lasts for (Magic) hours and has Strength equal to your Strength. Yes, it's Spider-Man's webslinger. And yes, you can put it anywhere you want - the forearm is just most common.

The Resin Projector is a huge backpack covered in arcane sigils, and it's full of ectoplasm. A house mounted on a rifle stock attaches to it. You open and close an iris connecting the rifle to the backpack with a large lever. Pulling it open makes a thin stream of ectoplasm shoot up to 40 meters. This then hardens into cords of resin with a consistency equivalent to steel within 6 shots. If the resin is washed off or cleared away in that time, it has no effect. After that, the target is immobilized, with a difficulty 12 Strength check to break three. The resin shatters after 13 wound points. Opening the valve all the way makes a great volume of resin shoot out 10 meters. A target hit by this must make an active dodge or be encased. After six shots, if the good is not removed, the target is not only immobilized but suffocating. It is diff 20 to break out, diff 12 to make a breathing hole. The resin shatters after 25 wounds. Discarding clothes is a great way to remove the ectoplasm, which makes this very popular with Jammers, who love to embarrass te Buro.

Helix Mines are a discarded offshoot of the Helix Ripper. The original intent was a weapon disrupting the target's chi. IT soon became obvious that this was more useful against Buro troops than the Jammers and Guiding Hand it was usually used on. It was originaly meant to detonate when it detected the chi-deadness of certain Jammers, but that made it blow up when none was around. Those designed to fire when Fu powers were used had little practical use - most Fu powers meant the foe was too close for a mine to be safe. The Jammers have made Helix Mines that go off when they detect either arcanowaves or demons. They're the size of a manhole cover and made of thick ARB. Titanium handles fold out of the to, but it takes a combined Strength of 15 to carry one. Once positioned, it is activated when it detects an active AI/O port or Creature Power within 3 meters. It then levitates into the air, spins and fires bolts of magic which go off every 3 shots and hit everything in 10 meters. These are rolled using the owner's Arcanowave Device power, with no penalty for multiple targets. They are Damage 10. The Helix Mine can be deactivated by removing all arcanowave tech within 1 meter of it or by turning it over and hitting a convenient switch. Before being planted, the Helix Mine must be charged. Each sequence it spends charging is one it can spend firing. And yes, the user can set the thing off just like anyone else.

The Blink Suit was invented by the Jammer Professor Powerhouse in an attempt to make a teleporter. It is a man-sized, sarcophagus-shaped booth and a form-fitting bodysuit with ARB receivers in it. The sarcophagus receives, transports and charges the suit. Theoretically, the blink suit lets you step in and out of reality, letting you get an advantage in combat as well as teleporting back to safety if needed. In practice...well, it interacts unpredictably with the Netherworld. You roll 1d6 each time it activates. On a 1-2, you become Insubstantial as per the Creature Power for 1d6 shots. On a 3-4, you teleport back to the charging station in 1d6 shots. On a 5, you teleport to a random location in the Netherworld in 1d6 shots. On a 6, a random body part becomes intangible for 1d6 shots. To tell what'll happen, you make a difficulty 10 Aranowave Device roll when the suit activates. It takes 5 shots to activate the suit, and 1 shot to deactivate it if you get a result you don't want.

The Binder Grinder is a vile weapon developed due to a group of Lotus sorcerers plagued by "Fugglies", a type of evil spirit made of tentacles, fangs and intestines. The Lotus found that they could trap the demons in small tubes of steel, if the tube was prepared properly. Once released, the creatures spring out at a very fast rate, attacking the first thing they touch. Gao Zhang loved the idea of shooting them at people, and made a rifle using the demon in place of a cartridge. Eventually the Lotus discarded the idea as foolish and impractical, but the Jammers somehow got their hands on the plans. The rifle looks like a large-bored musket covered in magic sigils and ARB. There's a top-feeding magazine that can hold three rounds. You fire with Arcanowave Devices, and when the round hits, it does damage until the Fuggly is pried off the target. They are Strength 4 and deal 8 damage per shot until dislodged.

The Finder requires no AI/O port, unlike most devices. It comes in many shapes, but it is always made of ARB and about the size of a small valise. To use it, you open it and connect the siphon tube to someone's vein. The Finder uses the operator's blood to feed a small spirit inside it. Dependingo n the amount of blood and the user's skill, it can locate and even identify arcanowave technology near it. It is simple to operate but has no safeguards to make it stop siphoning blood. The operator rolls Constitution against the Magic rating of any creature using arcanowave tech within 10 kilometer.s If the check succeeds, the user takes only 1 Wound point. A failed check deals (5+Outcome) damage. Either way, the user can sense the closest arcanowave source. With a succesful Arcanowave DEvice check against the source's Arcanowave Device skill, more information can be gotten. With Outcome of 1, vague direction. 2-3, a general impression of what the device does ('attack', 'defend', 'gathers information', etc.). With 4-5, a sense of how many devices the target has and what each does, roughly. 6+ gives a vision of the target and total knowledge of all of their devices.

Next time: Rules for Techies to make shit. Also, spy gadgets.

Once a Dragon, always a Dragon. I know that now.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Count Chocula posted:

Would it break anything if you hacked this into 7th Sea?

Probably not, if it was universal.

Feng Shui: Once a Dragon, always a Dragon. I know that now.

Hal Mangold presents us with rules for the one thing Techies love to do even more than fix stufF: make stuff. Now, there's some ground rules, first. Anything a Techie creates is going to be ugly. These aren't sleek, ergonomic machines - they're masses of wire, plastic and duct tape. They work, but they don't look good doing it. Second, anything a Techie makes has to obey scientific laws. (Insofar as these apply to an action movie, anyway.) The items ain't magical - that's for Arcanowave stuff. Basically, these things have to make sense as things you put together.

Now, the first thing to do when making something? Decide what you want. Maybe you want a gun made of car parts, or a machine that fires exploding balls. Okay! Now you tell the GM. He picks a Complexity for it. Simple mechanical devices are Complexity 5. Average ones are 7. Sophisticated mechanical devices or simple electronic ones are between 10 and 15. Complex electronic devices are 20. Incredibly sophisticated tech is 25 and can't be made outside 2065. The materials just aren't available. You then get a modifier based on the circumstances. If you have a relaxed work environment and all the stuff you need, that's +0. Distractions but all the proper stuff is +5. Relaxed work with limited parts is +10. Distractions and limited parts? +20.

After that , there's a Juncture modifier. After all, you just can't find the stuff you need to make a gun as easily in 69 AD as 1996. And the more magic-receptive a place is, well, it turns out they tend to be less hospitable to technological tinkering. In 69 AD you get a +6 modifier to Complexity. n 1850, +4. The modern era is +0 as the baseline. In 2056, Complexity gets a -2 because there's so much high technology around, and in the Netherworld it's -2 because the Netherworld itself warps to accomodate your vision.

So, now you have the total Complexity, which is the Difficulty of the Fix-It roll to make the thing. However, there's some ways to modify it further. The first way is by jury-rigging the device - cutting corners on design and so on. This makes it so that whenever you use the thing or turn it on, you have to make a Fix-It check (or a Mind check if you don't have Fix-It) with a Difficulty equal to half the thing's Complexity. Failure means the device doesn't work this sequence. Jury-rigged devices get -2 Complexity and take half the time to build. You can go further with this and make the thing fragile instead. This has the same roll for use - but if you fail, the device breaks. Then it takes a Fix-It roll at the device's original Complexity to fix it, and you can't make the roll in combat. Fragile is -4 Complexity and still half build time.

Beyond that is volatile. A volatile device works like a fragile one...except when it breaks, you have to make a Fortune check against the builder's Mind score. If you fail, the device isn't just broken, it fails spectacularly. The effects are left to the GM's imagination, but it probably shouldn't kill anyone - just inconvenience them, embarrass them and deprive them of the device. (Why the builder's Mind score? The most sophisticated science is the most dangerous.) Volatile is -6 Complexity and still half build time. You can also make a device easier to build by making it bigger. Bigger parts are easier to work with! Doubling the size of a device gives -2 Complexity, but doubles build time. You can double the size of a device at most three times.

You can also lower Complexity by making a device one-shot. (Of course, this doesn't work for already one-shot items like explosives.) This gives -10 Complexity and halves construction time. Of course, you can combine all this - to make, say, a double-size, volatile radio that works once. If you make the Fix-It check to use it, it works. Once. If you fail, well, it might explode. If you have the time and patience, you can also ty to make a device better. You can try to miniaturize, making something more concealable. (Within limits - a gun the size of a cockroach won't be doing much damage.) Each halving of a device's size is +2 Complexity. You can also try to combine devices, so you have a gun that doubles as a blender. The construction time on this is equal to the sum of the construction time for all items, and each device involved adds +4 Complexity. (To each item, if building them all - so a gun-blender-radio gets +8 Complexity to all parts.)

Build time is...actually rather unimportant. It's a noncombat activity (usually - the GM can make exceptions for drama), and either you have the time to do it or you don't. How long any device takes to make is up to the GM. If the GM says there's not enough time, oh well. Once you've got this all done, you make your construction roll and describe the building montage. And you have to describe it. If you are particularly cool, the GM is encouraged to reduce the Complexity of the device.

Hal Mangold continues writing, now about spy gadgets . Techies aren't the only ones to get cool toys. And unlike techie devices, spy gadgets are always cool-looking, sleek and top-of-the-line. They always have a Concealment of 1 or less unless it'd interfere with the use of the device. (Sometimes you want big and scary.) This doesn't reflect size, but rather that your grappling gun might look like an umbrella, or your grenades look like buttons on your coat. At the start of every scenario, a spy gets a number of gadgets equal to their highest Action Value divided by 5, rounding down. However, the GM picks which gadgets they get. The spy might want a particular one, though - and so they can name one device per scenario with Complexity less than or equal to their highest Action Value. If they want something harder, they can spend a Fortune die and roll their highest AV, with Difficulty equal to the device's Complexity. If they succeed, they get the device (and a warning not to break it). This can be used to get additional specific gadgets, and you can try it as many times as you're willing to spend Fortune Dice.

But don't break the device. You see, you have to return all this stuff at the end of the scenario. If you don't, then for each gadget you don't return, you get one less gadget next time. (Sane GMs will make exceptions for stuff like explosives.) Now, what's available? Let's take a look! Pen Guns are tiiiiny little guns that are undetectable by practically anything - even x-ray scans! Some versions shoot darts instead of bullets. The darts do no damage, but can be used to deliver...just about anything you might want to get into the target's bloodstream. These things can't fire at anyone outside close range, though. They are Complexity 10-12. Then there's the Garrote Watch - a watch whose winding stem is actually connected to a reel of piano wire inside the watch! When pulled out and wrapped around the neck of an unsuspecting mook, the mook goes down, period. Against named characters, it does Strength+4 damage for the first attack. However, in both cases, you have to sneak up on the target. Complexity 8.

The Bola Tie looks like a normal (non-bow) tie, but it is heavily weighted at each end for throwing. In the hands of a skilled spy, it can entangle or disarm foes! A successful hit gives the target a one shot penalty to all actions until they spend 2 shots to disentangle themselves, and it can also be used to disarm people. Complexity 4. Bladed Boots are boots which, when you click the heels together, sprout a four-inch blade from the toe. These make devastated kicks, which deal Strength+3 damage instead of Strength+2. These are Complexity 6 (because the blade retracts - attaching a knife to your boot just takes some tape). Stungloves are a pair of ordinary driving gloves containing wires bearing 50,000 volts of electricity. They're not quite as nasty as a full taser, but they're definitely unpleasant. When someone is hit by a stunglove, they roll Toughness, difficulty 10, in addition to any normal damage. Unnamed characters who fail the roll are taken out, and named characters get 1 Impairment for the rest of the sequence, which is cumulative up to 3 Impairment from stunglove hits. All Impairment from the stungloves fade at the end of the sequence, and the gloves have a battery good for 10 shocks. Complexity 14.

Mini Grenades are...well, three kinds of tiny, tiny grenades. The first kind of just explosive ones. They use the explosion rules in the core. Flashbangs knock folks silly instead of blowing them up. They do half the damage of normal grenades, but anyone in the blast has to make a Toughness check, Difficulty 15. If they succeed, nothing happens. If they fail...well, named characters take a point of Impairment for (Outcome) shots. Multiple grenades just extend duration. Mooks, well - their next action gets pushed back (Outcome) shots, to a max of 3. If you don't want any of those, there's option 3: gas grenades. One gas grenade will fill a roughly ten foot cubic area, and they usually have tear gas. That forces everyone in the gas cloud to make a Constitution check, difficulty 10. Failure gives 1 Impairment for the rest of the fight, and you have to make the check every shot you're in the gas. This can max out at 4 Impairment. Don't get 4 Impairment . You can also load gas grenades with other gases, like knockout gas or even lethal stuff like nerve gas. (Nerve gas is for bad guys! Don't fill your grenades with it!) If a techie wants to make full-size grenades, the Complexity listed here goes down by 6 - doubling the size three times, you know. Frag and flashbang mini-grenades are 15, gas are 18. Smoke grenades, which just provide smoke cover, are 16.

Electronic Lockpicks help bypass electronic locks! They can get through just about any electronic lock, but it takes them 2d6 shots. Complexity 15. Grappling Guns shoot a hook. Low-complexity ones need to grapple onto something, while high-complexity ones can bite into smooth surfaces! Some may also have motors to help pull you up. Complexity 10-15. Video cameras range in size from briefcases to palm, and they can either take still pictures or (usually monochrome) video. They are also usually hooked up to a retransmitter sending the pictures or videos to a safe location with a recording device. Complexity 14. Bugs are the same with audio, but smaller. More sound quality and range, more Complexity. Low end is a room or two away, high end is miles away. Finding a bug is easier than planting one - as long as you've got a Bug Scanner of higher complexity than the bug. Bugs are Complexity 8-16. Lastly, Tracking Devices - plant one on someone and you'll be able to track them! As long as it's undetected, you have no problem tracking the target. Complexity is based on range. A few hundred feet is Complexity 8, while a few hundred miles is 16. Most are in between.

Bruce Baugh now gives us Sorcery Combinations . This is for combining Sorcery schticks to do stuff that isn't normally covered. The first way to do it is Crude Improvisation . To do this, you try to use two or more schticks at once. This gives -1 to the roll for each schtick after the first. You then spend the necessary Chi and time, casting each spell in turn but suspending the effects so that they all go off at once when the last one finishes. Having one spell roll work but the others fail tends to make for interesting and messy challenges. But with a little work, you can get Better Improvisation . First, you work out what schticks you want to combine, taking 3 shots and making a Sorcery roll with Difficulty equal to the highest Difficulty of any component, +1 per schtick after the first. If you fail the roll, go back to Crude Improvisation.

Success means you work out how to synthesize the spells. Casting time is 3 shots, plus 1 shot per schtick after the first. Difficulty is the same as the preparation roll. If the synthesis includes two or more shcticks that deal damage, damage is dealt by Both Guns Blazing rules - that is, (Damage of each schtick added together) - (target's Toughness*2) + Outcome. Once you've pulled this off, you can make that particular combination permanent! You have to use the combination in play first, and then you can spend (16+X) XP, where X is the number of schticks involved after the first. A learned combination has no casting time or Difficulty penalties, and continues to do damage as above if appropriate. However, these combinations are very personal and can't be taught to others. Let's see some examples.

The Terrible Cauldron Tunnel : Blast (Acid) + Movement (Flight). You use Acid to dissolve your body. Next shot, you reconstitute yourself in the bottom of any large container of blood, acid or other unpleasant fluid. The containerm ust have at least seven gallons in it, and it takes six shots to reform, during which the liquid bubbles vigorously. Anyone looking in sees your eyes peering out, as they form immediately. After six shots, you can leap out and fly as normal with Flight, your body coated in whatever you moved into. The target liquid must be in your line of sight when you destroy yourself with Acid. Your body rebuilds itself even if the container is dumped, but in that case it takes 3 extra shots to finish.

Devouring Hell Weapons : Blast (Conjured Weapons) + Blast (Fire). You create flaming weapons! All consequences of both effects apply - so your spear might pierce armor and ignite the flesh within! (Combining Blasts is easier than normal, by the way. You just take a -2 penalty and cast a single spell. If you succeed, it does normal damage with both special effects. You go more complex than that if you want the Both Guns Blazing damage.)

The Eyes of Fire : Blast + Divination (Revelation). You shoot your vision along any kind of blast. Anyone who looks at the leading edge of the Blast (not necessarily easy) sees a pair of stylized eyes riding in front. The eyes can either be pitch black or glow with an unholy flame in the color of your choice. You see through them as if present physically, with all limitations of your normal vision. This gets overlaid over your real vision, and makes anything that takes close attention, such as fighting, have +2 Difficulty. The Eyes of Fire lasts at least one sequence, and then either as long as the Blast's special effect does or until the sorcerer makes the eyes close at any point after the first sequence, whichever comes first.

Next time: More combination powers!

Tell me what you want stolen, and what's between me and the target, and I'll get it for you faster than cop on black.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Tell me what you want stolen, and what's between me and the target, and I'll get it for you faster than cop on black.

Yeah, I don't know why anyone thought that was a good idea for a character quote.

More sorcery combination examples!
Words in Fire : Blast (Fire) + Divination (Prediction). You peer into the future, seeing some circumstance involving the reading of a manuscript you own - it might be a time of day, a place or a quality of a reader. Whetever it is, that becomes the trigger for a Blast implanted in the manuscript. The first reader to fulfill it becomes the target for the blast. The wait is up to one day at Difficulty 6, a month at 9, a year at 12, your lifetime at 15 and forever at 18. If the time limit runs out before the Blast is triggered, it goes off then.

Sky Full of Knives : Blast (Conjured Weapons) + Movement (Flight). You create a stream of knives, arrows and spears all heading in the same direction. Then, as a difficulty 3 task (if the GM wants you to roll at all), you jump up on them and run along the tops. You must move at least half your Move each sequence, or risk falling. (Diff 6 if you've moved at least a quarter of your Move rating, 12 if less than that.) You can grab one or more weapons for melee use - and if you do, when the Blast ends, those will remain instead of dissolving like the rest, until you let go of them. Some sorcerers add Movement (Speed) to the combo to run across weapon bridges really fast.

The Wasting Death of Body and Soul : Blast (Disease) + Fertiliaty (De-Attunement). The De-Attunement starts as soon as the Disease damage manifests. Each point of Impairment from the disease reduces by 1 the nbumber of feng shui sites you can reattune to. Magical healing does not re-attune you, but will allow you to get all the sites back by going through the reattunement process.

Traitor's Hell Strike : Blast (Ice) + Weather (Snow). This is often learned from demons of icy hells or the Yeti. As you make your ice Blast, every damp spot in the area freezes and unleashes fountains of snow. If it's already snowing, it becomes a whiteout blizzard. Wet environments are more snow than dry ones, but even in a desert, the chill will draw out moisture from cracks in rocks and even the tear ducts of bystanders.

The Fist of Heaven : Blast (Lightning) + Weather (Thunder). This requires storm clouds to be in the area. When you use it, a hole opens in the clouds, thunder rolls and then lightning blasts forth in a giant and distinctly fist-shaped form. You can combine this with other Blasts to get even more wrath, likely to terrify everyone nearby.

The Blessing of Correct Insight : Divination (Warning) + Fertility (Restore Chi). You make an attack on the spiritual evil of the area, past and present. Your Restore Chi effect asts as long as the Warning marks remain in place. The boundaries of the area pulse brightly whenever unhealthy chi intrudes. Warning marks that remain intact for weeks or more may, at the GM's discretion, cancel out negative feng shui in the area. A sorcerer wanting to make a point about the dangers of trespassing might add Fertility (De-Attunement), too.

The Flight of the Celestial Turtle : Blast (Fire) + Movement (Flight). You draw your arms and legs into the folds of your robe or other clothes - and you need roomy clothes for this. That's because jets of fire with cumulative damage equal to that of Blast shoot out of the sleeves and pant-legs. You spin rapidly and can fly in any direction, remaining in motion for one hour per point of Magic...but as soon as you extend a hand or foot, the flames stop and you drop to the ground. Obviously, you can't do any manipulation or even heavy lifting while flying around like a giant rocket turtle.

The Righteous Deception of Devils : Influence (Illusions) + Summoning (Exorcism). Exorcism works as normal. The Illusions are specific, though: they convince the monster they're still in control of the victim. The monster says the real situation overlaid with pleasing illusions, taking a penalty to all actions equal the Outcome of this spell combo for the rest of the sequence.

The Flowers of Evil : Fertility (Growth) + Summoning (Corruption). You unleash the power of darkness on the plant world. The target plants grow as per Growth, but they also become unwholesome. Fruit rots, sap is tainted and poisonous, colors are either bleached and dead or unnaturally vivid. The plants often sway in a nonexisted breeze or blindly feel around if something moves nearby. Supernatural creatures who use the Corruption bonus find plants of some kind growing around them, though the plants don't hinder them. The plants wither and die within minutes after Corruption wears off.

Now, some new special effects! Blast gets Tentacles : You attack via writhing tentacles either from your body or te air. They can grab just about anything that isn't nailed down and will stick to their targets. If you choose to keep attacking a target, you get +1 to your Sorcery rating for that purpose for each sequence of sustained grappling, to a max of +2. Extended grappling makes it hard to change targets, though - it takes an extra shot and a -2 penalty to make the first attack on a new target. Some sorcerers withdraw their tentacles when stopping the attack, while others let them fall off, or cut them off. The tentacles can be anything from inhumanly extended hair to tongues to fingernails or whatever you like.

Divination gets Scrying : You prepare a reflective surface and stare into it, seeing events happening elsewhere right now. A mile away is diff 7, 5 miles is 10, 25 is 13, 125 is 16, and it's +3 for every further multiplication of 5. +3 to Difficulty if you have only a limited acquaintance with your target, or +6 if you need to rely on the accounts of others, pictures or other sources. The Scrying lasts for (Outcome) turns, during which you can see the target clearly and hear sounds faintly, as if muffled. Targets make a Chi roll against your Magic; success means they feel they're being watched.

Movement gets Stillness , allowing you to balance in any position for (Outcome) shots. Particularly tricky positions may give +3 or more Difficulty. Efforts to tell you are anything but a statue have Difficulty equal to your Sorcery. You can creep along at one meter per sequence for (Outcome) sequences and avoid all motion sensors and the peripheral vision sense of movement of most people.

Now, mixing sorcery and fu or gun schticks. It's not as easy as combining different types of sorcery, but it can be done. You start with Crude Improvisation . First you do the sorcery schtick as normal, but with a -1 penalty for holding it at bay while you get the gun or fu schtick ready. Then you do the gun or fu schtick, but at -2 since you have to divert your attention to maintaining the magic. The spell goes off at the moment you complete the other schtick. Once you've done that at least once, you can try Better Improvisation . With that, you begin to merge the schticks together. The time it takes to invoke them all is the sum of their shot costs, minus 1. The Difficult is the highest Difficulty involved, plus 3 per schtick involved. Each use of the combination reduces the Shot cost and Difficulty by 1, down to the shot cost of the longest schtick involved, plus 1 per extra schtick, and a Difficulty of the most difficult schtick involved, plus 1 per extra schtick. Each attack does damage seperately, and you reduce the Outcome of each attack by 1 for each attack involved after the first.

Once you've mastered the Better Improvisation version of the schtick, you can spend (16+X) XP to make it permanent, where X is the number of schticks beyond the first involved. A learned combination has no extra casting time or difficulty penalty and does damage the same way as above. As with combined sorcery schticks, you can't teach them to others. Let's see some examples!

The Wheel of Soul Strikes : Carnival of Carnage + Fertility (Steal Chi). You spend a Magic point to cause a negative die's penalty on all victims injured by Carnival of Carnage. The penalty lasts as long as you concentrate on the victims and for one shot after you stop.

The Frank Persuader : Both Guns Blazing + Summoning (Domination). You take the Both Guns Blazing Outcome and apply it as a bonus to your Magic for purposes of Domination. Usually, you do it with enchanted bullets engraved with special sutras, but force of will and lead will work just fine.

Celestial Lightning Reload : Lightning Reload + Weather (Any). During each shot normally used for reloading that your Lightning Reload cancels out, Weather produces dramatic manifestations. Most prefer Lightning as a sort of "heavenly tracer", but others like thunder or wind. Any Weather effect can work here, but each is a seperate schtick.

Night Storm : Path of the Shadow's Companion (Blade of Darkness) + Blast (Conjured Weapons). You conjure a Blade of Darkness, and on the next shot fire a blast of darkness weapons.

The Prodigious Fang : Path of the Sharpened Scales (Bite of the Dragon) + Blast. You have to actually bite the target when using Bite of the Dragon, and a Blast erupts from your mouth, doing its own regular Damage to the target and as appropriate to anyone else in the vicinity.

The Endless Claw : Path of the Healthy Tiger (Claw of the Tiger) + Movement (Remote Manipulation). You make a Claw of the Tiger attack, and then if you hit, Remote Manipulation works on the target for (Magic) shots no matter how far away you get from each other. As normal, you have to make seperate skill checks to manipulate the target.

Now - John Snead gives us Creature Combos! See, creatures can learn new powers if they have certain prerequisite powers, allowing them to further customize and empower their Creature Powers! It's pretty handy. The basic combinations cost 8 XP if you know all the listed prereqs:

Absorb Life : Prereqs Regeneration, Soul Twist. You drain chi energy from unwilling targets and transfer it to yourself. You must make a Soul Twist attack that takes 6 shots rather than the normal 3. In addition to your Soul Twist damage, your Outcome is also subtracted from your Wound point total. Anything after you hit zero Wound points is lost. If you aren't injured, you can't use this power and just use normal Soul Twist. The wound points healed are applied at the end of the sequence, and if you fail a Death Check before then, you still become dying. You can't use this at any time you can't use Regeneration or Soul Twist.

Abysmal Armor : Prereqs Abysmal Spines, Armor. Your body is covered in spikes or hooks or whatever. In addition to the normal benefits of Abysmal Spines and Armor, you're dangerous to hit! If someone hits you with an unarmed attack, your spines pierce their flesh and damage them. Whenever someome makes such an attack on you, the Outcome of the attack is added to the damage from your spines (base 2 per schtick spent, remember) and applied to the attacker. Armor and Toughness protect them normally. Also, even shaking your hand is painful. If you are ever tied up, you will shred ropes easily. Only unarmed attacks are affected by this - guns and melee weapons are fine.

Abysmal Tentacles : Prereqs Abysmal Spines, Tentacles. Instead of just having grotesque tetacles, you also have stingers or whatever on them! The base damage of your tentacles is Strength+2 on top of their normal benefits, and this can have other benefits. A stinger, for example, can puncture stuff, or pincers can act like huge scissors. Each additional schtick you have in Abysmal Spines adds +2 to the damage of your tentacles' stingers/whatever.

Poison Spew : Prereqs Foul Spew, Poison. You can spit deadly venom out to (Creature Powers) meters! As with the Poison schtick, the base damage of the toxin is 10. Fortunately, it doesn't easily seep into skin, and takes several minutes to affect the target. It does nothing if they wash it off within 10 minutes. However, you can carefully target and focus it! Aiming for the eyes, open mouth or any open wounds will make it hit much more rapidly. This gives -2 to your attack, but a succesful eye hit blinds the target, giving them -4 to rolls until the poison damage is healed. Hitting an open mouth or gaping wound instantly releases all the venom into the bloodstream.

Torrent of Blood : Prereqs: Blast, Blood Drain. You can draw out the blood of a target and send it flying towards yourself. In addition to doing normal Blast damage, you may perform the effects of Blood Drain without touching the target. The range is equal to your Blast range, and it manifests as either a fine stream or a horrific, gore-soaking torrent as you like. Creative use of this power can allow for psychological warfare or obscuring windshields.

Torrent of Spines : Prereqs: Abysmal Spines, Blast. You can fire a cloud of spines! This hits everyone within (Magic) meters and costs 1 Magic point. It takes six shots and your Creature Powers roll is at -3. The damage is your normal Blast damage and can't be increased...and no, it's not selective. There is no way to keep your buddies from being hit except to have them not be standing in the blast radius.

Advanced Creature Schticks are like Basic Combinations, but must be learned as seperate schticks, with the normal (8+X) cost, because they are more powerful and versatile.

Tentacles of Terror : Prereqs Tentacles, Transformation. You can produce fully functional arms instead of tentacles, which can do anything a normal arm can do. Continuous actions requiring the use of hands, like driving, do not give you the continuous action penalty. Further, your penalty for attacking multiple foes goes down by 1. Finally, every 3 shots you can parry once without taking the normal 1 shot penalty, because you have spare hands to do it with. Each schtick in this power gives you one extra arm, but these don't give any benefits beyond the fact that you can retain the powers of this Creature Power if someone cuts your arms off. As long as you have 3 or more arms, you have the advantages of this schtick.

Army of Monsters : Prereqs Corruption, Domination. When you hit an unnamed character and the Outcome is 5 or more, you may choose to take over the character's mind. They make a check with their highest action value against your Outcome; if they fail, they turn into a mindless creature under your control. If they succeed, they are unaffected and still active. Before rolling you must decide whether you're trying to injure or control the unnamed character. Your control lasts until the end of the session. If you spend a second schtick on this, you can try to control on Outcome 4+. A third allows Outcome 3+. With 3 schticks, your control also lasts indefinitely. You can never control more mooks than your Creature Powers rating.

Ophidian Form : Prereqs Tentacles, Transformation. In addition to any other forms, you can turn into a giant snake. While a snake, you have no arms or legs, but you can still talk and use all of your creature powers. You can slither and swim at your normal Move. Unless you have powers which give you additional attacks, 'constriction' and 'bite' are your only possible attacks. Both are based on your Creature Powers rating. Your bite is Strength+2 Damage, and Constriction deals Strength+1 Damage and immobilizes. When constricting a target that is already immobilized, you automatically do Strength+1 damage every shot without need for a roll. Every 2 shots, immobilized targets can make a Strength roll against your Strength to break free. If you do anything but constrict the target, they break free automatically. With a second schtick in this, you gain the Coil, Strike and Warning schticks from the Snake tranimal package, but only when in serpent form. You get no benefits to taking this schtick more than twice.

Death Chisels : Prereq Abysmal Spines. Your natural weapons tear through armor like paper. They ignore all Armor (but not Toughness). You can spend a seocnd schtick in this to be able to spend Magic points to add directly to Damage if you hit.

The Flying Fear : Prereqs Flight, Transformation. In addition to any other forms, you can become a giant beast with huge wings. In this form, your Move doubles. On the ground, you can hit with your wings to do Strength+3 damage. In the air, you can buffet anyone in front of you with huge air blasts by spending any number of Magic points to reduce the targets' Move ratings by that amount. Someone reduced to 0 Move can't walk or run, but can attack. The reduction lasts for 10 shots.

Immaterial Form : Prereqs Damage Immunity, Insubstantial. You can redirect chi flow to become temporarily immaterial. This makes you immune to all physical attacks, including fists, bullets, swords and explosions. You are vulnerable to all forms of supernatural damage, such as magic weapons, spells, creature powers, fu schticks or arcanowave effects. Fall damage also still applies. While immaterial, you can't affect the physical world in any way, and can't attack using any form of attack, even creature powers. However, you are still visible and may speak and hear normally. Unless you have the Flight schtick, you are affected by gravity. You can climb stairs, but any structure not permanently connected to the earth is insubstantial to you. Becoming or ceasing to be Immaterial takes a full sequence where you do nothing but concentrate on transforming. You are vulnerable to all attacks when going from material to immaterial, but only to supernatural attacks while going from immaterial to material. Once you have transformed, you must wait 10 minutes before transforming again due to the strain on your body and mind.

Next time: Noncombat schticks!

You want guns? I got crazy gun! Got in shipment from Europe this week - Russian AK-74s! So bad to get hit by, the Afghanistanis call them 'poison needle,' eh? This time, they even come with the firing pin!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: You want guns? I got crazy gun! Got in shipment from Europe this week - Russian AK-74s! So bad to get hit by, the Afghanistanis call them 'poison needle,' eh? This time, they even come with the firing pin!

Well, not noncombat schticks yet . Instead, some final monster ones. Mask of Humanity : Prereq Transformation. You can take on practically any human form. You can't imitate a specific person, but can otherwise choose the characteristics of your form. However, this is a very difficult power and thus costs double the normal experience cost - basically, you have to buy it twice. For the cost of an additional schtick, which isn't double-costed, you can mimic specific people as long as you have carefully studied them for at least a week immediately before doing it.

Spiritual Passage : Prereq Immaterial Form. Your mastery of chi flow allows you to enter and leave the Netherworld at will. You do not need a portal but you can't bring passengers - just yourself and anything you happen to be wearing. And any gear you have. Just not other people. Without some form of divination, you have no idea where in the real world or the Netherworld you will end up. Still - if you have to escape, it's a great bet. The only problem? It's not fast - it takes a full sequence of standing still and opening the portal. While opening the portal, you are at -4 to all actions and if you do anything but passively dodge you have to start opening the portal again next sequence. You can only make a portal once an hour, and it's really demanding. You must be in your material form to do it; you can't open a portal while immaterial. For a second schtick, you may open a portal that lasts long enough for others to pass through. This remains open for one full sequence, or until one shot after you go through it, whatever comes first.

Squamous Visage : Prereq Brain Shredder. You are so terrifying that not only can you cause brain damage in mortals but lesser beings also flee in terror. Your range is (Magic) meters, and using this power takes 3 shots to activate. When you activate this by displaying your true monstrousness, you spend a Magic point and roll Creature Powers with a Difficulty equal to the highest Action Value of any unnamed character in range. A number of unnamed characters equal to your Outcome flee in terror at top speed for the rest of the sequence. If they are cornered and can't run, they faint and don't wake up until next sequence. Any remaining unnamed characters can't come within (Magic) meters of you unless they beat your Magic rating with a Willpower check. Any who are closer than that make a Willpower check and, if they fail, move that far away. They are free to shoot at you, though.

Transfer Life : Prereq Absorb Life. You can move chi between two targets. By touching them and performing an Absorb Life attack on one, you can transfer the wound points you would have gained to the other. You can even damage yourself to heal someone else. Using Transfer Life this way can transfer up to 10 Wound points from yourself to another character every sequence. You can then heal the damage to yourself with either Regeneration or Absorb Life, assuming no one kills you first. This ability can also duplicate the effects of the Fu Power Flow Restoration or the Restore Chi power of the Fertility sorcery schtick. Using the power in these ways functions identically to those powers, except you must touch your target. Each use of this power causes you 5 Wound points, which cannot be reduced or redirected. These Wound points are not transferred to anyone - they just fuel the power.

We also get some new Creature Powers without prereqs. Inhuman Leap : You can jump up to four times your Move rating. This takes two shots and can be vertical or horizontal. You always land on your feet after a fall and any falling damage you may take is reduced by your Move score.

Walk On Walls : You have suckers on your feet, like an octopus, or pads, like a gecko, or some other means. You can walk on walls and ceilings. You climb at your normal Move score and can even walk on a ceiling at your normal Move. If you wanted, you could even fight while on the ceiling. This gives you no direct advantages, but attacking you is disorienting, and all attacks on you are at +1-2 Difficulty. Of course, since you spend a lot of time upside down, you suffer no such difficulties when doing it or fighting others that do it.

Now, non-combat schticks, by Rob Vaux! After all - sure, you use guns or kung fu or whatever, but maybe that's not what you do , you know? Gamblers can shoot, but what they do is gamble, and that should get to be cool, too, right? So now the guys who are more noncombat-focused get to have some more cool powers. Only specific character types can take these schticks. If that character type has a unique schtick at chargen, you can swap it out for one the character qualifies for from these. Otherwise, they are (5+X) xp, where X is the number of miscellaneous schticks you have. (That is, anything that's not a gun, fu, sorcery, arcanowave, transformed animal or creature schtick.)

Gamblers get Know When To Fold 'Em : This lets them know when to cut their losses. See, no matter how good you are, you can't win all the time. Smart gamblers know when to stop. As a result, you can ignore one failed Gambling roll per scene! You don't win, but you don't lose the bet, either. In a really high-stakes game, you take this one step further: you can spend a Fortune die to turn that first failure into a success. It's only a marginal one - no special benefits, just the initial stakes. But if the party's cashflow is riding on one roll? You make the roll. If you need to beat an NPC at poker to learn the truth to something? You win. Great gamblers aren't great all the time - but they're always great when they need it.

Journalists get Purple Prose : You know how to write . Any journalist can write - but what you write sticks with people. A good phrase from you ends up getting said by important people. A bad review ends careers. As a result, you can temporarily increase or decrease the Charisma of another character, PC or NPC. With three days' notice and two hours' writing time, you can add or subtract one point from your target's Charisma or, if you want to be more focused, any one Charisma-based skill. This lasts for one week plus (Outcome) days on a Journalism check, but it only lasts in areas where your work is published. You can spread that to any civilized locale by spending a Fortune die.

They also get Research Maniac : You know how to find background data. You know contacts, libraries, internet research, and you can get the fast track on any piece of news. You sense how facts interconnect. As a result, you are considered to have all possible Info skills at 1. Always. Even if you have no knowledge of a thing. This can't be used for anything but information, though - you know when and where an engine got made, but not how to fix it. Still, you do have a very extensive array of facts. You need to spend at least an hour doing research somehow to use this schtick. And yes, you still have to buy Info: Whatever 1 before you can raise it to 2 - this simulates an Info score, it doesn't replace it.

Medics get It's Just A Flesh Wound : You are really, really good at combat healing, getting +2 to all rolls to heal someone with combat medicine.

Snatched from Death : You've got a knack for getting people back from the brink of death. By spending an extra two shots during a stabilization check to keep a character from dying, you automatically succeed. However, you can only do this once per combat, and if someone takes another hit after you stabilize 'em, they're out of luck. In fact, someone you've pulled back from death cannot be healed by mundane means during the rest of that combat, and also remains unconscious for the rest of the scene. You must be conscious and mobile to use this, and so can't use it on yourself.

Private Investigators get Eye in the Sky : You notice details. They may not mean anything now, but they definitely pay off later - say, the buckle on a villain's belt that hides a blowtorch, or the blinking light of a computer screen that signals power failure. Once per session, you can make a Difficulty 9 Perception roll. If you succeed, the GM must give one clue to a future plot development. The clue can be as important or mundane as the GM wants - it's up to you to figure it out. These clues can only arise from stuff you can see when you make the roll, so pick your time wisely.

Spies get Right Place, Right Time : You just have that timely nature - whenever you really need it, you have an extra few seconds. This means that whenever the GM gives you a deadline, you get one final action right before it happens . During that action, you can do anything that has a bearing on the deadline - disarming the bomb, diving through the closing shutter, whatever. Combat's usually not allowed, unless it affects the deadline in some way. The GM's got the ultimate decision there. For practical purposes, you must ICly be aware of the deadline and when it will hit. (Countdowns, for example.) This can also be used during surveillence. If you really need to hear something in a scene you're in, you can spend a Fortune die to be in the right place to hear it. You can't just use this for general info, though - you need something specific in mind. Say you know there's a deal going down at a party, but not where in the party or when. Spend your Fortune die and that doesn't matter - you overhear the deal. The GM will tell you if you're likely to hear the info before you spend the Fortune die - so if you'd hear it anyway, you shouldn't have to spend it.

Techies get Blueprint Cipher : You've seen so many blueprints that you can ID the basic layout of any structure you enter. You know where load-bearing walls are, where the wiring goes, which elevator would have the shaft down to the secret sub-basement, all just from looking at the building. By spending a Fortune die, you know where all the exits are, which levels use the most power (and thus are most likely to have heavy security or computerS) and where the corner penthouse is. You must spend ten minutes examining the building from outside before entering, or the schtick doesn't work. If you spend thirty minutes exploring the building without being interrupted, you can forego the Fortune Die spending to get one fact - and just one. Where the exits are, say, but not where the vault is, or vice versa. The GM has full rights to surprise you if dramatically appropriate, though - you know building types, not specific buildings. However, in these cases you don't have to spend the Fortune point - or you get it back if you already spent it. This is only to be done rarely, though, and never will it result in death or other permanent consequences for the PCs. It's a plot curveball, not the GM wrecking your power.

Then there's Auxiliary Schticks . Anyone can take an Auxiliary Schtick, but not at chargen (unless the GM explicitly allows it, as always). They are bought with XP. Specifically, (3+X) XP, where X is how many schticks you have, total, including unique schticks, stat schticks or whatever.

Automobilus Indestructus : You may or may not be a good driver, but cars like you either way. No matter how bad they get beaten up, they don't fall apart. Tires blown, sugar in the engine and having smashed through three walls? Still runs. It might not be fast, but it runs. Of course, the moment the chase you're in stops, it's going to fall apart. Still - as long as you're behind the wheel, you ignore any damage that would end your forward momentum until a chase is over - though the instant it's over, all that damage kicks in immediately, so you better be ready to bail out. This doesn't protect any weapons on the vehicle, any special gadgets or, notably, any passengers or you - just the engine and the wheels.

Duct Tape Magician : This lets you repair devices, like the Fix-It skill, using bare-bones equipment. Computer blasted to hell? You can make it work. Gun jammed beyond repair? You can get it to fire. You spend a Fortuen die and are able to make the device in quesiton work until the end of the scene (or the sequence, if it's a weapon). You can spend only one Fortune die per scene this way. It also won't make a gun fire without bullets or otherwise give a device powers it doesn't normally have - just improved life expectancy. Except, well...when the scene ends, the object is permanently and forever broken, unable to be repaired by any means whatosever. Including Signature Weapons, so don't use it on those if they somehow break temporarily.

Next time: New character types!

No, nothing interesting happened at work today.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: No, nothing interesting happened at work today.

We left off with auxiliary schticks! Specifically, Photographic Memory : Better than that, even. You remember everything with perfect accuracy, able to recall it as if it were in front of you. You can spend a Fortune die to recall something you might have been shown once - an address, a blueprint, a terrorist's face. If the player has forgotten something the character knows, this can be a free reminder, as well, without the Fortune die. The GM needs to decide if something is reasonable - you won't instantly remember how to make a nuclear bomb or learn kung fu from watching someone practice - and if it has any relevance to the situation. But he can easily go 'yeah, sure, you saw the blueprint to this device once when you got captured, and you know it's a giant microwave emitter which needs to be destroyed'.

One With the Walls : You've got a knack for finding the best place to hide in - and there's always a hiding spot when you need one. After spending one round searching, you can find a suitable hiding space in whatever environment you're in - bushes in a forest, a pile of crates in a warehouse and so on. You get +1 to any dodge made from that cover. However, if you ever go past Strength 9, you lose this schtick as you're just too big.

Awning Magnet : When you fall, there's always an awning, old fire escape or convenient truck full of mattresses to land on. You get +3 Toughness when determining falling damage, and you can make a diff 7 Agility roll to reduce the damage of a fall by 7 points. You can spend a Fortune die for an additional agility roll, with no limit to the amount of Fortune dice spent on this. If you catch a flagpole or fire escape, though, you've got to find a way down on your own.

Never Questioned : You have the natural ability to blend with any group. You're nondescript, and you carry yourself as if you fit in. As long as you dress appropriately, no one ever asks you what you're doing here, wherever 'here' is. You get +2 to Charisma rolls to pass yourself off as someone you aren't - but only in general terms. You're 'a cop', not 'Sergeant Jimmy McGroot', or 'a musician', not 'Yo-Yo Ma'.

Getting the Drop : You've got an almost prescient knack for laying traps in the right place for someone to walk into. To use this schtick, you must spend four minutes or more preparing, but if you do, you get one free attack just before initiative rolls are made in the first sequence. It only works once per combat, and you only get one attack. Once you prepare, you can't move or take any other actions without blowing your cover and having to prepare all over again. You can allow other PCs to make the same attack, though, by spending four minutes hiding them, too. Naturally, whatever mooks or thugs you're setting up for the ambush will conveniently stop just in the right spot for you to attack, provided they've got a reason to be there in the first place. GMs should be reasonable about where people have reasons to be.

Permanent Dry Cleaning : No matter what, you always look good. Torn jungle clothes and bloody cutS? They work for you. Fried and smoking cybernetics? You pull it off. Covered in hideous slime? Your hair looks amazing . Your gear stil lgets damaged - but you never look bad. You never suffer any penalties on Charisma-based skills. Ever . You can still lose bonuses, though.

Toothpicking Lock-Pick : You've never liked locked doors. So you learned to unlock them, to see what was behind them. Now, you can open any lock - even without tools. When you use your Intrusion skill, you can pick locks no matter what equipment you've got - toothpicks, wires, your fillings, whatever. Any equipment requirements for using Intrusion are waived - handy when you're naked in a prison cell.

Puppy-Dog Eyes : You're a master of the soulful look. No matter how evil and hard-hearted the foe, you can make them feel some sympathy. Any NPC trying to hit you with a killing blow must make a Willpower check against your Charisma. If they fail, they can't use their action to kill you. They still act - they just can't do that. This has no effect on NPCs without emotions, such as killbots. Of course, this power is also lost if you are being particularly aggravating. If you just shot a guy in the gut or kicked him in the balls, he probably doesn't care how sad you look. Appear helpless before him, though, and then you're cooking with gas.

A Kiss For Luck : Maybe it's true love's kiss. Maybe it's you passing your lucky rabbit's foot to a buddy. It doesn't matter what it is - you can hand off good karma. By spending a Fortune die at the start of a scene, you can give another character +1 to any one skill of your choice for the rest of the scene. You can only spend one Fortune die per scene in this manner, and if the GM wants it is contingent to a particular item (that lucky rabbit's foot, say) or limited to a particular character (your true love). The detials are up to the player, though, and should reflect some aspect of your character.

Bar Betting : You know Willie May's batting average in June of 1955. You can hit three bulls-eyes in a row with darts. You can get a bartender to do illegal things with a shot glass. Better: you can make people bet on it. This is really handy when you need some cash in a hurry. For every 30 minutes in a bar or other drinking establishment, you can procure up to a hundred bucks (or equivalent) from gullible drunks. The GM decides how much based on your roleplaying, but it should be at least a nice sum. The schtick can only be used once per bar per month, but nothing stops you from crossing every bar in the district. One night out on the town can get you enough cash for practically anything. However, you must pick the particular type of bar betting you do - sprots trivia, darts, impossible feats involving coasters and pretzel bowls, anything you like. You just have to specify what it is.

Now - let's take a look at those new character types!

You are one of the square-jawed, rock-muscled Athletes of the age. You might be a boxer, a sumo wrestler, a football player or a combat shopper from the reality shows of the future. Whatever you are - well, you weren't happy with endorsements and a soft life. You're the kind of athlete for whom sports are a metaphor for life. You see your gifts as a chance to help people, to inspire them. Maybe you got involved in the Secret War because of that drive. Or maybe you got on the wrong side of the Ascended and didn't throw the right game. Maybe you just revenge for the bastard that stole your rightful win. It doesn't really matter - you're in it to win it either way.

Athletes can be from any Juncture. They get Bod 7, Chi 2, Mnd 5, Ref 7. They get +5 to any one secondary attribute of Bod or Ref. They then get +4 to spread between any other secondary attributes. No secondary attribute can exceed 12. They get Guns +1 to a max of +3, Martial Arts +5 to a max of +6, Leadership +3, Seduction +1, Intimidation +3, Info: Sports +5 and Driving +1. They get +4 to spread on skills, and can swap Guns and Martial Arts if they want. They then get two stat schticks in stats they qualify with (so anything 11 or higher) and one weapon. Athletes are Rich.

Wealth, romance, vengeance, power? They don't mean anything to you: you're a Velocity Addict , and all you want is to go as fast as possible. The wind in your hair, the feel of the g-forces - that's what you need. What you live for. Maybe you're an urban tough, or a young racing star, or maybe you're just a good ole' boy in trouble with the law. No matter who you are or where you're from, you're brother or sister to all the speed freaks out there. Unfortunately, there's folks who'd like to take your freedom to run. In 1996, speeding can lose you your license. In 2056, it can get you beaten half to death and then sent for personality reconstruction. You don't care. Speed is in your blood. (Not the drug.) (Well, probably not the drug.) Maybe, as you get into the Secret War, you'll decide there's other freedoms to care about - but the freedom to ride free and fast is always the most important one.

Velocity Addicts are either contemporary or from 2056. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get 5 points to spread between primary attributes. They have Driving +10, which can't be raised, Fix-It +7, Martial Arts +5, to a max of +8, Info: Racing +5 and Gambling +3. They get +3 to spread around. They may change Martial Arts to Guns if they want. They get 1 weapon and 4 driving schticks. What's a driving schtick? You'll see soon enough. Velocity Addicts are Working Stiffs.

Now we hit chapter 4 and supplemental rules. Rob Vaux gives us some more fighting rules, if you feel the need to make it more complex. He introduces Holds , which let you grab and immobilize someone without hurting them. This is a Martial Arts roll with a Difficulty of the target's Dodge + 1. If you hit, you trap the target and they can't do anything but try to break the hold. Every shot, they can try to escape by rolling Strength against your Strength. IF they win, they break free and can attack as normal. If you do anything but passively dodge, they break free automatically. A held opponent does serve as cover, though, if he's pointing in the right direction and you don't have to move him too much. Any attack from that direction gets +3 to its difficulty - and if it is missed by 3 or less, it hits the held guy instead. Armor piercing bullets, grenades, explosives and heavy weapons ignore these rules - flesh ain't gonna be enough to stop that.

Then there's Throws . To throw someone, you have to hit them with a grab as per above, which takes 3 shots. After that, it's a 3 shot Martial Arts attack to throw them, with the same difficulty as a standard attack. (Well, +1 if they're Strength or Body 9+, because they're so big.) If you're fighting an unnamed character, throwing takes them out if you hit by 3 or more, instead of 5 or more. If you throw one mook into another, or several others, the second Martial Arts check has the standard penalty for multiple attacks. If you throw a named character, the GM decides damage based on what they hit. (2 Damage for a couch, 22 for 'off a moving vehicle', 15 for plate glass windows.) The range is 2 meters, +1 per 3 points of Strength you have. Regardless of the fall's Outcome, though, the thrown guy has to spend a shot standing up to keep fighting, unless they make a stunt and a diff 10 Reflexes roll (or Difficutly equal to the damage suffered, if that's higher). Some schticks can absorb falling damage or always let you land on your feet, and those do apply here if the GM allows it.

Next time: She's got a competition clutch with the four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten 'til the lake pipes roar.

Yo, Adrian! I'ma go in dere and win for... uh... you know, dat one guy.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Might as well finish this off now.

Feng Shui: Yo, Adrian! I'ma go in dere and win for... uh... you know, dat one guy.

We're looking at Strangles now. You grab someone's neck and squeeze until they are unconscious or dead. In Feng Shui, usually unconscious - there's easier ways to kill a guy. In order to strangle osmeone, you make a called shot to the throat - that's a -2 penalty. Once you hit, you automatically deal (Strength+Outcome-Toughness) wound points every shot until your grip is broken. This requires a Strength check, withg a difficulty of your (Strength+Attack outcome). It's important to get a good grip. The damage continues until the hold is broken or the target gets knocked out (ie, fails a Death Check). While strangling, you can't do anything but passively dodge or your hold is broken automatically. It is also possible to KO someone instantly in a Vulcan Neck Pinch maneuver...but it takes fu powers. If you have Beak of the Crane, Talon of the Crane or Point Blockage, you can try to go for a Vulcan Neck Pinch, but it only works on unnamed characters. Still, takes 'em out on Outcome 3+, not 5+.

Joint Breaking is essentially a special form of called shot that you can only do in hand-to-hand combat. Guns just don't snap bones as cleanly. You take a -1 (or more) penalty. Success means you hit the right spot, and deal (Strength-2) damage due to the limited area affected. If your Attack Outcome is 6 or less, you bruise but don't break the bone. 7+? You break the bone and cause some additional problems. Break a wrist or fingers? No extra damage, but the hand can't be used effectively and all uses of at are at 1 Impairment. Elbows deal 2 additional damage and give -2 to aiming and shooting firearms. Hand-to-hand combat with that arm is impossible, and it can't be lifted over chest height. Shoulders are +3 damage and have special effects identical to the elbow, but the called shot penalty here is -2. Ankles are +1 damage, make the target incapable of running and reduce the damage of all kicks or martial arts maneuvers involving the feet by 2. Knees are +2 damage, knock the target over unless he makes a diff 8 Reflexes check and make kicks and other leg-based maneuvers impossible, as is walking without support. Hips are +6 damage, same effects as the knee, except the leg can't support any weight at all. However, breaking the hip is hard, so the called shot is at -3. If you get an Outcome of 11 or higher (or 13+, with the hip), you shatter the bone completely. You deal an extra 5 damage and the limb is useless without serious medical attention. Healing these injuries is up to the GM, but they usually last two game sessions, and then 4-6 sessions with, maybe, a penalty if the GM wants.

Disarming is a called shot to the hands. It does no damage, but if it hits, it knocks their wepaon out of reach and, often, in your hands. A martial arts disarm requires you be in stricking distance. Gun disarms must be in range and the hands can't be behind cover. Heavy weapons can't disarm. The called shot penalty is -1 if the target has a gun or -2 if it's a melee weapon. A further -1 if they're more than 20m away. If you hit with an Outcome of 7 or less, the gun is undamaged and knocked away from both of you. At 8+, you get the weapon - unless it's a Signature one. On a 9 or less, Signature weapons go flying, and you need a 10 or more to take them for yourself. If the weapon goes flying away, it takes 2 shots to go get it, or 1 shot to kick farther away.

Flying Kicks are pretty simple. You have to use Martial Arts, and it's a stunt. First you make a Move check, diff 10 - or diff 5 if you start higher than your target. This takes 2 shots. You can replace them with any jumping powers you might have instead. On your next shot, you make a standard kick attack. If it hits, it gets +3 damage due to gravity. You then spend one shot landing, making a Move check, diff 5. If you fail, you spoil your coolness by landing on your face. If you want, you can substitute the kick with another melee attack, but not guns.

Instant Knockouts only work on unnamed characters unless the plot says otherwise - for example, you're trying to escapoe from him. If you plan to KO and then kill him, he will wake up in time to dodge. Similarly, knocking a named NPC out and tying him to a radiator, then running? Works. Tying him to a railroad track? Not so much. Dramatic rules apply. So, how do you go for a knockout shot on a named guy, then? Well, you take a -2 to your attack. Damage is halved, but you make a Strength check at -2 against their Constitution. Succeed, and they get knocked out until it's dramatically appropriate for them to wake up.

But now we're at the part you wanted. The part that will be amazing. Greg Stolze: Car Chases . See, something that was neglected in the core rules were any kind of rules regarding Driving! A shameful, shameful lack - it meant driving gunfights were hard to do! And, Greg Stolze tells us, the soul of a car chase is, like fights, in the stunts. You want to drive cool . Car chase rules are designed like the combat rules intentionally. They've got sequences, with shots and initiative and so on. If you're driving and close enough to someone, you can try to ram or sideswipe them, attacking with the car. This, as usual, takes 3 shots. Drivers can also try to go faster than the other guys, and if you're good enough you can break out of the chase and lose them. And, of course, people who aren't driving get stuff to do: specifically, they can attack the other cars, as long as the vehicle they're in hasn't crashed or been left behind. Standard combat rules apply.

Now then. All cars have two stats: Pep and Wreck .

Greg Stolze posted:

Pep is a measure of the car's pick-up, handling and general ability to gobble up pavement like a hungry kid eating french fries. Wreck determines how much abuse a car can take before turning into modern art.

Anyway. Pep is added to your Drive score - either as a bonus or penalty, since some cars have negative Pep and suck. It is usually between -5 and +5. (-5 means it's slower than an old lady. Not her car - her.) See, you can find out how much Move a car has by taking positive Pep and multiply by 10. There's a chart for negative Pep, and -5 is Move 1. But Pep is best treated as an abstraction, really, it's more than just speed. Lots of folks have schticks that let them zoom around fast - Movement, the Aerial Mobility Unit, Flight, whatever. To get your personal Pep, divide your Move by 10 (or use the negative Pep chart if your Move is less than 10). Unless you have an absurd Move, though, you're likely to get outrun, so grab onto a car somewhere in there.

Wreck is a combination of Wound points and Toughness. Your average car is Wreck 7-9. There is no conversion for Wreck to Toughness. If someone punchs a car, nothing happens but a bruised fist. (Unless he uses Vengeance of the Turtle, which has a sidebar in a moment.) Ordinary handguns, if they hit, do 1 Wreck. A car's Dodge is the driver's Driving score. Three round bursts and shotguns do 2 Wreck, with no bonuses for doing the ka-chink noise and pumping the gun. Sorcery does 2 Wreck unless it's the Lightning, Transmutation or Disintegration blasts. Transmutation and Disintegration do 3 Wreck, and Lightning does no Wreck but permanently lowers a car's Pep by 1.

If you try to ram a car, you roll Drive against the target's Drive. If you hit, you do Wreck equal to the Outcome. You also probably take a point of Wreck unless your vehicle is heavily armored (tanks, Checker cabs) and the target isn't. Don't bother tracking Wreck for unnamed characters, though. If a PC beats their Drive by 5 or more, they're out of the race. They crash and either die in a fireball or get out, stamp their feet and shake their fists angrily, depending on the tone of the scene. When a named character's car hits Wreck 0, you start to make Wreck checks. This is a Reflex check with difficulty equal to the amount you've gone into negative Wreck - so at Wreck 0, 0. At Wreck -1, 1, and so on. This is just like a Death Check, except when you fail one your car crashes instantly.

We get a sidebar now on Vengeance of the Turtle, which says it destroys any vehicle it hits immediately. This is a bit gamebreaking in the new car rules, so it gets changed to doing that if a vehicle is stopped. If the car's being driven, it deals (Strength+Outcome) Wreck. Which is still a lot. Oh - and if the vehicle is beig enough to contain more than two rooms (some semi trucks, most boats, etc.) then it can't be auto-destroyed, and always does damage as if the thing is being driven.

Anyway. To keep chases orderly, there is the Lead mechanic. Greg suggests the Lead be represented by a little matchbox car, but it can be anything, it doesn't even have to be a physical token. The Lead is whoever is in front of the pack. It starts out in the hands of the character with the highest Drive, after all bonuses and penalties from the car. He's in front of everyone. It doesn't matter where everyone else is in the rankings - only the Lead matters. Either you're winning or we don't care. Having the Lead gives you several benefits: First, you get +1 Drive, since you've got the best view of what's coming. (No, not strictly realistic. Who cares?) Second, you can't be forced out of the chase until you either crash, die at the wheel and no one grabs it or someone else takes the Lead. Third, you can try to leave everyone else in the dust by making escape rolls . Each roll takes 3 shots, and is a Drive roll against the best Drive of your pursuers. You must make three escape rolls in a row, though you can do other things between the rolls - so you can make a roll, make a roll, shoot and make a roll. However, fail once and you have to start over. Unless you've held the Lead for two whole sequences without ever losing it once. In that case, you can choose to escape if you want to, without even rolling.

So, how do you take the Lead away? You spend 3 shots and describe how you're trying to get ahead, then roll Drive against the leader's Drive. He can actively dodge as normal, giving +3 to his Drive at the cost of one shot. If you beat him, though, you have the Lead now. Simple! Anyway, it is of course possible to do stunts. Greg provides us with common ones. Shooting someone in a car is done against the driver's Drive skill, and no one in a car can actively dodge except the driver. When the Driver actively dodges, though, everyone in the car gets the benefit that shot. Anyone inside an enclosed car has 75% cover, so they're at +4 difficulty to be hit. Convertibles give 50% cover, so +2. Motorcycles are shit out of luck. The GM can, if he feels like it, rule that any shot that misses only due to the cover bonus hits the car instead, doing a point of Wreck. But only if the GM feels like it.

Shooting the tires is a -3 called shot, but it not only deals 1 Wreck but also reduces the car's Pep by 1. Playing chicken, now...well, you go head-on with another car. Then you roll Intimidation against the other guy's Intimidation. If you win, he swerves and either gives up the Lead or comes to a total stop. If you fail, you make a Willpower check against diff 10. Succeed, you stop. Fail, well...hope you like head-on collisions. You can also run down pedestrians by rolling Drive against their Dodge. Cars do Outcome damage, +1 per estimated 10 km/h of speed. Popping a wheelier or getting up on 2 tires is diff 10. Jumping a car is diff 10 or more, depending on length. Jumping between cars is a diff 15 Martial Arts roll, or diff 10 if you have the ability to make super jumps or fly somehow. If you fail, you fall off the car and take a point of Damage per 10 km/h you were going, which you can't reduce by Toughness. Bootlegger reverses are diff (20-current shot number), so do 'em early if you want to do 'em at all. (I'm not sure if Greg remembered that shots count down, not up, since he mentions momentum building up, which I'd imagine helps a parking brake reverse.)

Now - Driving Schticks ! Not everyone can start with Driving Schticks. The Velocity Addict gets 'em, of course. Maverick Cops can trade in gun schticks for driving schticks at chargen. Spies and Techies can trade in their unique schticks for 2 driving schticks if they want. To get them in play, you spend (4+X) XP, where X is the number of driving schticks you'll have when you get the new one. However, you need Driving at 12 or more to get Driving schticks.

Jackrabbit Start means you're great at putting the pedal to the metal from the word go. For each schtick in it, you get +1 Initiative each sequence if you're in a vehicle. However, your first action must be to do something with the vehicle, so mostly this is car chases. Ram Speed! makes you great at breaking shit with a car. For every schtick in it, you do +2 Wreck when you ram a car. If you hit a pedestrian with a car, each schtick in this gives +3 Damage. You can't have more than three schticks in Ram Speed!, sadly. Greased Lightning means you have amazing reflexes - amazing . The shot cost of all Drive actions is reduced by 1. Sadly, you can never have more than 1 schtick in Greased Lightning, and the shot cost of an action can never be reduced below 1. Lastly, Signature Ride is your special car or horse or whatever. You have a name for it, you spend hours caring for it and you love it more than anything. Signature rides can't be destroyed - even if they crash, they can always be fixed. Further, you get +2 Drive in your signature ride. No one else gets that bonus, and it's only in that one car.

We then get stats for a ton of cars, along with what cash level you need to get one. Most are Working Stiff, some really crappy ones (the Ford Escort and Honda Rebel) are Poor, the good ones are Rich. Cop cars are notable for having different stats when a nameless guy is driving them - they gain a point of Pep and two points of Wreck when a named character is using one, because of the Blues Brothers. Oh, and here's something neat: if you've got Info: Classic Cars or Fix-It 10 or higher, a restored Mustang is only Working Stiff. Otherwise, it's Rich. There are also stats for garbage trucks, tanks , bulldozers and the Bigass Hovercraft. You know, the one Jackie Chan used in Rumble in the Bronx . We also get planes (and jets, which have a Pep score of 'you aren't winning this race, kid').

We also get the cars, bikes and planes of 2056. The Jammer Electrocycle is neat in that you make a closed roll every sequence to tell what Pep it is at any given moment. Then there's the RRPT (pronounced 'ripped'), the Buro cop car. It's not actually better than a normal one! You know what is? The SPUD-U, a flying cop car with two turret-mounted machine guns and an assault rifle. There's an Arcanowave variant, the SPUD-U-A, which is notable for not needing fuel, unlike the battery-powered SPUD-U. It eats. You can take it as an arcanowave schtick to be able to drive any SPUD-U-A. If you're not plugged in, you use Driving and don't worry about mutation. If you plug in, you use Arcanowave Devices but start tracking mutation. There are also a few other cables to plug in and control the guns on it. Anyone without the schtick gets attacked by the SPUD-U-A, which tries to eat him. It's really hard to not got eaten, so don't get in without control. (They are also highly restricted, so good luck getting one. Oh, and you have to toss 20 pounds of meat into the cockpit each day so it won't die.) We also get several other impressive Buro flying machines - this is one area they definitely excel at. Most notable is the BuroMil Superconducting ArmoreD Fire Platform, which has -2 Pep and 6000 Wreck. It's a flying fortress and only has stats so you can outrun it dramatically. If you want to take it down, you're going to get Seed of the New Flesh and learn what's inside it so you can go in and blow it up.

We also get boats. Boats aren't that interesting. Anyway! You can tinker with cars to boost their Pep and Wreck. You either do this with Fix-It or Info: Classic Cars. The Difficulty of increasing Pep is the new Pep times 4. If the new Pep is a negative number, the difficulty is 10. Succeed and the Pep goes up by 1. You can never increase Pep by more than 2. Oh, and Info: Classic Cars only works on cars. It takes X days to do this, where X is either 4 or the current Pep times 2, whichever is higher. You can shave time off, but each day shaved is +2 Difficulty, and it always takes at least one day. You can also try to armor a car. The difficulty is 7, or 8 if the car is already armored. Each successful roll gives +1 Wreck, -1 Pep. Armor is heavy. You can do this as many times as you want, but at Pep -6 the car can't even move. You can cut corners to save time, shaving off one day per +1 Difficulty you're willing to take. You cannot take longer to make either job easier.

Next time: You pick!

See, we have Seed of the New Flesh, the Architects book. We've got Seal of the Wheel, the Ascended book. We've got Gorilla Warfare, the Jammers book. We have Blowing Up Hong Kong, the info book on Hong Kong. We have Iron and Silk, an expansion on weapons and fighting. And we have Thorns of the Lotus, the Lotus book. (I have yet to buy the other books.)

Kids. That's a big area. We talking Killkids, Uberkids, Mark IIs, what?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Kids. That's a big area. We talking Killkids, Uberkids, Mark IIs, what?

Gorilla Warfare is the Jammer sourcebook, and it is very clear about what we're getting. We open with some fiction about a guy meeting someone called the Skimmer in the sewer. He's a nice guy, apparently, even if he smells, and he's a great enemy of the Buros, or Bobos, as the Jammers call them. Apparently the Buro are moving kids into the Netherworld for some reason - perhaps to make into monsters? They're under the watch of CDCA Disese Control - which is bad, since they manufacture diseases, too. Time to find a way to save some kids.

Most of this book is written semi-IC; I did mention Feng Shui is really, really 90s, right? I'll try to cover the history as best I can. In 2020, Boatman and Bonengel begin their campaign of world conquest, establishing bases in the right spots. However, they soon learn that they're not the only ones who can use feng shui - not when Texas rebelled. Apparently, 'Texas rebels' is a geomantically-encouraged thing. Their solution? War. War was how they solved a lot of their problems, throwing men and resources at them ntil they stopped being problems. However, while they were willing to kill lots of people, they knew no one wanted to die - so if they wanted complete control, they needed alternatives. That was when Doctor Laura Villaverde approached them with the idea of Project: Cornelius.

Some people say all evil has its own destruction built in - and that the Jammers were thus destined to arise out of Buro. More pragmatic folks say that CDCA's habit of experimenting on everything they could find to make a perfect killing machine was just asking to backfire because of the pain it caused. When Battlechimp Potemkin, the greatest product of Cornelius, was awakened, he was pumped with pretty much every kind of military information possible. Cornelius's cyber-apes were great soldiers, obsoleting human armies...and they wanted a general. The problem? His first act was to ask his creator to kill him. His second was to debate the morality of creating a sentient race for the sole purpose of destroying it in senseless combat. Villaverde found herself unable to answer Potemkin's questions. She and several other scientists on Cornelius wound up agreeing with Potemkin. Instead of just wanting suicide, he now wanted to end the government that made him. Only then could he be sure that no one else would suffer his fate.

Potemkin and his new cell examined the Buro for weaknesses, and they found them - weaknesses so great that by all rights the government should have collapsed five years before. Something else was keeping them in power. It took two weeks for Potemkin to find the answer: feng shui. A few of the techs had been to the Netherworld, and they were crucial to understanding chi power. Villaverde and Potemkin were profoundly shocked - learning that their minds and souls could be manipulated by unseen forces changed them. Villaverde renamed herself Green Rain, becoming as much a fanatic over the destruction of chi as Potemkin himself.

The war started with Potemkin and his allies destroying the Cornelius facility. He and his apes and scientists wnet on the run, but he knew they couldn't hide - a group of giant cyborg monkeys sticks out. He also knew there was a great place to hide outside Buro's eye: the Netherworld.Once there, Buro would have no advantages in finding them. It took two weeks to find a portal, and in that time, half of Potemkin's group died. He spent a lot of time getting to know who he could rely on, what they were good at, who he'd be better off without. It was at this time that Furious George became his second-in-command and Green Rain his head scientist.

When they finally got to the Netherworld, they wasted no time in recruiting. Buro hadn't made themselves loved there, and many liked the idea of the Jammers. The question remained: how could they attack a whole world under such tight control? That was when they met the Prof. She gave them a GateMaker, able to open portals from the Netherworld artificially. No one else had them - the plans were destroyed, and the prototypes stolen. Potemkin wasted no time in getting the prototype to work, stealing parts from several CDCA facilities as well as hiding the thefts with pointless acts of mass destruction. The Buro knew who to blame - the giant cyborg apes gave it away - but they didn't understand why until the GateMaker's first test. At that point, Curtis Boatman realized not only what happened, but who must have helped them. Too late.

Once they had some GateMakers working, the Jammers began to make small strikes to prove they could hurt the Buro and get away with it. This ended up getting help from other 2056 resistance groups - the Dallas Rockets, the Free Sex Militants, the Edge Warriors and others. Potemkin had united the resistance forces. After that, well, things took on their own momentum. Despite Green Rain's regrets over Cornelius, Potemkin decided the cyborg apes were too effective as symbols to keep to the few survivors. He found a portal to 69 AD Africa, establishing an assembly line there: the Ape Factory. He also expanded operations out of simply 2056, but into the past, as well. The war was no longer against the tyranny of Buro, but the tyranny of chi over human history. As you might guess, this pissed everyone off.

Though most of the faction leaders found the idea of monkeys thwarting them ;aughable, no one wanted them to succeed - destroying chi would destroy everything . The Jammers were the only ones who cared only about destroying that power. Unlike the Dragons, they had no 'justice' or 'right' to fight for - just a fanatical destruction. Even the Guiding Hand, who wanted allies against the Lodge, realized they could never befriend such warmongers. All hands were against the Jammers. Which suits them fine.

We get another bit of fiction now. It's a guy who goes by Eyeball, explaining the fine art of illegal eyeball farming. Basically, you grow artificial (but fully biological) eyes, using a digital camera and specialized equipment to set them up to beat retinal scanners. Handy! Then you go and break into somewhere, using the eyeballs to fool a retinal scanner. Then you bomb it and escape! And that's how you farm eyeballs.

The actual chapter is likewise close to fiction - the reader takes on the role of a newbie playing around with a tutorial computer which is somewhere between Clippy and Wikipedia. It explains that Jammers are counter-revolutionaries dedicated to wiping out 'Chi-ters', those who use the power of chi to influence human history. Necessarily this is done by wiping out chi. The device is explicitly designed to be rather unhelpful and annoying. It features some delightful questions and answers:

Clippy 2056 posted:

> How do we make a GateMaker?

Excellent question! Place-holder entry - remember to insert an answer to this question before entering beta testing of this software!

> If the Dragons are our closest allies, why did you say we may end up fighting them anyway?

Excellent question! This is a very bad question. The Jammers are fighting to end the tyranny of chi, and to reach that goal, we will do whaterver it takes. Other factions, even ones that ally with us, do not share our goals, and we cannot shirk from confrontations with them. You must be prepared to devote yourself to the Jammer ideology. (Slang info-dump: Jammers who defect to other factions are referred to as "dead.")

> Where do the monkeys come from?

Excellent question! Great apes, such as the Lowlands Gorilla, are commonly found in Africa, where they live in small family groups known as pods. The female ape does not go into heat, like some orders of primate; instead, she has a monthly fertility cycle. Male apes mate with the female, and after a gestation period of eight months, a new gorilla is born.

The thing breaks after being asked how the Jammers know that they won't destroy history when they end the flow of chi. The explanation: the thing was meant to confuse you, make you angry and make you want to hit something. Those feelings are how you know you're a Jammer. That is what Jammers feel like all the time . We then get another bit of fiction - this time from a bubbly and polite young woman named Miss Behaving, who is the recipient of the eyeballs and has used them to break into the Biomass Reprocessing Center. She gets into a fight, winning due to liberal use of explosives...which is when she runs into the abomination Prototype X, a rather dangerous critter wthat she knows she can't beat in a fair fight. Which is why she has a really big bomb designed to take out arcanotech. Prototype X goes down, and Miss Behaving steals the data she needed. Which is when she runs into a giant red demon, and the fiction ends.

Now, let's learn about the Jammers as an organization! They have one. Really. The structure is basically a giant blob with a head. The central authority of the Jammers is in the Netherworld, and it consists of Battlechimp Potemkin, his monkey buddies, some scientists and a few other guys. Beyond that, there's a bunch of cells in the various junctures and throughout the Netherworld, with whom Potemkin has minimal personal contact. They communicate via dead drop and random meetings, and do their best not to know about each other, since Buro is really good at extracting information from and brainwashing prisoners.

Potemkin also has a loose network of independent contractors to draw on - folks who have other causes but will help out when the mission's right. The Dragons usually fall into this category, but it is more often applied to various violent types in the Netherworld who sign on for the chance to hit things. The chain of command...is essentially Potemkin. He has final say in all operations, start to finish. He knows that makes him a huge target, so he's got contingency plans. If he disappears, Green Rain takes charge of science and Furious George takes the military. They'll still have leadership, they they may not be able to strategize on the same level as Potemkin. More on the contingency plans later.

Potemkin does delegate some authority, though. Since he's usually in the Netherworld, each juncture has a "general", coordinating field operaitons. These generals are usually referred to by name, not rank, and they have total authority over operations in their juncture unless Potemkin doesn't want them to. More on them later, too. Beyond that, well, he doesn't have to delegate much. People listen to people who know what they're talking about and ignore those who don't. Once you earn respect, getting your orders followed isn't a problem. There's a downside, though: screw up and you'll have it very hard and need a lot of work to get people to trust you again. It's a very Darwinian system, and Potemkin is the apex predator.

So, who belong to the Jammers? Well, cyborg apes for one. When the Ape Factory came online, they became the fastest-growing part of the Jammers. Potemkin needed an army, so he made one the fastest way he knew how. Most creations are mission-specific and meant to fulfill a single role, but there are a few "standard" monkeys for general missions. These monkeys are expendable. (Technically, Potemkin sees everyone as expendable, but these are very expendable.) However, as they're indoctrinated in the Jammer "live fast, die messily" mentality, they're okay with it. Usually, anyway. Battlechimp doesn't believe in brainwashing, but he does believe in idoctrinating his troops with Jammer philosophies, and the line gets a bit blurry.

The Apes of Wrath are the Jammer artillery division. They prefer to stay back and pound the shit out of things with long-range weapons. They also tend to let their love of destruction get away from them. Many Jammers have gotten into melee only to find missiles raining down at them from their own allies, who'd rather see them wounded than an enemy escape. Battlechimp tries to rein them in a bit, he but shares their outlook. The Apes of Wrath rarely get specific orders - they just get told to stay somewhere and shoot. This can get every Ape of Wrath involved killed if they get overrun, as many will stand and shoot missiles at foes less than five feet away. The Apes are also a rarity in that they're a cyborg monkey squad that isn't all cyborg monkeys. Lots of Jammers love high explosives, and it's not uncommon to see other people firing away alongside them.

Next time: More Ape divisons!

I've got savoir-faire, Gentle Reader, but it only goes so far.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I've got savoir-faire, Gentle Reader, but it only goes so far.

I should mention - each of these subgroups has stats for a typical unnamed member. They're pretty damn good, as they have Hardware Schticks, which we'll see at the end of the book. Anyway. The Chimpanzers are the Jammer version of infantry. Or cavalry. Or both. They are chimps whose lower bodies are replaced with tank treads, to let them outflank slower foes. They're lightly armed, but those who survive several missions tend to get themselves upgrades. Still - they have to survive first. The Chimpanzers are the most expendable of the cyborg monkeys. Their leader is Orango Tank, as long as precision is not needed. If it is, Furious George or Potemkin lead.

The Flying Monkey Squad is the Jammer Air Force, notable for complete disregard for safety. They use detachable flight harnesses which plug into their nervous systems. They are led by Apeshot, one of the survivors of Project: Cornelius, though they often don't even have a leader. Their lack of discipline is ignored when they get results, though. They tend to take anything less than being smacked in the head as a suggestion, not an order.

The Monkey Boys are the scouts. They're the most varied troops - not all of them are apes, and not all of them are even cyborgs. All you need to be a Monkey Boy is to be good at being sneaky...well, usually. These are Jammers. But the ones who survive more than two missions are the ones who can sneak around. They don't have a leader, and they aren't really much of an organized group at all - they end to mix with the other squads and are just kind of a fraternity of scouts.

The Robo-Bonobos have no logo. They're the Jammer internal police, since...well, get this many heavily-armed psychopaths together and there will be trouble. They are also known as Rent-a-Chimps and Pig Monkeys. Despite their status, though, they're still Jammers...which means they tend to be really relaxed about their jobs. As long as no one dies and all damage can be repaired, they're happy. If they stop violence before it starts, that's a bonus. This doesn't mean they let themselves be doormats, though - they're quite happy to end things by force. Their leader is nominally Mandrill Sergeant, but he tends to stay out of things unless an officer is in real danger.

The Sea Monkeys are the Jammer "navy," though they tend to be more submersible than boat-like. They're modified to be able to operate underwater for extended periods and often go out of contact for months at a time. If they didn't cause sudden and mysterious losses among Buro's naval forces, it'd be easy to forget they exist. They tend not to socialize much, having gotten used to their underwater language of hand gestures. They mostly like to blow shit up and don't care about the grand plan of the Jammers...except their boss, Swimpanzee, the only one who keeps regular contact with Potemkin. He picks their targets most of the time, and just shrugs the rest of the time. Fortunately, the Sea Monkeys are devoted to him, if not the Battlechimp.

A lot of Jammer non-ape recruits are ex-Buro. Buro's tactics tend to make...well, lots of people question them once they get out of the chi influence. Others were spies by other factions who got turned. Why? Well, chi has power - even the chi generated by the Jammers burning feng shui sites. It often causes double agents to betray their original bosses. It's a weight of chi on history thing. The ex-Buro folks tend to form up together, since they tend to fit in less with everyone else in the Jammers.

They formed 401K Squadron , originally a grim joke about the Jammers being Buro's only retirement plan, but they're now an elite unit led by the monstrous Captain Contagious. They are all soldiers mutated by arcanotechnology, who bonded due to their shared problems and backgrounds. They're devoted to the Jammers, having experienced the dangers of magic firsthand, and since they're already mutants, they tend to be willing to push the safety margins of arcanotech pretty damn far, muating even further.

The Ex-Abominations are...well, freed monsters. The Jammers like to free them because they tend to be really tough and really angry once the neural greppers are removed. (More on those later.) Usually, they get used as shock troops, much like Buro uses them. However, they get treated with respect between missions, and most abominations accept this as the best they can expect. A few are more specialized. The vivisectors are abomination scientists, and some of them defected to the Jammers. From them, Potemkin learned of the Seed of the New Flesh (more on that later, too), They tend to work with the scientists more than the soldiers, but still hang with the abominations. One of them, Akaza Dizai, is the de facto leader of the Jammer abominations. Unlike most Jammers, they want to keep magic around - they need it to live - but they don't want humans to know anything about using it. The only thing humans ever did with it was enslave them, after all, and if the price of getting free is to stop preying on humanity, they'll take it.

The Mad Scientists are the Jammer science division. The CDCA tries to discourage terms like that, encourage the healthy expression of emotions and try to avoid maniacal laughter. The Jammers...don't. If you haven't had to do an experiment in the middle of a storm, you're not a "real" scientist. They specialize in designing things with no conceivable use, then giving them to Potemkin to watch him find a use for them. Green Rain keeps them in rough check - she's far more interested in results than methods, and has become a lot more ethically flexible than she was when she left Buro. Still, she's determined not to see the next enemy of the Jammers escape their own labs. If not for her, it might have happened already.

The Portal Jockeys consider themselves to be much saner than the 401Ks and other military arms of the Jammers. They see themselves as an elite commando squad, using the skills they had capturing monsters for Buro to plan raids on their old masters. In a way, they are commandos - they know a lot about 69 AD and the Netherworld, and they love to use that knowledge to hit Buro. However, they also have some less glamorous jobs, like catching monkeys for the Ape Factory. They see this as easy work, given it's a lot easier to catch a gorilla than a demon.

The Jammers also have a ton of buddies in the 2056 Resistance movement. Those groups may not be Jammers, but they're happy to take Jammer guns and equipment and let the Jammers take the heat off them. Without the Jammers, they'd all be gone. There's the Dallas Rockets , originally a 2025 citizen's militia in the Independent Republic of Texas. Over time, they vbecame a highly disciplined band of freedomg fighters in the Texas Demilitarized Zone. By 2055, they were so far underground that the Buro thought they'd been wiped out for two years before they made a series of high-profile attacks masterminded by their leader, the Yellow Rose. (More on that later.) They are currently a diversionary force, performing precision strikes on areas that make major societal disruption. They're precise enough to take a police station and not even scratch the hospital next door, so the Battlechimp turns to them when he doesn't want the usual Jammer "blow everything up" methods.

The Edge Warriors are a loose network of informants, sympathizers and so on. The Free Sex Militia works to reverse Buro's marriage policies, the Luddites protest the invasive technologies of the day (though oddly, 37% of Buro's security analysts are Luddites; Potemkin isn't sure if they're protesting what they see each day or just want to get out of work), and so on. They rarely give direct combat assistance, but they leak lots of useful information. They also help procure vital black market supplies, allowing the Jammers to stay out of 2056 as much as possible. They also help hide Jammer teams when they don't have a GateMaker ready to escape.

And, uh, the... Vikings . Most people believe the vikings must have wandered into the Netherworld via one of the rare portals in 69 AD to open outside China. In fact, the small clan that works with the Jammers did do that...but they were only there briefly, wandering back out into Norway around 2040. Something happened, though - the chi flow of Norway, previously dormant, was changed as though the return of the Vikings was a lock in a key. The Buro refuse to admit it, but they've given up on pacifying the place, and it's one of the few remaining trouble spots in 2056. The leader of the clan is Eldgrim Thorodsson, known as Eldrim the Gaunt or Eldrim Giant-Breaker, and he doesn't understand 2056 much. As far as he's concerned, hsis descendants are cowards, foreigners keep trying to invade and he can't find good mead anywhere . The Jammers offered him good axes in exchange for a safe haven from Buro, and he grudgingly took the deal. Since then, they've gotten a bit more friendly, and Norway is usually a safe place for Jammers in 2056 to go to ground.

Then there's Jammer Intelligence . These guys are not often thought of, as Potemkin uses the psychopaths to conceal their activities. They have a lot of computer experts in 1996 and 2056, where they hack Architect and Lodge databanks. They also make false body parts to fool recognition software, scan brains and decode them for information (a complex and time-consuming art) Their "leader" and best analyst is a small man in a straitjacket in a padded room. Sometimes Jammers come tell him things, and he uses it to make a big picture of the Secret War. He is Subject Eleven, and we'll learn more about him later.

The Supply Chain are a bunch of thieves, dealers and ragpickers who acquire equipment for the Jammers. They use modern ordinance when they can get it, but...well, there's a reason the Jammers tend to use things like tank turrets stuck on with duct tape. They do have a lot of demolitions experts on hand, though, to make sure the boomns are really, really big. The Saboteurs help with that...and also with technological sabotage, slowing down Buro's progress and abilities. These guys see lots of folks die - and all to keep them alive. The gearheads are the important ones, after all, making sure the tanks fail, the conveyer belts break and the police cars don't drive.

How do you join the Jammers? Well, cyborg apes get built into the group. Former Buro folks tend to start by being posted in the Netherworld, away from 2056's chi influence. Plus, it's the best place to find the Jammers, in places like the Genocide Lounge. Sure, you risk a brawl just by going in, but you have to take risks. That's really how all Jammers start (except the apes). You know a few Jammers, help 'em out, and next thing you know, you're a Jammer. There's no formal initiation - you just do the work.

Now we get some fiction about a guy sneaking around - a guy who can turn into a demon. He doesn't like doing it, but can be useful. Anyway, he allows mosnter hunters to catch him so he can get into the Biomass Processing Center, and from there he starts exploring, all while another Jammer is unexpectedly setting alarms off. He finds the captured kids - who are, among other things, being fed to monsters as rewards for good work. He bumps into his fellow agent, Miss Behaving, and helps her go through the shipping records. Kids are being used in something called 'Project: Malacostraca'. They steal the records and escape.

In this chapter, we're going to talk about the Jammers and their goals. Which are simple: end chi. The Jammers feel chi-users oppress everyone for their own power, using chi for an unfair advantage: 'chi-ters.' (They like puns.) They have a simple solution: blow up all feng shui sites. This doesn't mean they do it immediately, though. Potemkin's favorite phrase is 'ethical flexibility', and he'll go against his manifesto to advance the larger cause. If they find a useful feng shui site, they'll hold it until it's been milked for all it's worth, then blow it up. This applies to dealings with other factions, too - they're willing to make temporary alliances with others...except Buro. They will never, ever work with Buro, ever. Potemkin himself might, but he knows that they're too useful as a common enemy, and working with them would dilute motivation. For most Jammers, after all, it's not a war on chi - it's a war on Buro with an odd plan of attack.

Next time: Jammer goals.

Ever seen a chimp smile?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Ever seen a chimp smile?

There are several sidebars with IC opinions on the other factions. The Jammers believe the Four Monarchs are obsolete and outdated, but they're glad the Monarchs don't pay much attention to them. The Eaters of the Lotus have a powerful demonic army, but the Lotus are built on treachery and the Jammers believe they'll destroy themselves if given the right chance. Anyway, Jammer goals. The Battlechimp loves to recruit local talent, and has found people he can trust to run operations in each juncture. They tend to try to keep pressure up on the ruling faction to cover for sneakier plans. In 69 AD, well, the Jammers do have a lot of China operations, mostly harassing the Lotus, which pisses Gao Zhang off to no end.

However, the China operations are a smokescreen for the real plan. Portals outside of China are few, but the difference between the Jammers and the others is that they haven't let that stop them. Potemkin sent a bunch of agents out with months' worth of supplies, pointed them towards Rome and told them to break things. In history, as it stands now, Rome endures for centuries and has a slow, decadent collapse in the third and fourth centuries. The Jammers hope to collapse it within two decades. They've made contact with an offshoot Vandal tribe not mentioned in history books, who lacked the skills and numbers to do anything significant. The Jammers changed all that - not with technology, but with modern military tactics, which have allowed some important victories over the Roman legions. Eventually, they hope to force Rome to contract its borders early. Other teams are working to spread political trouble in the Empire itself. These two plans feed into each other, and they've already gotten Emperor Galba murdered by a mutinous Roman army. Emperor Otho, his successor, is looking pretty insecure. According to history, 69 AD was the Year of the Four Emperors. Emperor Vitellius dies as well after Otho, and after him, Emperor Vespasian rules for ten years. Assuming the Jammers don't change things further.

The Jammers don't have portals to Rome, but they do have one to West Africa. There's no feng shui sites anywhere near it, no settlements, nothing but trees and animals. This is exactly what they want. They've built the Ape Factory there to convert the local populace of monkeys and apes into cyborgs. If they lost the Ape Factory, they'd be in huge trouble. Fortunately, the middle of Africa in 69 AD is pretty damn remote. Despite being near Europe, the Jammers will not use this portal to supply anyone. Battlechimp picked his Roman team to work independently, and the Ape Factory is far too important to let anyone trace its location.

The Battlechimp also keeps an eye out for ways to wn where no one else was even looking. Thus, he always looks for feng shui sites that aren't properly defended, or whose defenders don't know what they have. When he was working an operation in 1996 Londong, he noticed that the Lodge had attuned to several ancient Druidic sites around England, and realized that they had powerful feng shui...but were too well defended to take on. He has, instead, sent a small group of experts to 69 AD to see if they can blast the sites before the Lodge ever gets to Britain. There's some surprises waiting for them, though. The Lodge doesn't occupy 69 Britain - no faction does, in fact. However, the Druids who built the monuments are still using them, and while they don't know about Chinese geomancy, they do know that the places are important for their mystic ceremonies. Battlechimp's team isn't getting out of this one easy - the Druids know magic, too.

The Jammers of 69 AD has to operate independently - but one thing was made clear to the Roman team: they might know about modern technology and strategy, but the local tribes know Romans . As a result, the Jammers are making friends with the local Vandals. The chieftain of the tribe, Kornell, believes the Jammers are some kind of warriors from the Far East sent to help him fight Rome. He serves as the 69 AD general, and while he at first expected them to obey without question, he's now willing to listen to them before giving his orders.

Okay. 1850. The Lodge controls China, Europe and is well on its way to owning America. The Guiding Hand want to retake China. For some reason, they don't think the Jammers are helping them, though. The Jammers are unsure why - after all, blowing up all those monasteries and monuments cripples the Ascended, right? They're finding other ways, too. The South Seas were a pirate haven for decades, and the Jammers have made some great friends among the pirates, who are glad to have allies with high-tech weapons and no lectures about Confucius. The Jammers, meanwhile, get to pretend to be Captain Blood. Win-win! The sidebar on the Guiding Hand is basically 'good guys, but my god do they have a stick up their ass, a huge stick, and no one is interested in inner peace and mental discipline when the other side has pizza and porno'.

As with 69, the China operations are a smokescreen. The Jammers think the real action is in North America, which will be taken over by the Lodge over the next century as they lose their European and Asian strangleholds due to the World Wars. Battlechimp Potemkin wants to disrupt American history, and that means American feng shui. In the South, that means destroying plantation houses built on slave labor. Unfortunately, that takes more troops than the Jammers could ever get. Fortunately, there's an army already in place: the slaves. Setting up a slave rebellion ain't easy, though. They're working with the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape, using Netherworld portals to get them an untrackable path. They're also moving guns south to prepare for a slave uprising. The JKammers may not be able to get that many weapons, but the difference between an 1850 revolver and a 1996 Uzi means that one might be enough. More importantly, the Jammers have gotten the slaves talking to each other, thanks to the Netherworld portals.

The slaves aren't the only folks the Jammers are helping, either. The frontier era was full of warfare against the native Americans. The American cavalry won most of 'em, and their capture of key feng shui sites meant Manifest Destiny actually worked. The Jammers want to change that. They don't have much that they can give the natives in the way of weapons - those are being used for the slaves - but they've helped in an overlooked area: modern medicine. Whether you think the Americans used germ warfare intentionally or not, disease wiped out a lot of natives. The Jammers have been inoculating them against smallpox, polio and several other diseases. They hope to change enough by 1860 that the Lodge will have lost a lot of control in 1996.

But, just in case, the Jammers have a backup plan. This one is from the mad science division, who've been studying chi and found one of the more...interesting weapons. See, they noticed that malls everywhere tend to look the same, have the same stores and so on. The Jammers determined it's actually a chi resonance given off by certain locations that propagates the same structure, no matter where it is. If you could replicate this in Manhattan, suddenly folks would decide it's a great idea to tear down the Statue of Liberty and build a mall. (With a Gap. There's always a Gap.) The Jammers have found out how to replicate the resonance with a small device the size of a afootball. Barring power failure, it should broadcast "mall waves" for 200 years - enough to contaminate the local chi. By putting these mall bombs in areas where important monuments and powerful sites will be built, the Jammers hope to replace the lodge's best sites with the weak chi of malls.

They also want to disrupt one of the most important Lodge chi engines: the railroads that will cross the country over the next 20 years or so. They take every chance to sabotage the railroads, but the Transcontinental Railroad won't be built for several years yet. As far as the Jammers are concerned, that means getting creative. They're working on bombs with very long timers, and finding the right places to set them so that they won't be disturbed by construction. Even so, this is one of the more long-term projects, and some have complained it's a waste of good explosives.

Maybe you're wondering where the hell the Jammers are getting the funding for this. They're cheating, that's how. The gold rush started a year ago, but there's plenty of gold in the hills still - plus gold that won't be found in Australia for two years, and more in the Klondike after that. And there's still 50 years before the Minnesota gold rush (more on that later). The Jammers have sent teams out to mine all those locations and more. They have the advantage of knowing the historical records, after all, and using modern mining equipment. Who cares about a little ecological destruction? Those old growth forests have too much good chi anyway. Once they mine the gold in 1850, they bring it to 1996, where they use it to buy guns and other things outlawed in 2056, like hamburgers, alcohol and Bugs Bunny cartoons. The Jammers love having money. There's opposition to the plan in the form of the Lodge, though, who can and do do exactly the same thing. Most of the guys who get rich in the gold rush have always been Pledged operatives - the Lodge just takes more care in removing the gold, so as not to disrupt world currencies. At this point, the gold standard will hold for 75 years or so, and so the Pledged and Jammers are warring over the gold.

In Japan, meanwhile, Potemkin knows he's got 3 years before Perry arrives. The last contact, in the 1600s, ended with the island being sealed to the West. The Battlechimp wants to replace the Tokugawa with a strong government, one with modern weapons that can fight off Perry. However, that's not easy - the Tokugawa are in the middle of a national crisis, and they're going to fall apart. The Meiji aren't up and running yet. Also, the Japanese distrust foreigners, to say nothing of cyborg apes. Potemkin doesn't care. He knows Japan will be important to the Lodge in a century or so, and he wants to take that away.

Oh, and in about 70 years? Communism hits. The Lodge don't like Communism. The Communists were a real problem - they lost a ton of agents and a ton of feng shui sites. So the Jammers have devoted a small force to spreading Communism. Sure, it's probably futile, since it didn't really take root until after World War I killed lots of people and wrecked the Lodge's chi engine, but Potemkin hopes that in conjunction with his other plans, there might be some early Communist revolutions in places that never had one.

So, who's running 1850? The biggest priority is freeing the slaves, so it's no surprise that Potemkin picked a freed slave: Michael Freedman, who escaped with the Underground Railroad five years ago, when the Jammers started helping move them through the Netherworld. Once he got there, Michael realized this had to be bigger than North and South, and he left the Jammers to wander the Netherworld, learning as much about them and their fight as he could. When he felt he knew what was going on, he went back to Battlechimp Potemkin and offered his services...even though it meant working in the South and risking recapture. Michael is not a strategist or a fighter - he's a speaker. He's a really good speaker. Potemkin chose him for that - he can get strategists anywhere, but first he needs an army, and Michael can recruit him an army.

Okay, 1996. Plenty of targets in 1996. The Soviets have just collapsed, and the Jammers are exploiting the tensions there. Europe is on the verge of forming the EU, and the Jammers are stalling that. America's becoming a major power, China's taking Hong Kong, Germany's reunited - things are in flux. The Jammers know it's the last juncture before the Architects, and they're doing all they can to stop Buro from happening - even if it means helping people they aren't too fond of. One of their big plans involves the oil reserves. The Buro in 2056 run on solar, wind and tidal energy, among other things, but during their initial takeover, they used oil. The Jammers hope to derail that by reducing the oil reserves to dangerously low levels. Of course, they know they need chi to do that - getting rid of the oil without chi would just make the Buro start using alternative power earlier. So the Jammers have to destroy the oil in a way that alters chi flow. They attack tankers off of coastlines with powerful feng shui, destroy drilling rigs with good chi and in general try to cause as much ecological damage as possible. When asked how they can justify it, they say the oil was going to be burned anyway, which would have wider and more destructive longterm consequences. This may or may not be true, but are you going to argue with the giant flamethrower-wielding gorilla?

The Jammers also know that arcanowaves are only a couple decades away. They've not been able to find Doctor Anita Dao, and even if they idd, they know killing her would change nothing. (They'd do it if it would - Battlechimp Potemkin would kill himself if he thought it'd stop Buro.) But she's not the only one who was involved in arcanotech. Many others helped refine her discovery, which is why the Jammers are attacking labs and universities. They hpe that by destroying centers of learning and research, they might change the world's chi, eliminate or discourage enough scientists and delay or negate arcanotech development. So far, they've delayed the discovery by six hours - not much to show for two years of work, but it's encouraging. Oddly, this is one of the few projects the Lodge is helping with - though inadvertantly and from another angle. The Lodge know this is their last juncture, and so they're using their power to disrupt science, too. Pledged fundamentalist Christians are trying to force poor science into schools, Pledged journalists write about the dangers of technology and MTV is frying brain cells in every kid they can find. (It was the 90s, MTV still mattered to people.)

Sidebar on the Ascended - they think humanity was a trap for the Ascended, something they can't give up even though the future is coming. Soon, they will panic, and they will fail. On the Dragons: nice guys, but suckers who never think about the big picture. Anyway. The Jammers love recruiting in 1996 - anyone they recruit has a good chance of being around even when the portals close, and they might be able to stop Buro before it starts. Even if not, they can still be around in 2056, the same way the Guiding Hand uses the Golden Candle Society in both 1850 and 1996. However, trying to spread the word about a secret war between Shaolin monks, demons, transformed roosters and cyborg gorillas from the future can be hard. Even if the Lodge didn't control the mass media, it'd be hard to get CNN to talk about it. So the Jammers are using THE INTERNET . (90s, remember, the Internet is magical.) The Jammers love the Internet - it's still anarchy in 1996, and they can't get enough. They upload songs to Napster that haven't yet been written, they send viruses around that force computers to tell people that Buro sucks and they recruit new members. People are, slowly but surely, listening.

There's all sorts of people involved in researching and studying Hong Kong, to see how the tiny island has such powerful chi. The Jammers are the exception: they're studying Hong Kong just to find out how many explosives they need to wipe it off the map. Unsurprisingly, the answer is 'a lot'. The Battlechimp knows exactly how much, and one of his ongoing projects is to destroy Hong Kong. It'd take nukes, and he's been trying to get one for three years. He's aware of how many people would die if a nuke went off in Hong Kong. He doesn't care. People die in wars.

The general of 1996 is Neil Glasscock (yes, really), an Internet nerd. He was an early e-commerce guy, selling videos and CDs over the internet after he dropped out of college. His company went public at the start of the 90s bubble, and Neil is now very rich. He spent a lot of his time surfing the web anyway, and he bumped into the Jammers on a conspiracy newsgroup. At first he thought they were crazy, but a little checking left him both convinced and in danger of the Lodge. He made a deal with the Jammers - he gets protection, they get his resources. It's worked out for Neil. He's also taken a liking to the Jammers - they've got a good cause, he thinks, and next to them his name looks practically normal.

In 2056, well, the Jammers want to struggly against their ultimate enemy, Buro, but it's hard to accomplish anything effectively in the police state - mostly they can just piss people off and make trouble worse. That's why they've decided to go subtle. No, really. Subtle. Sidebar time, first, though: the neural grepper. It's a small, toadlike demon that has been bred and latered by Buro to understand some simple concepts: Buro is good, and a rough description of what Buro is. They implant the grepper into the brain by putting it on the skull. It sinks through flesh and bone, wrapping itself around the brain and feeding harmlessly off neural electricity. Harmlessly, that is, until the brain decides to disobey or harm Burop, at which point it discharges a shock in the pain centers. To disobey requires a Willpower roll against diff 7, and success gets 1 Impairment, which is cumulative; once it hits 5, you start having to make Death Checks, rolling Constitution against the Impairment total. Failure means your brain explodes because the grepper gets overexcited. At any time, you can negate the Impairment by obeying the order - but the grepper reads minds, so it can't be fooled by pretending to obey. Once you have a grepper, the only ways to get rid of it are either neurosuergery (a pair of diff 15 Medicine: Surgery and Arcanowave Device checks; if either critically fails, your brain explodes). Or, well, you can critically succeed on a grepper Death Check and choke the grepper on yoru neural energy, killing it and freeing yourself. The neural grepper only gets put in abominations, as it's always 'plugged in' and mutates a human horrible within hours. No PC abomination must start with a neural grepper - it's stricly optional and doesn't count as a schtick.

Anyway. Abominations, right. The Jammers know hte Abominations aren't happy to serve, and would like to get even with the folks who changed them into cyborgs. Unfortunately, neural greppers. The Jammers' arcanowave expert, Rah Rah Rasputine, sabotaged some neural greppers once to reverse their punishments into rewards; this created the infamous Chromosome Screamers, of whom we will learn in Seed of the New Flesh. Now, the Jammers want to sabotage the factories the greppers are made in. That'd turn an entire army on the Buro, bringing them down in one fell swoop. However, the grepper factories have the best security in Buro - Boatman and Bonengel know how bad a sabotaged grepper is, too. A failure would just get security made even tighter, so the Battlechimp is taking all the time he needs to make his plan perfect.

Sidebar on the Architects: they're horrible people who want to crush the human spirit and are doomed to fail because they make their own enemies. See, as we leave the sidebar, we learn that not all abominations have greppers...and the Vivisectors didn't get them because they were designed for intellect. A demon in the brain giving them shocks wouldn't help. Second, the vivisectors were made of wandering spirits given flesh, and weren't especially tough - conventional discipline would work. That was the theory, anyway. Turned out they were harder to control than expected. Rather than attack scientists or sabotage experiments...the Vivisectors have been quietly, politely and calmly agitating for citizenship. The Buro do not like this - the abominations were made to be disposable, citizenship defeats the purpose. And it'd be a propaganda nightmare to integrate them. As a result, Buro has made vague promises, endless studies and done nothing. The Vivisectors are getting upset, and several have defected to the Jammers. Most have decided to go more subtle, though...and more extreme.

They've formed a secret society within the CDCA called the Seed of the New Flesh. They've decided abominations are superior to man (man cannot, for example, fly), and so they are going to overthrow humanity. The Battlechimp wants them to fail. He hates abominations and doesn't want them in charge any more than the Bobos. However, he knows that the enemy of his enemy is his friend - so he's been secretly sending information and equipment to the Seed through his own vivisectors. There's one major aspect to all this that he's not aware of, though: his arch-nemesis, Homo Omega, is one of the senior members of the Seed of the New Flesh. He's manipulating them towards extreme policies of human conversion or extermination. And Homo Omega is fully aware of Battlechimp, relishing the irony of his worst foe secretly furthering his goals. (More on Homo Omega in Seed of the New Flesh.)

Next time: Jammers of 2056, continued. Also, NPC profiles!

Then let's get out there and take that hill the only we know how - headfirst!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Then let's get out there and take that hill the only we know how - headfirst!

The Jammers and the Seed of the New Flesh are both working at one of the key weakpoints in Buro's domination: the rivalry between the CDCA and Buro itself - or, more plainly, the rivalry between Curtis Boatman and Johann Bonengel. Boatman's a comfortable, secure hedonist interested in the benefits of world rulership, while Bonengel is a crusader who really believes he can actually make a utopia which must be expanded across time. These worldviews have always clashed, and the result is the scientific and military wings have never seen eye to eye. The Battlechimp tries to play them off each other, planting evidence that the CDCA leaked military info, or deliberately sabotages experiments to force action against the CDCA. By seperating the two, he hopes to get rid of the technological superiority. So far, no dice, but Potemkin's hoping.

The general of 2056 is a Jammer sympathizer who controls one of the very, very few feng shui sites not owned by Buro. In fact, it's a major site - and its chi makes it virtually invisible. The Skimmer, as the man is called, used to be a Buro city planner, but no one realized he was also a geomancer, having learned it from his father, who learned it from his father before him, and so on. It would've been easy for him to build strong chi resonance into each city, but as a Jammer sympathizer, he didn't want to help Buro much. When he got put on the design team for the nationwide sewer control system, he finally put his talents to use. He made the sewer a model of efficiency - and a great feng shui site. The geomantic resonance attracts secrets, and the Skimmer has attuned himself to it, so he can see the secrets in the sewage through geomantic divination. Every movement made, he can spot, from the shit in the sewer. Eventually, he'll blow the site when it's stopped being useful, but for now, ethical flexibility. The nature of the site's chi hides it from attempts to find it - it's all the things Buro wants to get rid of, so they can't even see it. By attuning to it, the Skimmer has also become almost invisible to Buro. (Literally - they get -5 to all rolls to notice him.)

The Jammers are based in the Netherworld, so there's no general there. Battlechimp Potemkin runs things, but he tries not to rock the boat. He doesn't want to piss off the Monarchs - that'd be practically suicide. He does, however, actively recruit and has been trying to make friends. So far, few allies, but he's patient. So, what are the plans for the other factions? Well, the Jammers don't get on well with most of 'em, and the Battlechimp knows no one thinks his boys are subtle - which gives him an advantage. No one ever suspects the Jammers have spies.

The Dragons and Jammers are officially friendly with each other, cooperate and visit each others' HQs. When they fight, it's usually because someone's been manipulated. However, this hasn't prevented Potemkin from placing a spy in the Dragons. He knows some of his plans will make them his enemies, and he wants to know whent they start getting close. The spy's name is Johnny Badhair - and as far as he's concerned, he's not a spy. He's a Dragon who's also a Jammer and occasionally mentions to his old buddies what his new buddies are doing. No clash of loyalties. (He also has a cool unique schtick: Evitable Comeback, which lets him permanently reduce his Fortune by 1 when he fails a death check to be blown clear or otherwise saved. His body moves out of sight somehow, and he returns, apparently unhurt, later. This can only be done if he's got an unspent Fortune point, though.) Anyway. When the loyalties do clash, even Potemkin doesn't know what side Johnny will be on - so he doesn't tell the kid anything he doesn't want the Dragons to hear. The Dragons do suspect Johnny gives information to the Jammers, but it's hard not to like the guy - he's fearless, he'll risk his life for any of them without a thought and his hair is classified as modern art in thirteen different museums.

The Jammers really, really don't like the Guiding Hand. One faction believes in deference to authority, the guiding power of chi, peace, serenity and austerity. The other believes in anarchy, energy and massive amounts of destruction. Despite that, there are a few Jammer spies in the Hand. Basically, what Potemkin does is find monks who've just entered the contemporary juncture and dazzles them with modern technology. If they find it interesting, he usually finds they can change their viewpoints on 'deference to authority' with enough effort and that they'll aid the Jammers when they do. Of course, these agents don't last long - either they repent and return, or the Hand kicks them out. Still, there's plenty more where they came from, and Potemkin has no problems at all with wrecking their lives for some brief spying. (You may not have noticed yet, but Battlechimp Potemkin is kind of an asshole .)

The Eaters of the Lotus, as far as the Jammers are concerned, started this whole chi problem. They'd love to just wipe it all out at the source, but that's not as easy as it sounds. The Lotus has demons, monsters and magic - just another bad example of what chi can do. The Jammers have trouble getting spies into the Lotus, though, much as the Lotus tend not to have much luck spying on them. The gap of 2000 years is so wide that it's nearly impossible to find someone who can span it. Also, most people are afraid of getting castrated. Potemkin sticks to hidden cameras and microphones to spy on them - which works better than you'd think, as hte Lotus aren't very good at modern technology and still don't know that the Imperial Palace has bugs in it.

Some Jammers are okay with ignoring the Ascended - after all, their world domination is pretty benign compared to the Lotus or Buro, and even in places they run you can get a cheeseburger, internet and rock and roll. The Battlechimp does not agree - chi domination is chi domination. A lot of his operations focus on the Lodge because they control two junctures - too much to effectively guard. That makes them an easy target. Meanwhile, the Architects...will be destroyed. That's the sum total of the Jammer attitude. Blow them up. Blow them all up. Most Jammers are ex-Buro or from 2056, and they hate the place. That doesn't stop them from using spies, though - several BuroMil grunts and vivisectors are secretly helping them. But there is no chance for alliance, truce or even mercy with the Architects.

The Jammers have to share the Netherworld with the Four Monarchs, and...well, they avoid each other as much as possible and get on each other's nerves in passive-aggressive ways. The Jammers don't like the Monarchs because they're big chi-users, but the Monarchs are also super dangerous and no one wants them to take a personal interest in hunting down Jammers. After all, these are guys who can singlehandedly fight armies. So the Jammers just perform petty acts of spite and malice, and anything big always has a scapegoat to blame. They'd love to do something huge and blame Buro for it, but so far they haven't figured out what or how to do that.

And, of course, there's the contingency plans. Things go wrong, and the Battlechimp is one of the best planners in the world - so he plans for that, too. If he dies, leadership goes to Green Rain and Furious George. What happens if they die? Well, Green Rain's picked her successor: she will be replaced by Akaza Dizai, the lead vivisector. She's impressed by his mind and his commitment to abomination rights. She hasn't told anyone, though, leaving it as sealed orders in case of her demise, since some Jammer scientists don't work well with abominations and she didn't want to cause problems for Akaza. Furious George is more fighter than strategist - he breaks things and kills people. No one wants to lose that firepower...but if it happens, there are sealed plans for a new cyborg ape: King Kung. These plans will be activated if either George or Potemkin get put down. Making King Kung would take a whole lot of resources, which is why the plan is only for emergencies. As far as Potemkin is concerned, 'Furious George dies' is an emergency.

King Kung would be made at the Ape Factory - but what happens if Ape Factory is destroyed? Well, the security there is paranoid-level (more on that later), but if the place does get taken down, there are some small parts caches in various parts of the South American rainforest of 1996, with underground miniature Ape Factories near them. None have anywhere near the capacity of the main Ape Factory, but working together they would just about be able to keep reinforcements coming while a new full-scale Ape Factory was being built. Maybe.

The Jammers' Netherworld base is deep within the Silent Jungle (which we'll see when I get to Elevator to the Netherworld at some point) - but just because it's tough doesn't mean it's invincible. If the place falls, there is a plan. First, head to either 69 or 1850, taking as much equipment as possible and destroying the rest with explosives. 1996 and 2056 have too many options for enemies. Once you get to an early juncture, make contact with the local Jammers. From there, the survivors will make a new plan based on what resources remain and who survived. That's when revenge begins, and Potemkin hasn't bothered to try to plan for it - too many variables.

We now get a bit of fiction as a Jammer agent starts pulling favors to find out how to get onto a Buro space station to rescue some kids. Station 14 is over Russia, and there's a portal five miles from its launch platform. The Jammers have to find a way in...but they realize getting out after would be way too hard. 'Malacostraca', it turns out, is a type of crustacean, but that doesn't help figure out what the kids are being used for. Potemkin walks in at this point, and decides that getting out will not be a problem - getting in is the hard part. The reason? He's taking personal command and is going to kill every Buro agent on the station.

Now then - NPCs! We've got Chimp Change , the result of an experiment by the CDCA to make transformed animals by technological means. The idea was a breedable army of soldiers with superpowers. The hard part was causing the transformation. Chimps were the first test subjects, since they were close to humans anyway, and eventually they were able to turn one chimp human using arcanowave-altered microbes. The transformation, though, was unstable, and the immune system was constantly fighting the microbes. Fluctuations in local arcanowave strength compounded it. The result ended up sometimes being a genius, and sometimes being superstrong, but never both at once. This was not readily apparent in the lab, though. When the test subject was brought to the Netherworld, the change in magic levels turned it into a berserker, and it ripped out of its cell, wandered the Netherworld and continually mutated back and forth until it found hte Jammers. They named the poor guy Chimp Change, and while he's not one of the original Cornelius survivors, he's an honorary one. His unique Schtick is Constant Evolution: At the beginning of each session and whenever the juncture modifiers for arcanowaves change, he makes a closed roll. He adds the result to his Body and subtracts it from his Mind (so a negative roll causes less Bod, more Mnd). This also changes all relevant skill ratings.

Apeshot dates back to the CDCA's first work on the Flying Monkey Squad. The plans were different then - not soldiers, but one-shot weapons. Smart bombs, chepaer than a computer and easier to program: monkeys riding missiles. The idea was a missile navigated by a cyborg chimp with mental upgrades. Apeshot was the first test pilot, sent out to command a dummy warhead strike while avoiding obstacles. Except, uh, he didn't avoid any obstacles. He plowed through them. He did hit the target, though - and smashed it to bits thanks to massive speed. It wasn't what the CDCA had in mind, but they adapted, giving him a heavily armored helmet and using him as a battering ram. After Battlechimp Potemkin freed him, he continued to lead the Flying Monkey Squad. He's known as a tough commander and practices speeches by watching Patton and Full Metal Jacket, then trying to outdo the drill sergeants. This is part of why the Flying Monkeys are so feared - no one wnats to mess up and get chewed out. Apeshot is pretty much stupidly tough and can ram into people for big damage.

Rah Rah Rasputine was born Raraswivali Rasputine, daughter of a major Sri Lankan scientist who served as a resistance member in the Sri Lankan Incursion of 2035, one of the later battles in Buro's world takeover. Though Rah Rah was only nine, she was already helping in the lab, and after the war she and her mother got sent to re-education camps. Rah Rah was terrified and intrigued by the speed with which her mother converted to Buro thought, and she played along, still helping her mother...but this time in making Abominations. By the time she was sixteen and the first was finished, she knew the functions of every system in them - and how to disable them. Including the neural grepper. Eventually, she worked her way to a job in the Biomass Processing Center, learning something of how chi worked. She decided she'd have it easier breaking free there, and she sabotaged several neural greppers, defecting to the JJammers with her friends, the Chromosome Screamers. They're nto the brightest, and they just call her 'Rah Rah', which is where her nickname came from.

Battlechimp Potemkin is in many ways the worst mistake the Architects ever made. He was not the first cyborg ape made - he was in fact one of the later ones, and incorporated every advance made in the field of cybernetics at the time. In fact, some of his creators consider him their best work. (These are generally the ones in the reeducation camps.) The problem came with the consciousness upgrades. The Battlechimp series was designed to be field generals, coordinating entire battlefields. That meant they needed to understand military theory, history and strategy. Potemkin got his mind dumped with the knowledge...and within five seconds of being turned on, he decided to rebel. Within five days, he'd converted half his design tema. Within a month, he'd escaped to the Netherworld and helped finish the prototype GateMaker. Now, his plans are simple: destroy feng shui. He is utterly ruthless and will sacrifice anything and anyone to succeed in his goals - even himself. He has no stat below 11 except Chi.

Subject Eleven was created by the CDCA Project: Athena, which came out of the intelligence augmentation of apes that was used in the Battlechimp program. After all, if it made apes think like humans, how much smarter could a human be made? There were several failures - Subjects One through Three had no intelligence gain, Four through Seven died of cerebral hemorrhage, Eight went into a coma from which he has not recovered, Nine became violently afraid of cats and committed suicide (leading several of the project scientists to be nervous around cats - what if he knew something?), Subject Ten dissolved into an ectoplasmic goo that the scientists believe to be refined mental energy...and then Subject Eleven came along. He is superhumanly intelligent. His grasp of - well, everything was incomparable. However, he also became a sociopath and megalomaniac, manipulating others for his own plans or just his own amusement. Buro kept him locked up in the Athena facility as tight as possible. The Jammers broke him out. Now, he's in charge of Jammer intelligence gathering. He's remade his old cell down to the last bolt and straitjacket, claiming it helps him think. The Battlechimp is certain he's got his own goals which diverge from the Jammers...but he'll deal with it when it comes up. Subject 11 has Mind 15 , and a unique schtick that lets him force Willpower checks against his Charisma as long as he can talk - failure means he struck a nerve in you psychologically and you feel the need to respond verbally, not physically.

Offense Temp is the Jammer nickname for Bryant Davies, cat burglar and master of disguise. He was hired by the Lodge to steal a statue from the Lotus - which eh did perfectly. Then he met up with his employers...and his memory cuts out. His next memory is awakening in the Netherworld in a demonic form he certainly didn't hafve before then. Davies is calm, cultured and a meticulous planner. He's not much for the Jammer explosive MO, but he thinks they're the best able to use him - the Hand is too judgmental, the Dragons too moralistic about theft. The Architects would want to vivisect him, and both the Lodge and Lotus seem to be rather upset about the statue, which they think he kept for himself. What he doesn't know is that the Lodge has already captured him - and never let him escape in the first place. The creature called Offense Temp is a demon the Pledged imprinted with the consciousness of Bryant Davies. They can do that, apparently, with their infamous cloning tanks. Apparently they have those. The real DAvies is imprisoned in the Hub; Offense Temp escaped using his demonic body and imprinted escape artistry. The Lodge doesn't care - if they need to interrogate Davies, they can always make a new one. Offense Temp is just a loose end to be tied up at their leisure.

Jamal Hopkins is a savant. It took months for the Jammers to learn anything about him, and by the time they found him he was already in his current state, doing nothing but speaking directions in a constant, unceasing flow. The only reason they know his name is that it was sewn onto his clothes. They found records of him in Nebraska - apparently, he was autistic and his parents had died six weeks before they foudn him in the Netherworld. Jamal was unable to respond coherently to the news. Apparently, there was an intermittent portal in his house. The Battlechimp believes that when his parents were murdered, Jamal found a way to open the portal and go through it. Beyond that, even he doesn't know what happened there to make the kid into a living map of the Netherworld, unable to communicate in anything but directions. Possibly it was the autism mixing with something - or maybe it would've happened to anyone. Either way, at some point Battlechimp Potemkin wnats to find out, but in the meantime, he'll just keep using Jamal's knowledge of the Netherworld.

Funky Monkey is the perfect example of what makes Jammers Jammers. No one finds it at all odd that one of their best soldiers is obsessed with the 70s and spends all his spare time hunting the markets for pimp hats and gold chains. Much of his time is devoted to conforming to the 70s ideal. He's had voice modulators implanted so that he always sounds like Barry White, and he has a huge collection of blaxploitation films so he can study them to improve his style. Despite the velvet coat, he's pure Jammer. He has a schtick called Dance Dance for the Revolution, which gives him +1 to all action values as long as his implanted boombox is playing. The Lodge once approached him to try and turn him by providing an unlimited supply of funk cDs an autographed picture of Barry White. Though tmepted, Funky Monkey hurled the envoy through a window, telling him that...well.

The Best Monkey posted:

The offer you made was most uncool, brother. The Battlechimp relies on me to keep the group's funk tank full and jamming all the way to Freedom Town, and this brother isn't interested in letting the funkadelic show stop now, you hear?

The Yellow Rose was born Erin Lydecker of Texas, in 2019. She was just six when Texas seceded, and by the time she was thirteen she could field-strip a rifle blindfolded and make seven kinds of bomb. Everyone was expected to do their part in the war. It didn't help, though - by the time Erin was 25, her parents had been killed by Abominations. She was the first to realize the only chance was guerrilla warfare, and she began to organize the resistance that would become the Dallas Rockets. She purged her identity records, taking on a symbol for her name: the Yellow Rose of Texas. She doesn't engage in direct war, knowing it's futile, but focuses on surgical strikes to vulnerable targets, creating the maximum disruption with the minimum of resources. That way, she can sow the seeds of chaos for people like the Lodge or the Jammers to use.

Captain Contagious ...well, they used to be Captain Myers of Buro. Something happened during an arcanowave malfunction, and he began to absorb those he touched. His powers forced him to absorb his entire squad, their bodies and minds merging into him. Them. Bitter over Buro's failure to warn the squad of the dangers of arcanotech, they joined the Jammers and now lead 401K Squadron. They tend to be a loner, afraid of inadvertantly absorbing others...though they have taken in new members - mostly fellow soldiers dying of mortal wounds. They don't see it as murder - they see it as saving those with no chance to live. They desperately avoid making skin-to-skin contact with anyone else, to avoid trying to absorb them.

Next time: Rhesus Pieces and Koko Chanel.

Say, did that look like a monkey's paw to you?

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Say, did that look like a monkey's paw to you?

Rhesus Pieces started life as a Lotus attempt to enact ironic revenge onf the Jammers. Since they were monkeys augmented by technology, Gao Zhang would defeat them using magically augmented monkeys! It took two days of rituals to make the creature, binding demonic power into a rhesus monkey. It was made stronger, smarter, faster, and nearly impossible to kill, as even its body parts would continue to fight. The ability to pop its body parts off at will and move them independently was just a happy accident. However, the monkey escaped the ritual before it was completed by popping itself apart and slipping through the ropes. Though quite bright for a monkey and able to understand both English and Cantonese, Rhesus Pieces cannot speak. He was taught sign language by the Jammers and now serves them in rather interesting roles. Specifically, he will pop an ear and a hand off and give it one group, then do the same with another, serving as a long-range coordinator with his sign language.

Major Hottie (full name Sara Hottenschweiller) was a propaganda icon - gorgeous, intelligent, loyal and fearless. She was fast-tracked for being an Elite and served in the most dangerous parts of the world. Though she saw some bad stuff, she was convinced she was on the right side...until she got a Netherworld assignment. It was meant as a reward, a chance to see the true nature of the war. Away from the chi of 2056, though, the full impact of her career hit her, and she began to wonder how she could have done what she'd done. Learning about chi led her to understand: she was brainwashed. The final straw was when she was told to fire on a Jammer unit saving civilians - after that, she decided the Jammers might have something. She changed sides, and is now as loyal to the Jammers as she was to Buro. She does differ from most Jammers in one major way: Sara doesn't buy into the nicknaming thing, and the first time she heard someone call her 'Major Hottie', the person saying it needed medical assitance. The name stuck, but no one uses it to her face. (Except poor newbies getting hazed.)

Red Don , AKA Donald Duncheskie, was a classic hacker - brilliant, arrogant, completely socially incapable. He tended to smash hardware when mad and break into restricted systems when bored. He was destined to get Buro's attention - but rather than arrest him, they assigned him to the Computer Security Division, designing security programs and intrusion programs to work on the computers of 1996. His personal habits got him in trouble, though - his temper tantrums and contempt for his coworkers finally got him reported to Buro's Team Joy, which attempted "attitude readjustment." Don decided he wanted nothing to do with it and jumped ship for the Jammers, who named him Red Don for his bright red hair. Don refuses to respond to his real name any more. He also has the unique schtick Arrogance is Everything - if he's rolling Fix-It or Sabotage and has made an arrogant statement about it in front of the folks watching him work, he gets +3 to the roll.

Titanium Johnson started out as just a guy who knew women. Then he became a black market porn star. Porn isn't outlawed in 2056, mind you - Bonengel believes in healthy sexual expression and has an entire division of Team Joy working on porn. Unfortunately, Team Joy has a lot of mandates to follow and the result is completely terrible . That's why the black market is a hit. Titanium Johnson (no, not his real name, we aren't told that) was a huge hit - so huge that Buro raided his studio. He made it out alive, but he needed to get a cyborg arm to replace the one they took off him. The surgeon was a Jammer, and throughout his convalescence she talked to him about the need to do more than just black market porno to liberate society. After a while, she took him to meet some Jammers, and...well, now they have a cyborg porn star. Look, it was the 90s.

Miss Behaving was the daughter of one of the richest men in North America. Life was one long string of balls and parties, and she always got anything she wanted. Then the Jammers kidnapped her, telling her that her father had earned his money being a secret servant of the Ascended. He made his money at the expense of millions living in poverty, and they wanted her as a hostage to make sure he followed through on some promises. At first, she refused to believe it - but eventually, the questions they asked got to her. She confronted her father after being released, and he refused to answer her. That was how she knew the Jammers had told the truth. She killed her father the same night, burned the mansion down and spent two weeks finding a portal to the Netherworld. Three weeks after that, she was a Jammer.

Monkeywrench is not a monkey. He is, instead, one of the best informants the Jammers have. He knows every member, has done unofficial deals with pretty much everyone in the Secrtet War (except Buro) and can get anything if he's given enough time to do it. He's a merchant, trader and scrounger - but he's still loyal. Sure, he keeps an eye on the bottom line - but that's finding something that'll help the cause. Thus, he never trades anything that'll wind up in Buro hands. If someone violates that policy - and he will find out - they get cut off from his trading circles forever. His partners value him too much for that - he's like a walking, talking eBay.

Most of the time, the ape hunters look for male gorillas - they're more aggressive. However, when raiding zoos, you don't always get to pick. Koko Chanel was picked up on one such raid, and while she might not be as aggressive, she's got great instincts and is very protective of her allies. She also got most of her ideas about what being a woman means from TV, though, so she's rather preoccupied with makeup, fashion and boys. She's also rather insecure about her appearance, because...well, imagine having a modern human standard of beauty when you're a six hundred pound cybernetic mountain gorilla. Some enemies have tried to exploit this with taunts; the survivors realize this was not a good plan.

We now get some more fiction. The gang of Jammers has headd up to space now, hitching a ride in the cargo bay of a space shuttle. They take out the the Buro agents easily, planting explosive all over the place...and that's when they find the kids. They look normal - a good sign, maybe? They're not mutant crabs, anyway. That's when they grab a scientist, threaten him with a flamethrower and ask what Project: Malacostraca was. All we learn is that it was a terrible, terrible thing.

The Jammers don't tend to hold territory much, but there's some places they still think of as home - even in 2056. There still are some trouble spots, after all. Like India . Things started off okay - Buro occupied it in 2019 after a five-year nuclear war with Pakistan, and they were seen as saviors. They brought ofod, medicine and order. By 2040, all cultural memories of colonialism were gone and they were fully part of Buro. That was when Bonengel decided to abolish the caste system and declare all consumers in the region of India to be equal under Rightscode. (Yes, you have rights - they can just be revoked whenever Buro feels like it.) Bonengel never imagined the riots he'd get. He'd expected resistance from the upper castes, but even the untouchables were fighting him, because the caste systemw as tied to their religious beliefs, and they weren't going to ignore just for a politician. They knew they'd move on to better things in the next life, and weren't about to give that up for some success in this one.

Of course, not everyone in India took part in the riots. The Muslims originally offered to help put down the rebellions, but Bonengel refused their aid, preferring to use the abominations that had just been made. They had mixed success - sure, the shock and awe worked wonders, but they tended to cause mass panic just by existing. They devastated the opposition...but united the populace against Buro. No one's happy with a leader who sends in cyborg demons, even if you're rioting. Even some of Buro's soldiers were bothered by it. It didn't help that the early neural greppers weren't very good - the minders on the abominations had a 78% casualty rate, higher than any other military force in the history of Buro. The populace had no one to turn to - Buro crushed any resistance, assassinated leaders or forcibly mutated them and basically acted like total assholes. Some fled to Sri Lanka to continue their resistance with the help of the Jammers - but most have turned to Gandhi's non-violent resistance.

There's a lot of problems that Gandhi never had to worry about, though. The Buro has more than violence to counter non-violence. They use subliminal messages to overcome hunger strikes, brainwashing to deal with those who demand to be imprisoned as a symbol of oppression and so on. That's where the Jammers come in. The local resistance don't have an ideological commitment to non-violence - they just don't think violence will work. If someone else wants to use it - say, a group of cyborg monkeys - they're willing to voice their moral objections very, very softly. Thus, the Jammers find themselves fighting alongside pacifists, hitting the local Bureau of Happiness and Productivity headquarters very often and keeping the Buro off the resistance with other attacks. The locals, in return, shelter the Jammers and supply them with stuff - not weapons, but that's mostly because there's easier places to get weapons.

Then we've got the Texas Demilitarized Zone , a shattered wasteland after 30 years of war. In 2020, no one believed it would happen. They thought the UN had gotten more militant, but at the time, criticizing the UN for taking over the planet was for crackpots. Five years later, it became clear what was going on. When Texas protested, Congress ignored them. No one in Texas knew aobut feng shui, but it turns out Texas promotes independence and resistance to authority, which is why theyb roke from Mexico and why they're the only state with a secession clause in their Constitution. By 2025, they'd had enough, and Senator Calvin Lydecker led them in seceding to form the Independent Republic of Texas.

The war started slow, but it got hot quick. Lydecker was an ex-Buro soldier and know a lot about what they could do. He used it to keep Buro guessing, and for years it looked like they might be able to hold Buro off - until the abominations came online. Within two years of that, Lydecker was murdered - as was the entire Texas government, at the hands of abomination "sanction squads." The rest of the Citizen's Militia went underground. Two years later, Bongengel's assumption that he'd won was proven wrong, as the Yellow Rose began orchestrating strikes against Buro communications and industries - including the TV broadcast centers. OVer the next ten years, the Dallas Rockets, as the Militia now called themselves, continued their campaign of harassment.

If Bonengel had studied Texas history better, he'd probably be able to guess where the Rockets are headquartered, but he has little interest in learning about the old world when he's making a new one. Thus, he bulldozed over the Alamo without thinking about the symbolic effect it might have. Where it stood is now Nutrient Production Facility #4079823...and under that, the Dallas Rockets' base. All the turmoil hasn't stopped Buro from occupying the Demilitarized Zone, but they don't enjoy it. Texas is not a good place to be on duty. No one likes you, no one wants you, the bartender is likely to tip off the resistance and the kid shining your shoes is planning to steal your firing pin. Buro has no safe locations outside their barracks - and even those can be risky.

In Dallas, things are even worse. BuroMil Colonel Harold Sinclair, who has no understanding of irony, believs the Dallas Rockets are operating out of Dallas due to the name. He doesn't wonder why they might advertise that. There are three abomination-making facilities in Dallas, including one where the Texas Stadium used to be. (They still play football in 2056, but Dallas moved to LA, Housed to Fargo and the Minnesota Vikings changed their name to the Minnesota Consumers. Racial equaliy is mandated, and the first abomination took the field in 2050. He was forcibly removed after eating the ball, the quarterback and three offensive linemen.) Austin, meanwhile, sees almost no action in the Secret War at all - because it's one of the last Ascended strongholds and they don't want to draw attention to themselves. They keep their heads down, don't make waves and pray that everyone continues to not notice they're not fully human.

The leader of hte Lodge survivors is a bat named James Ross. He longs for the days when his ancestors ruled the world - but he believes it's possible again. The magic levels have risen, which made it impossible for the older transformed animals to stay human...but it means that new ones can come into existence. Ross has been talking to the local bats to try and get them to start meditating and turning human. It might work - and if it does, Austin might become a hot spot. And where are the Jammers? Well, Texas has a number of portals, and the Jammers like to drop in, cause chaos and drop out. Colonel Sinclair knows the Jammers and Rockets are working together, but he thinks the Jammers are coordinating the Rockets. The Jammers know this and use it to feed him disinformation, throwing him even further off. In fact, it's rare that hte Jammers ask the Rockets to do anything they don't already plan to do.

Officially, Acapulco was the target of a biological attack by the Jammers, who released a mutant strain of airborne HIV, forcing Buro to totally sterilize the area before it infected the planet. Tragic, but necessary. The truth? The Jammers were trying to set off a chi bomb that would detonate quite a lot of feng shui sites by using the principles of chi against them. Buro sterilized Acapulco to prevent the weapon from being activated. People have noticed that Buro's already started land reclamation, planting the Acapulco Memorial Forest where the city once stood - though at the moment, no tree in it is over four feet tall. Some visitors swear they've seen ghosts, though - strange, translucent figures that hum menacingly. The Buro has privately sent a team of arcanotechnicians to check it out. See, in conjunction with the Jammer weapon (the ChiBuster 2500), the deaths of so many people made the place a supernatural nexus.

It is treated as the 69 Juncture for modifier purposes, and it is full of ghosts, most of whom use their influence to enhance the growth of local plant life. They want to bring life back to the place they died...but a few want revenge. None are actually tied to the spot, they just don't realy want to leave. The area doesn't show as having powerful feng shui, but that's because CDCA hasn't done anything with it yet. If a geomancer were to get the site and start working with it, they'd find it a great place. The ChiBuster's destruction "locked in" a lot of good feng shui at the exact moment the place was burned - and thus, the burners gained nothing form it, but the chi didn't go anywhere. Once the forest is grown, it'll be very powerful Right now, the owners are the ghosts. If Buro tries to build anything there, the ghosts won't be happy.

Argentina has a lot of feng shui sites. A few centuries ago, the Lodge came in and tried to use the place like a chi engine. Now, in 2056, the Buro control it and can use that engine...but, like the Lodge before them, they're learning that the place has a price. See, there's a little quirk to the chi of Argentina: it is very strong, but it has an ebb and flow. There is no 'good' or 'bad' chi - if you have a feng shui site, it cycles between the two. In the 1890s, it had an up cycle and the Lodge tried to invest all sorts of stuff in the place. Then it went into a down cycle and prompted the biggest financial crisis before the Great Depression. Juan Peron's career is explained as having been several smaller cycles. Now, Buro controls the place...and right now it's in one of its biggest down cycles. The populace riots three times a week over food shortages, the Jammers raid the place twice a week for fun and a storm wrecked two of the power plants that supply seven percent of the world's energy.

The CDCA know about the problem, but hgave no idea how to solve it - the builders of the sites are long dead, and anyway the Lodge had them created by Western architects copying Easten geomancy, losing something in translation. The Buro isn't sure what, yet. If they can figure it out, they can induce the problem in other sites as well as fixing Argentina's. Anyone who attunes in Argentina makes a closed roll at the end of each session. Instead of the normal 3 point XP bonus, they get whatever the result of the roll is - and yes, if it's negative, that's XP taken from their normal award, though they can't get less than 1 XP per session. The Jammers love the place as a result - because the chi's in a down cycle, they can strike freely, as Buro suffers all sorts of bad luck. The officers bicker, problems don't get solved and progress is not made. The chi won't allow it. Eventually, it'll go into an up cycle and Buro will pacify the place and defeat the Jammers. The Jammers, meanwhile, are watching to see when this happens - though their measuring instrument is 'are we still kicking their asses', they're not very sophisticated. They plan to start burning sites when things seem to be getting better for Buro.

How do the Argentinians feel? Well, they're used to the cycles, so it all seems natural. They cheer for the Jammers now, and in a few years, they'll cheer for the Buro. It's all just life in Argentina. So, what about Norway? Well - let's put it this way - Buro's fought a lot of weird shit, but it ends when they get back to 2056...except in Norway. In 2040, when things started going wrong, no one considered Norway even potentially problmatic. The place was occupied, the people were docile and if a few runestones had some odd chi, who cared? Then something happened. The whole country's chi structure lit up like a Christmas tree and overwhelmed Buro. The weather turned cold and grim, the nights turned long. Technology began failing. The CDCA tried to study the runestones, but the teams who left never came back.

Eventually, a squad brought back evidence: Vikings. Vikings were attacking. Some of the natives joined them. And, for some reason, the guns stopped working - and the Vikings won the battle. The Buro didn't take the news that Norway had been conquered by Vikings well. They sent in abominations, but the chi wasn't hospitable for them, either. (It uses 1996 modifiers.) They sent in tanks - and found that only two things work in Norway now: swords and muscle. In practical terms, this means nothing - it was Norway that made the Vikings dangerous, not any special powers. Outside Norway, they were harmless. SO Buro sealed the borders and started an information blackout. As far as anyone but they and the Jammers know, Norway is perfectly normal. The Jammers hide out there - though it's not fun, since they like technology, too, and the cyborgs can barely survive. Only the Jammer resistance to chi flow has saved them - but hey, it's safe, there's no Buro there. A few other factions are considering sending emissaries to Eldgrim the Gaunt, the local prince, to also use the place. The Lotus has no common ground and Buro lost its chance, but the others might get on surprisingly well. So, where are the natives? They're rediscovering their viking heritage, learning from their ancestors how to live the old ways. several have joined Eldgrim's tribe, though he still considers most of the natives to be weaklings.

Next time: The Secrets of the Ape Factory!

I regretted the unfortunate losses, but on the battlefield, such things were to be expected.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I regretted the unfortunate losses, but on the battlefield, such things were to be expected.

The Ape Factory is...well, a weird place. The complex looks like a cross between a slaughterhouse and a car factory. It took five days to catch the first apes for it, and twelve hours to turn them into cyborgs - smarter, faster, stronger and sometimes on wheels. The leftover body parts were tossed into an incinerator and the Ape Factory was officially online. Those who've seen it running usually find it very disturbing - see, the workers take the monkeys, tranquilize them, then strap them into a metal framework. Then they chop off parts of the ape with heated blades. Sure, the wounds get cauterized, but this is really, really bloody work. Then they strap on the cyborgp arts as soon as possible to avoid tissue degradation. A real doctor would use laser suturing, but there's a budget and a schedule to keep, so the Ape Factory uses arc welders. Then it's back to the rotary saw to cut open the skull and install the intelligence upgrade. They try to make it an even cut, but the real priority is making sure the brains don't fall out, as by this point each ape has a pretty high price tag.

The new ape, if it's woken up by now, rolls of the assembly line dazed and confused. It gets hosed down, tuned up and packed into a cargo truck to head off to the Jammers. Most Jammers don't like working the Ape Factory - sure, the apes are drugged, they don't scream, just whimper a little when the saws remove their limbs. But still - something about hacking off a gorilla's arms and legs with power tools freaks a lot of people out. Still, the Jammers are a quality organization and there's always enough people who enjoy that kind of thing to keep the Ape Factory staffed. It's also a safe job - there's other factions that don't even know a portal exists to Africa in 69 AD. In fact, except for Buro, none of the factions even realize how many cyborg apes came from Ape Factory. They know that new troops get built, but assume most of the apes came from Buro's experiments. Only the Buro are aware that there were maybe a dozen Cornelius survivors. They think the factory's in the Netherworld, though.

In the meantime, the Jammers keep hunting for new apes in the forests, as well as the rainforests of 1996. The hunters use the old techniques they learned hunting monsters, albeit modified for apes and tranq guns. Also lower casualties - most apes aren't much to compare to demons in the murder department. The Jammers usually look for chimps and gorillas, since they start out smartest and are most similar to humans; many of the cybernetics they use were designed for humans. They have used babboons, gibbons, lemurs and others, though, and once a wombat, who earned a personal commedndation for valor before dying to the Buro. They don't upgrade humans or other animals at Ape Factory, though - you need a specialist. Something to keep in m,ind here - once you're posted to Ape Factory, you never leave. Potemkin is fanatical about keeping the place secret. If it were found by the Buro, they and the Lotus would easily team up to wipe it out - maybe with Lodge and even Guiding Hand support. The Jammers would lose their biggest asset, and they can't aford that. Thus, anyone who goes to Ape Factory never leaves, and the supply guys don't know where it is, just where the next link in the supply chain is.

There are flaws in this, of course. The Bur and Lotus have both got spies in the Jammers. (Most factions in the Secret War have spies in every other faction, it's just how things work.) These spies have not found out about Ape Factory, but they're working on it...assuming they don't jump ship for real and betray their bosses. In theory, Buro could find out about Ape Factory by getting a cyborg ape to talk, but their memories of the first week of cyborg life are usually pretty hazy. Most apes don't really understand what's happening until they start Netherworld training.

Then we have the Temple of the Cheeky Monkey . 69 AD used to give the Jammers big problems - they could leave easily via GateMaker, but crossing China meant Lotus interception was always a threat, and they never had a permanent base. Anything that wouldn't fit through a GateMaker had to be left behind. That's a waste of good explosives! Thus, they needed a base. However, that was easier said than done - the Lotus had all the best locations, and the Jammers can't rely on the locals to hide them, unlike in 2056. The locals tend to be terrified of them, in fact. They're not entirely sure why - they're just cyborg apes with giant guns. Anyway, eventually they found a monastery built way back in 432 BC, which had grown corrupt and decadent under Abbot Fang Chiao. Eventually, Feng tried to test the limits of immorality, ordering all the prostitutes they'd brought in murdered to see what it was like to kill.

So, why was this place the perfect base? Well, the murdered prostitutes came back as ghosts, enacting their vengeance on the monks and then Feng Chiao, who is still being tortured now, nearly five centuries later. The temple thus has a bad reputation, as the ghost women seduce unwary visitors and kill them. Sure, it's unfair, but these ladies have issues. The Lotus originally planned to use the temple ghosts, sending a dozen eunuchs to negotiate with them, but it didn't work out well - the ghosts, upset at being unable to seduce eunuchs, just killed them all. That was when the Guiding Hand thought they could purify the place. Their team were seduced by the ghosts and killed. The master of the team resisted seduction, but not murder. Even the Buro got involved, sending monster hunters to capture the ghosts...and found there were too many for one team of hunters to handle. The monster hunters never came back.

That's when the Jammers showed up. They haven't had any problems. Sure, they see the ghosts sometimes, and the abbot's chamber is full of ghosts torturing his spirit endlessly, but they haven't been seduced or murdered or whatever. This is because the ghosts are terrified of them. Eunuch sorcerers, monks, those make sense. They fit the worldview, which is 'people to hurt and kill in inventive and terrible ways.' Even monster hunters are people. But cyborg monkeys? The ghosts have no idea what to do with this. They don't know if they can seduce the Jammers or even if they'd want to. The Jammers aren't scared of the ghosts; rather, they find the ghosts funny. This has messed with the ghosts' heads and gotten them to decide it'd be best not to make trouble. The spirit of Feng Chiao, on the otherh and, sees opportunity. He wants to get away, and also inflict some torment of his own - not in revenge, you understand, he's just sadistic. He hopes to persuade the dumber Jammers to help him escape, but no luck so far. The Jammers love the place - the reputation means no one stops by, and the Lotus and Hand won't come near the temple either. There's even a convenient Netherworld portal, and they've brought in a generator for electricity. (Which freaks the ghosts out more - heatless light is creepy !)

But the Jammers also need some neutral ground to do deals with people in places where they know Buro won't drop monsters on their heads. They use the Ambush . It looks like any other trendy restaurant in Hong Kong. Few people would notice the way the tables are placed to prevent anyone from watching anyone else, or that the acoustics and musc are set up to keep conversations private. The owner is a really old guy who sits in the back and watches everything. So, why is it called the Ambush? Because every single waiter and waitress is a ninja. From the moment you arrive, when you get asked how many in your party to the moment you leave after paying the check, you will not see a single member of the staff unless they want you to. This can be pretty creepy! People look around for a waiter, then find the waiter next to them without any explanation. He will then vanish after taking orders. He will not be seen again - the food will just arrive on your table. No one is entirely sure how it's done - it just happens. It's really good food, though.

The Jammers love the Ambush for several reasons. First, you can't get eavesdropped on easily. When you're making a deal, you don't want informants for other groups listening in, and the Ambush is good for that. Second, the waitstaff are all master ninjas and have instructions to handle violent customers. If someone comes in they can't handle, the old man steps in - and he's a master ninja, who just happens to like owning a restaurant. Third, the Jammers just think the place is pretty neat. The Ambush does hire, but to be hired you must be able to steal an application form without the old man stoppping you (a diff 16 Intrusion check). If you can get a job there, though, he will refine your stealth skills to perfection. Even Quan Lo admits the old man is the best ninja in the entire world. Also, full health benefits and a generous 401K.

As the Jammers slowly introduce the place to the other factions, a lot of have seen the benefits of the restaurant, and it is now one of the major points of neutral ground for all factions. The all-night tailor down the block has a Netherworld portal, so even the Monarchs have been there. (Huan Ken likes their egg foo yung.) Oh, and the Ambush caters - you just tell the maitre d' when and where you want the food, and it will be there. The PCs could easily use this as a diversion. Needless to say, the delivery won't be seen, but having steaming platters of Chinese show up in the room will distract practically anyone.

The Jammers also hang out in the South American Rainforest of 1996. They like jungles. The most interesting thing about this is their dynamic with the developers of the rainforest. See, they don't like developers - they want to have the rainforest to themselves (and the animals, and the few lost tribes who worship the giant metal monkeys as gods). So some developers go to work to find that their bulldozers have exploded. If they keep trying, they find the Jammers in their way with guns. The Jammers are very direct about conservation. On the other hand - well, lots of spots in the rainforest have good feng shui, which goes against their philosophy. So other developers go to work to find the bulldozers have been used overnight and a lot of their work is done for them. (The Jammers will happily stop them from leaving the areas that they wanted bulldozed, though - if the Jammers wanted the whole place cleared, they'd do it themselves.)

This isn't to say the Jammers don't like progress. They do. Just not developers. They've made their bases within the trees themselves, strining wire along the vines and setting up generators in a network to power essential equipment, like the television. They try to decentralize, using the rainforest's bulk to stay hidden from the Ascended. The land developers are full of Pldged trying to find the Jammers, see. They also have computers, so they can get the news out over the internet, especially the alt.conspiracy.secretwar newsgroup. Most people don't realize the Jammers are serious, sadly. Still, they have pretty good control of the rainforest portals - and there's a lot of 'em, which might explain why so many people vanish mysteriously in the jungle. (Or maybe that's the poisonous snakes, hostile natives and hungry jaguars.) The Jammers use the portsl to make attacks on Hong Kong - they can go from South America to China in five minutes flat.

The Jammers have also cleared some parts of the rainforest, creating small, partially underground labs. They use these for dangerous experiments - that is, experiments too dangerous to do in their main base. Given they've blown up their main labs seven times in the last year, this means something. For example, they try to synthesize plutonium. No one has any idea if they managed it - the project scientists got turned into zombies. Some of the labs also have equipment to make cyborg monkeys if Ape Factory gets taken down. However, the Jammers aren't alone in the forest - the huge amount of portals ensures that. Still, fights aren't as common as you'd think. The rainforest is huge and has great camouflage. Running a fight in a jungle, we're told, should involve lots of periods of the fighters not knowing where each other are and ominous soundtracks as they try to be the first to spot the others. Also, someone should grab a vine and relaize it's a snake. This always happens, even though vines and snakes look nothing alike. The Jammers think it's a weird chi thing.

Jammer Lake, Minnesota is empty in the modern era and barely even shows up on maps. In 1850, though, it's a Jammer base, and the name remains. See, it has a portal that leads to the Netherworld's Sunless Sea, discovered by the Sea Monkeys. Potemkin scouted the place and decided to build a base there, as the underwater portals were very stealthy. Also the place is nearly deserted, and the Netherworld side of the portal is a convenient location for other parts of 1850 or 69. Then he started to read about the history of the area. The Jammers had begun their gold mining in Australia and California, but they had no idea that Minnesota had had a gold rush. Even better: all the sites gold had been found at were within 50 miles of the lake - and wouldn't be found for 40 years. Plenty of time to steal most of it.

A base was built in the lake, though by 1996 there are no remains of the base but debris - it seems that at some point the Jammers blow it the hell up. A secret elevator heads to the surface if you can't hold your breath for ten minutes, and from there, the Jammers mine gold and plan actions. Even in Minnesota, though, you can't escape the Secret War. The Ascended have fur trappers in the area, who tend to be stunned to find Jammers there, though they haven't been able to do much - they're not set up for a fight with cyborgs. They need numbers and better guns. They've told their superiors, though, and the place might soon be a battlefield. Someone's going to find out about the base, anyway - the lake had to get its name somehow, right?

Now, we get some fiction - the end of the Malacostraca business. It turns out the reason for the name is a reference to the zodiac symbol Cancer. The idea is that the doctors are trying to use arcanowave mutation to fight cancer, one of the few diseases that remains a problem n 2056. They're using the children as test subjects, trying to find an arcanomutation that will naturally eat cancer but remain harmless to the host body. As such, they've exposed the kids to uncontrolled arcanowaves. Potemkin objects to this plan to 'save' humanity by turning them all into abominations. He tears the doctor apart with his minigun and then tells the rest of the Jammers the plan: blow the base. The kids are abominations now - they can't be saved. It bothers a lot of the Jammers...but in the end, they obey Potemkin.

We now get an explanation on how to run a heroic Jammer campaign. Who doesn't wnat to be hyperactive rebels with lots of explosives and a questionable sense of morality? This isn't going to be a thoughtful game of moral dilemmas and choices about honor and justice. It's going to be about blowing shit up. Just don't worry too much about the morality - Jammers never do, after all. I mean, you can include moral dilemmas, but don't be surprised if no one notices. On the other hand, maybe you want the PCs to eventually defect to a more traditionally heroic group - that's not hard, just have them thrown into the deep end of Ptemkin's more extreme missions; even the most bloodthirsty player will eventually question why they're blowing up maternity wards for having good feng shui. As you might guess, it's thus very easy to also play the Jammers as villains - they're hyperactive rebels with lots of explosives and a questionable sense of morality. They blow up churches, hospitals and schools for having good feng shui. Potemkin doesn't understand the phrase 'innocent bystander' - the best he has is 'regrettable civilian casualties.' It's pretty easy to make 'em bad guys.

So, what happens if the Jammers win? What happens if they manage to wipe out feng shui? Well, most likely, humanity dies. The flow of chi is so vital that without, humanity probably won't last to 75 AD, let alone 2056. The PCs will still be around, of course, since they've been to the Netherworld. In fact, a lot of folks will still be around, and none of them will be happy with the Jammers, since history as we know it has been wiped out. You could go into a storyline about rebuilding feng shui in 69 AD. Or, if you're feeling nice, maybe the Jammers are right. It's a slim possibility, but it does exist. Without chi, the world is ruled by the best and brightest, and government is unneeded. There are a few remnants to be mopped up - Buro soldiers who long for a return to power, transformed animals who want their riches back, eunuch sorcerers who want their evil demon sorcery - but on the whole, life is better. Until the portals open again somewhere else, anyway. Now, let's look at new PC options.

You're a cyborg, a $10,000 Man . Or woman. Maybe you were ex-TacOps and refused arcanowave implants, preferring the older and clunkier but safer technology. Maybe you were part of 2043's bodysculpting fad. Maybe you just got drunk with the wrong scientists and woke up with something a hell of a lot cooler than a tattoo. No matter why, though, you've taken the first steps toward a robot body and, well, sure, there's drawbacks, but you kinda like it.

$10,000 Men can be from the Netherworld or 2056. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get four points to spend on secondary attributes, but note - their attributes can and will change based on what Hardware schticks they take. (More on those later.) They get Martial Arts +5, which can't go above +8, Driving +5, which can't go above +8, Guns +9, which can't be raised and Info (Any) +4. They get +6 to spread around. They also get 2 Hardware schticks and 3 Gun schticks, along with 2 weapons. They can't be healed by the Medicine skill unless it was learned in 2056. They are Poor.

Next time: Vikings and cyborgs!

At this point, they are human only in a cosmetic sense.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: At this point, they are human only in a cosmetic sense.

You're a Dallas Rocket , one of the last true Texans. The Buro may have ruined your state by making it a warzone, but you still fight for independence, driven by the souls of those who came before - from Sam Houston to Troy Aikman. You are well trained, disciplined, precise and able to identify targets that will suffer the maximum harm with the minimum effort. How you got stuck with the Jammers, you're still not entirely certain.

All Dallas Rockets are from 2056. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, For 3, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute, 2 to a second and 1 to a third, then 2 to any secondary attribute. They gety Intrusion +4, to a max of +8, Martial Arts +5, which can't be raised, Deceit +6, to a max of +8, Info: Buro +6, Info: Texas History +5, Driving +7, to a max of +8, Guns +8, which can't be raised, and Sabotage +4, to a max of +8. They get +5 to spread around and may swap Guns and Martial Arts if desired. They get 3 gun schticks and 5 weapons...and a unique schtick: Death-O-Rama . Explosives are always around for a Dallas Rocket. They can spend a Fortune die at any time to make a guns check. A positive result means they hit something that makes a big explosion. Dallas Rockets are Poor.

You're a Gearhead , one of the most valued members of the Jammers. You're valued because you know machines - though not so much putting things together. You're not into that, other people can do that. You like to break things - and not just with explosives. You know how to take machines apart in ways no one thinks of, how to make sure they blow up only when you want them to - and not one second sooner. Destruction is your art, and you are motherfucking Picasso.

All Gearheads are either from 2056 or the Netherworld. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, For 3, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to two different primary attributes. They get Intrusion +4, Deceit +5, Guns +5, to a max of +8, Driving +4, to a max of +8, Sabotage +10, which can't be raised, and Fix-It +8, which can't be raised. They get +4 to spread around. They get 1 weapon and a unique schtick: Hidden Toolkit . Anyone trying to make a Perception check to detect concealed weapons or equipment on a Gearhead takes a -5 penalty. Gearheads are Working Stiffs.

You're a Gorilla Fighter , a cyborg monkey made either by Buro during Project: Cornelius or by the Jammers at the Ape Factory. Your body has been improved with cybernetics and your mind has been upgraded to human thought. Well, close to human, anyway. Maybe you like being a soldier against tyranny, or maybe you wish you could go back to the jungle...but either way, you can't turn back now. After all, they burned your old body parts.

All Gorilla Fighters count as either from the Netherworld or 2056. They get Bod 9, Chi 0, Mnd 4, Ref 7. They may swap their Bod and Ref to be a leaner kind of ape, like a chimp or orangutan. Their attributes will change later based on their Hardware schticks. They get Martial Arts +3, to a max of +6, Info: CDCA +5, Guns +3, to a max of +6, and Sabotage +4. They get +7 to spread around. They get 4 Hardware schticks and 1 gun schtick. Gorilla Fighters cannot be healed by Medicine unless it was learned in 2056. They are Poor. Oh, and one more thing - if your Gorilla Fighter's name does not contain some sort of simian pun, you are penalized 1 XP per session.

You used to be a member of Buro's Supernatural Entity Retrieval Unit, before you were a Portal Jockey . You weren't very good at it - you had doubts, which no one else ever seemed to have. Your access to arcanotech was restricted, but you were okay with that. When you get posted to the Netherworld, it all got worse - you could never tell who was on what side, and you did things you weren't proud of. Finally, it was all just too much. You went AWOL, spending a lot of time exploring hte Netherworld and learning its maze of portals and passages. Now, you know them like the back of your hand. You met the Jammers and learned their ways in this time, and now you use your knowledge to streak at the Buro where they're weakest.

All Portal Jockeys count as from the Netherworld. They get Bod 5, Chi 3, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get 5 points to spread between their primary attributes. They have Arcanowave Devices +9, which can't be raised, Guns +9, which can't be raised, Info: Netherworld +5, Martial Arts +5, to a max of +7, Intrusion +4, to a max of +8, Deceit +4, and Sabotage +3, to a max of +6. They get +3 to spread around. They get 2 Gun schticks, 1 Arcanowave device and one weapon. They also get a unique schtick: Surprise Entrance . They can spend a Fortune die to "find" a portal leading to the Netherworld from their current location in the real world or vice versa. It's up the GM where the portal leads. It takes time to find one though - a number of sequences equal to 6 minus the result of a Fortune check after the die is spent. This can never go below 1, and counts as a continuous action in combat. Portal Jockeys are Poor.

You're a Viking Warrior , a legendary scandinavian fighter from the mists of history. There aren't a lot of portals in that area, but you've entered the Secret War anyway. Maybe you're one of hte Vikings that defends Norway from the Buro, or maybe you're independent. It doesn't really matter. What you know is that you are a warrior, and you will never stop fighting until the day you fall in battle. That's how a warrior lives.

Viking Warriors count as from either 69 or the Netherworld. They get Bod 8, Chi 0, Fu 5, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get 3 points to spread around primary attributes, none of which can go over 10. They get Martial Arts +9, which can't be raised, Intimidation +5, Info: Viking Lore +6, and Info: Norse Mythology +5. They get +4 to spread around. They get 2 Fu schticks from the Paths of Sharpened Scales, Hands of Light, Selective Master and Raging Bear. They get 1 weapon and 1 shield. They also get the unique schtick Berserker Rage , which, at the start of each sequence, lets them add any amount to their rolls for attacks in a sequence, to a max of their Fu rating. They subtract the same amount from their passive dodge for the sequence and may not actively dodge. These bonuses and penalties apply for the whole sequence.

So. Hardware Schticks . Cyborgs may swap out Arcanowave Devices for them on a one for one basis during chargen, and Techies may give up their unique schtick for two of them. No one else gets them at chargen, besides the guys above. No skill is required to use them - they are always on and always work, though you need Guns or Martial Arts to use weapons still. Hardware schticks permanently change your body and, unlike arcanowave devices, can never be removed, ever. If you take one, you can never be healed by the Medicine skill unless it was learned in 2056. Any stat upgraded by a Hardware schtick can never be increased by any other means, including raising the primary attribute. Many Hardware schticks give an attribute penalty; you may negate these by getting another Hardware schtick for that attribute, as Hardware changes an attribute's value after all other bonuses and penalties, simply setting it to a certain value. This is why a lot of cyborgs end up fully metal.

So, why would anyone get arcanoware over this stuff? Well - on the one hand, hardware is safe and extremely effective. On the other hand, it is bulky, cumbersome and obvious. An arcanotech limb is both strong and very sensitive. Cyborg limbs are huge, beefy, clunky, and while very strong, they feel like touching the world through oven mitts at best. You can't conceal most hardware, ever, and the GM is encouraged to give you appropriate penalties. Arcanotech is also more versatile - yes, a hardware cyborg can lift tricks and shoot missiles, but arcanowave devices can disrupt fu powers, stop sorcery and catch bullets. Also it can be turned off and detached for stealth. Most importantly from an IC perspective - well, the CDCA is still testing their arcanotech and they want you to be a guinea pig.

Getting Hardware does not interfere with Creature Powers, Arcanowave schticks, Fu powers, magic or, in fact, anything. However, most characters believe that it does. The Guiding Hand think they cripple chi flow, the Lotus think they disrupt magical energy flow in the body and transformed animals would usually rather die than get hardware. But if you want to be a sorcerer with an onboard computer, you can be. Hardware costs (25+X) Xp, where X is the number of Hardware schticks you will have with the new one. This is still a bargain, because a lot of Hardware schticks give you superhuman attributes. You also need someone to implant them - which can be found only in 2056 or the Netherworld, and they need the Surgery subskill of Medicine, learned in 2056. Jammers will be happy to help, but hardware is illegal in 2056 these days. The installation is a Diff 10 Medicine check. Failure means that it's not properly integrated, and you get -2 to the stat it would boost instead of getting the higher value. Fortunately, such surgery can be re-attempted, but if the roll is ever negative, you take 6 wound points from the procedure and must wait a session to try again. What schticks are there?

Well, first are Upgrades , which boost a secondary stat. If all of your secondary stats get boosts, you also raise the primary stat they're attached to, to minimize bookkeeping.
Adrenal Enhancement : Spd 11, -2 Int. You get extra adrenal glands, boosting your reaction time, but you tend to be jumpy, excitable and act before thinking.
Body Armor : Tgh 13, -3 Mov. You've got armor plating, making you super tough, but also slow, because it's kind of heavy.
Fusion Reactor : Con 12, -2 Spd. You've got an onboard reactor as a power source. This makes you practically untiring, but can be cumbersome and sometimes slows your reactions down.
Onboard Computer : Int 11, -1 Str. You have a computer either in or connected to your brain, giving you constant data flow. It's like having a second brain! But it's heavy.
Override Implants : Wil 11, -2 Tgh. You have complete control over all muscles, overriding pain response. However, you now have to consciously do things like let go of hot objects or avoid sharp corners, so you get hurt a bit more than most people.
Robotic Limbs : Str 11, -2 Dex. Unlike the arcanowave Robot Limb, you've had all of your limbs replaced with metal - or, at least, enough of them to provide the boost to all four limbs. Up to you how much got converted. They're a bit clumsy, though.
Sensory Upgrade : Per 11, -1 Wil. You can see in the infrared and ultraviolet, you can hear ultrasonics, you can taste chemicals, and you have telescopes in your eyes. However, all that input leaves you rather distractible.
Synthetic Musculature : Agl 11, -2 Con. Your muscles are replaced with synthetic ones. (Or your clunky hydraulics, if you have robot limbs.) This gives you superior control, allowing you to do all sorts of tricks, but it takes more energy to contract the synthetics, so you tire more easily.
Tank Treads : Mov 13, -2 Agl. Okay, they don't have to be treads - you could have rocket skates, a rocket skateboard or even just boring old superfast legs. This makes you fast, but awkward at maneuvering. You have equivalent of Pep +1 in car chases, and may spend a second schtick to get Pep +3 (but not Mov 30, just more Pep).
Targeting Computer : Dex 11, -1 Per. You can zoom in and lock onto targets, making you great at shooting, precision aim and fine motor work. Not so great at seeing things in the directions you aren't locking onto.

Weapons are implanted or otherwise attached to you. You can refluff them as you like, and they are fully compatible with all Gun Schticks. You can even take one as a signature weapon! Downside: none can be concealed in any way, ever.
Chainsword : The most damaging melee weapon in the game! It's a huge sword with chainsaw blades. It runs on your internal power and plugs into your wrist...assuming it's not replacing a hand. If you want that, go for it.
Flamethrower : Sure, it's not as damaging as some of the rest. It's got advantages - for one, it sets people on fire. Anyone on fire takes 4 wound points every 3 shots, which isn't reduced by Toughness, until they put themselves out. Also, fire can hurt things bullets can't. Also, it's a flamethrower. On your arm.
Minigun : It's a minigun. Huge damage, lots of ammo, kills mooks easy. There's really no downsides!
Missile Launcher : Largest damage in the game. 23 . However, you need Strength 11 to fire it. It takes five shots to fire since it needs a target lock. It takes 9 shots to reload (though, yes, Lightning Reload helps). And it doesn't just hit your target - it does 122 damage to everyone else nearby. Great if your buddies aren't fighting in melee!

Enhancements are the 'Other' category.
Flight : You can fly, whether via chopper blades, detachable wings or whatever. In flight, you have Mov 11 or Pep +1, depending on what's going on. You can buy this two more times, getting +2 Pep each time, though not any more Mov. At full Pep +5, you can match basically anything but a jet. Nothing matches jets.
Self-Repair System : It automatically repairs damage to your machine parts! You recover 1 Wound point per sequence per Hardware schtick other than Self-REpair System that you have, to a max of 5 wound points per sequence. You can only but it once, sadly.
Submarine Capability : You've got gills, an air exchanger or can just hold your breath forever. Whatever way you do it, you can stay underwater indefinitely. You have Mov 8 and Pep -1 underwater; you can buy this two more times to get +2 Pep (but not more Mov) each time, so a max of Pep +3. (And yes, at some point you may feel it is odd to use the Driving skill to control your own character. Enjoy this feeling, for it will not last long.) As a note - all cyborgs can swim. Science perfected waterproofing in the future. This just means they don't have to come up for air. (Yes, they know it's not realistic.)

I love this book. posted:

Realism has no place in a book that contains cyborg monkeys to begin with.

Next time: Some new schticks and equipment.

Come back in glory, young warrior, or on your shield.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Come back in glory, young warrior, or on your shield.

Okay, new Gun schticks! Dead-Eye makes you an expert at snapshots. You don't lose accuracy for speed. For every schtick in Dead-Eye, you reduce the snapshot penalty by 1, to a minimum of 0. This doesn't let you do thingsl ike take a snapshot and then aim, or take a snapshot and use another ability - it just reduces the penalty. Slo Mo Vengeance is that moment in the movies where you shout NOOOOOO for two minutes straight. For every schtick in Slo Mo vengeance, you may choose not to act for one shot, during which you can only dodge. At the end of this time, you add the number of shots you didn't act to your next Guns roll.

Neat Freak means you're one of htose guys who spends his free time cleaning and maintaing guns - and not much else. With just one schtick, your guns never break in combat - at worst, they get jammed. For every additional schtick, up to three more, you reduce the number of shots it takes to clear a jam by 2. Maxed out, it takes you two shots to clear jams. Or four for 2056 guns. And no, you probably don't need to take it more than once unless you fumble a lot. Who Wants Some? makes you really good at autofire. For every schtick you take in it, you can fire one additional burst without penalties to your roll - so with one schtick, you can fire four bursts per -1 penalty, five bursts for two, etc.

Who's the Big Man Now? makes you really good at scaring guys with a gun. You take a three-shot action to do something cool and intimidating but nondamaging with your gun. This can be anything you like - pumping it and letting the light gleam along the barrel, shooting someone's hair, whatever. Your targets must make a Willpower check against the gun's Concealment rating (or 8 for unconcealable weapons), plus the number of schticks you have in this. (Multiple target penalties apply - scaring a whole crowd iwth one gun isn't easy.) Anyone who fails subtracts the Outcome from their rolls until the end of the sequence. Signature Weapons give the roll +1 Difficulty. You can't use this on the same character more than once per sequence, even if you succeed.

There's also new stat schticks! Agility gets Adapted to Armor : You never take penalties to Agility from wearing armor. Charisma gets Martyrdom : Whenever you fail a death check, all other party members get a bonus to their next attack equal to the amount you failed by. (No, this doesn't help you at all, but your friends will love it!) Fortune gets Charmed Life : Any attack you are not aware of automatically misses you. Note that the GM has final say here - you can't become invincible by closing your eyes and stopping up your ears. This just protects you from deathtraps and ambushes.

Willpower gets Going Out In Style , which is great. When you fail a death check, at the start of the next sequence, you can get up and make one last attack on the person whose attack forced you to make the death check. You get a bonus to your roll equal to the difference between your death check threshold (usually 35) and your current wound point total. After the attack, you collapse again. It also gets Shake It Off : whenever you suffer Impairment, roll Willpower against the amount of Impairment you would be suffering. If the roll succeeds, you ignore the Impairment. Whenever a new effect occurs that would add more, you have to roll again against all of it together.

Now, equipment. First up: the HAVOC Suit , which stands for 'Human Automation Vehicle Omni-Configuration.' It's one of Buro's better toys, and the Jammers love to steal them. They are self-contained power armor. Each part - arms, torso and legs - has its own power supply and can be used seperately without issue. The Jammers tend to split them up - almost no one has a whole suit. Wearing the legs gives you an effective Mov 9, or Pep 0 in a car chase. In addition, you get Str 9 for kicks. An arm gives the arm wearing it Str 9 for all purposes. The head and torso give 3 Armor with a -2 Agl penalty, protect against toxic gas and let you stay underwater indefinitely. Wearing the whole suit gives 4 Armor and protects against vacuum.

The Smart Gun was meant to be a great idea. It's a gun that can shoot around corners and hit multiple foes with one bullet! But no one except the Jammers actually wants one. See, that's because it's got one drawback: in combat, it's far too slow. First, you have to hit the target three times to scan them, none of which do any damage - the gun's not even firing, just identifying features. After that, the profile is loaded in...but the computer can only hold one profile at a time. At that point, the gun can fire. It shoots tiny computer-guided rockets, which can dodge obstacles, turn corners and track movement. They will avoid anyone wearing special signal armbands. They give +3 to Guns rolls when firing at targets matching the species profile stored. It won't fire if no targets match, and the bullet will swerve around anyone that doesn't match. If the attack hits, you can make a second attack on someone of the same species, with a +2 bonus. If that hits, you can go for a third guy with a +1 bonus. If that one hits, you can go for a fourth with no bonus. This has to be four different targets, though. The bullets can be reused if recovered, requiring a diff 0 Fortune roll after battle and getting (Outcome) shots back, or the number you fired, whichever is lower. If you run out of bullets, sadly, the gun is hard to get refills for. Jammers tend to hand these out to snipers. Buro will give them to anyone who so much as shows interest, as CDCA is stupidly proud of this design and will push it on anyone who seems at all interested.

The Fusion Rifle is a Jammer favorite: it's very powerful but has some minor problems that make it very dangerous. The Buro prefer not to use it as a result, but the Jammers love it. It deals big damage, takes out mooks easily, can be concealed with...a lot of difficutly, but it can be, and it has infinite ammo. It doesn't fire bullets, see - it uses a fusion reactor power pack to magnetically bond air molecules together and shoot them as if they were bullets. No autofire, though, since it takes some time to do - but it never runs out of ammo. But, well...if the gun malfunctions, you have a big problem. See, whenever you fumble, that means the reactor has gone critical. You roll Fortune, diff 4. Succeed and you eject the clip before it blows, allowing you to throw it. Fail, it overloads while still attached. The explosion does 17 damage to anyone right next to it, and 4 to anyone at least 3 meters away.

Iron Horses ...well. Some organizations avoid technology in past junctures, to avoid contaminating them. The Jammers don't. They made cyborg horses for shits and giggles. An iron horse is a horse with Hardware schticks. To get them, it must be a Signature Ride, but any kind of horse can be used. The Jammers prefer Clydesdales, and have found that Pintos tend to explode. Common schticks are Robot Limbs, Tank Treads (usually not literally treads), Fusion REactors and Missile Launchers. Flight is also common and some horses get made submersible. Intelligence upgrades are very rare, though - who wants a smart horse? No rules for how to decide what schticks your horse can have or how many.

Next time: you pick!

Seed of the New Flesh (Architects), Thorns of the Lotus (Lotus), Blowing Up Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Seal of the Wheel (Ascended), Iron & Silk (Weapons stuff).

Consumer! Cease your unauthorized selftransportation!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Consumer! Cease your unauthorized selftransportation!

We begin by meeting Chang, a Guiding Hand operative being sent to 2056. The place is confusing and disorienting to them, and he accidentally knocks out the contact lens that was meant to keep him from being detected by the cops. Then we jump to Shiny, a guy with a suped-up scooter who's trying to outrace the Public Order troopers. They start shooting at him - but he's far too fast for them. Which is when he runs face-first into a train. Then we've got Jef, who recently got arrested by the PubOrd cops. They think he's a rebel - and he is, a member of the Free Sex Militia. He wants to hold out, but they're willing to use torture.

We begin with a helpful Buro pamphlet designed to acquaint Innerwalkers to 2056, as part of Buro's attempt to turn them and get them to find useful consumer jobs. Buro has pamphlets for basically everything. They present Buro as a utopia - producing factory-made food that, "unlike 'organic' food...is always balanced and healthful." The pamphlet is longwinded but boils down to this: housing is nominally universal, money takes the form of the Hour, with one Hour being the average hourly rate of pay. (Half an Hour per hour of work is the minimum wage, and 20 Hours per hour is the max.) Travel is largely via train or pedestrian slidewalk. But what's the truth, not the propaganda?

The food sucks. It's either bland, too salty or too sweet. Organic food is rare and very expensive unless bought on the black market...but quality varies widely there. Shelter takes the form of a tiny dormroom with foldout bed, toilet, desk and kitchen. Fridges cost extra, but at least vat food doesn't spoil easily. Your average work day is six hours long, so about 120 Hours per month. Forty of which pay your rent. Vat food is cheap, at least, and so are generic, unadorned clothes made of extruded polymers. Travel is free on the slidewalks, but commutes can be harsh. However, cost of living goes up from here. All TV is pay-per-view except for ads. Sure, it's fractions of an Hour, but that adds up. Between rent, work and TV, almost all your time is either earning or spending money, and no one ever feels like they have enough. The only way to make a lot of money is to work for Buro. Only Buro has enough to, for example, own a home. Of the 169 professions that pay maximum wage, 48 are military, 62 are Buro, 30 are Public Order and 26 are CDCA. The other three are in entertainment.

Of course, you can make money illegally - black marketeering, gambling and eyeball farming are lucrative - but they're mostly done via barter, since Buro watches the banks. So, how do you actually travel? Well, the trains do exist , with nice seats, average food and good decor, but almost no one can afford them. Most people uses cramped, noisy, crowded subways, where you get packed in like sardines. Long-distance travel is worse. A coach-class 'seat' on a Gravity Rammer is a stiff, upright mattress. You stand in front of the mattress facing forward and get rammed into them by the massive acceleration, which may or may not end depending on the length of the trip. The force is so great that most people can't pry themselves free. Since firearms are illegal, a common method of suicide is to put a brick on the mattress and face it from a foot away when the train starts. They hit the brick, go unconscious and suffocate on the mattress. Thus, suicide is known as 'facing the mattress.' Those who somehow end up in the aisle when the train leaves the station get pulled through the length of the car and hit the wall. This is painful and sometimes fatal. The cops escorting prisoners will sometimes pick up prisoners, lift them above the floor and drop them while on a Gravity Rammer. This is known as 'having a train accident.'

Buropresident Bonenegle set up three groups in 2053 to "ensure happiness and well-being," though most people from the 20th century would see them as draconian tyranny. Team Love, the Sub-Bureau For Progressive Human Homogenization, tries to ensure 'Freedom from hatred,' by "encouraging" (read: mandating) ethnic intermarriage in order to create a single, homogenous human race and thus avoid ethnic conflict. Team Peace, the Sub-Bureau for Attitudinal Disarmament, seeks 'freedom from violence,' illegalizing all forms of martial arts in order to ensure that, like guns (which were illegallized before this) they can't be used to kill people. Team Joy, the Sub-Bureau For Constructive Personal Perspective, seeks 'freedom from misery,' by ending "negative personal viewpoints," as unhappiness can, apparently, be traced to cynicism, moping, teasing and pessimism. This decreases production efficiency, undermines faith in the government and encourages Jammer sympathies. Thus, Team Joy is dedicated to "improving attitudes" (read: punishing complaining and apparent unhappiness). Fun times! And now we get character types, because...I don't know, because.

The Buro was bad enough when there were actual rebels, but now they're trying to punish what you think, not just what you do. Team Love, Team Peace and Team Joy have gained massive power, and they're oppressing your rights. They tax non-homogenizing marriages and rumor has it they'll be banned soon. Even non-marital same-race relationships must be registered; failure is a misdemeanor. Martial arts are being forced underground - even purely sporting ones, like Judo. You can be fined for making negative comments. Someone has to fight back, and that's you. You are a Free Sex Militant , and your cause is simple: you don't want government interference in marriage. You are willing to fight over this.

Free Sex Militants are from 2056. They have Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They get 6 points to spread between primary attributes, none of which can have more than 5 added to them. They get Guns +9, which can't be raised, Martial Arts +6, which can't be raised, Deceit +6, Intrusion +5, to a max of +10, Leaders +4, to a max of +7 and Seduction +2, to a max of +8. They get +4 to spread around and can swap Martial Arts and Guns if they want. They get 4 Gun schticks and two unique schticks, which we'll get to in a moment. They get one weapon...and they have a unique problem: they're trying to swim against the flow of Buro's chi, and that's fucking hard . They constantly feel guilty when in 2056, take -2 to all rolls when opposing abominations or uniformed Buro agents. (Except for rolls to hide. Hiding is fine.) Free Sex Militants are Working Stiffs.

As a note - you don't have to be a Free Sex Militant. You could be a Luddite, one of those who object to Buro's omnipresent spying and fight in the name of privacy, or a Blackwater Fury, an incoherent and ultraviolent splinter of the Free Sex Militia that even the Jammers think are crazy. Or you could be a Fist of Freedom, from the martial arts underground. Or a Grump, a militant group demanding the right to feel as bad as they want. They hold public tragedies to give people an excuse to be unhappy. If you're not a Free Sex Militant, you lose Seduction. Luddites and Blackwater Fury get Sabotage +2, to a max of +8. Fists of Freedom lose their Guns score and increase Martial Arts to +10, which can't be raised. They lose their gun schticks, but get +3 Fu and 2 Fu schticks. Grumps get Fix-It +2, to a max of +8.

All militants get two schticks: Inspiration , which lets them give an inspiring speech before combat when temaed up with unnamed NPCs. (It must be before combat starts.) They then roll Leadership, diff 11. If they succeed, all unnamed charachters who heard the speech get +1 to the higher of their Guns or Martial Arts for the duration of the fight. They also get Recruiting , to persuade NPCs to join the cause. This takes an hour of discussion without significant interruption (such as fighting). You roll Leadership (or Seduction, if you're a Free Sex Militant) against the target's Willpower or highest action value, whichever is greater. Modifiers can be thrown on if they'd be relevant (it's harder to, say, turn a Lotus sorcerer who knows he'll be fed to The Thing That Eats Your Kidneys Forever), or just veto some recruitments. Alternatively , once per session you can try to "pick up a stranger," rolling Leadership, diff 11. On a success, you get a named NPC who will work for your group. It will have either Guns or Martial Arts at 8, or both at 7. It also gets one non-combat skill at 8 or an Info skill at 9. The GM controls the character, but you decide their name, backstory and personality. These guys can stick around as long as needed, and can even be great sidekicks! If you fail the roll, the GM decides if you get no recruit or an inferior recruit. A fumble may mean someone you already recruited turns out to be a spy.

You're a Drifter . You're a mystery and you never settle down. You leave a place whenever you feel the need to get the dust off your feet. Maybe you're running from a bad romance, maybe you killed a cop way back when. No one but you knows for sure, and you sure ain't telling. The thing about you, though: you always show up when you're needed, right in the nick of time. When you're done, you get your horse or start hitch-hiking or jump on a train - but you'll be back. You'll be back right when they need you again.

Drifters can be from any Juncture. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, For 2, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They add 3 to one primary attribute, 2 to another and 2 to one secondary attribute. They get Martial Arts +5, Fix-It +2, Gambling +4, Intimidaiton +3, Intrusion +1, Seduction +3. They get +8 to spread around, but may not have any skill total above 14. They may swap Martial Arts for Guns if from any juncture but 2056. They get one unique schtick: Nick of Time . Any time another character needs help, you can show up if it is at all plausible that you might be able to - so, you're not in jail and you're in the same juncture, and no other reasons you can't possibly show up. Every player may offer an explanation for how you happened to be there just at the right time. You get to pick the one you like best. Drifters are Poor.

You're a Consumer on the Brink . You stay quiet, trying to hold it all in. Maybe you work long hours and hope exhaustion calms you. Maybe you box to work out your rage. Maybe you spend lots of time on violent VR sims. None of it works. Your boss sucks, your head hurts, your ex-wife is paying someone to harass you, the bank won't admit they lost your money, the food you just got tastes bad, your stomach hurts, your coworkers are lying about you to get you fired. You try, you really do. You want to stay cool, and for a long time, you've managed it. Maybe a bit too long. The next guy who bugs is going to get it good .

Consumers on the Brink can be from 1990s or 2056. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have 5 points to divide between primary attributes, but can't spend more than 3 on any one. They get Guns +1, to a max of +5, Martial Arts +2, to a max of +6, Info: Meditation and Relaxation Techniques +3, Intimidation +3. They have +6 to spread around, but no skill total can go above 15. They get three unique schticks. First, Irritant : Pick one thing that really, really bugs you. Buro cops, sassy young people, the rich, puns, warm beer, bigotry, loud noises, whatever. When trying to destroy or remove that thing, you never suffer Impairment from injury. Second, Adrenaline : When in the presence of your irritant or when attacked, you get +4 to divide up between Bod and Ref. You may redistribute these points at the start of each sequence, but remember to recalculate your action values when you do. You keep this bonus until the annoyance goes away. Last, Mean Streak : Any time you hit with a hand-to-hand wepaon, you deal 1 bonus Damage, after all other damage is digured out - so even if your target soaked all your damage with Toughness, you still deal 1 wound point from sheer rage. They get one weapon. Consumers on the Brink are Working Stiffs.

You're a real bad guy, a Criminal Mastermind . You've done it all. You've smuggled booze and tobacco, run eyeball farms and illegal poker games, stolen weapons and sold 'em to Jammers. You've hidden censored history books and helped escaped prisoners get their court-ordered brain surgery fixed. You've even hidden children when Buro was trying to find them to smoke out their parents. Maybe when abominations were sent to pacify your town, you even helped people hide from the death squads . Oh yeah. You're a bad guy. Buro swears up and down. You love it - it's fun! You're not cruel - all the real sadists and psychos joined Public Order. You just hate the Buro, the System and the laws. It's more than just an excuse to dress in black, sneer at people and call your employees minions. You swear it is. Really.

Criminal Masterminds are from 2056 only. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Fu 4, Mnd 5, Ref 5. They have 4 points to spread around primary attributes, but can't spend more than 2 on any one. They get Martial Arts +9, which can't be raised, Guns +5, which can't be raised, Info: 2056 Criminal Underground +5, Leadership +5, Intrusion +2, Intimidation +3. They get +2 to spread around and may swap Guns and Martial Arts if desired. They get either 4 Gun schticks, 2 Fu schticks or 2 Gun schticks and 1 Fu schtick. They also get a uniquye schtick: Mook Magnet . As long as they are in an urban setting, have some kind of incentive (money, booze, whatever) and spend a full day cruising dive bars, stockyards and other places where mooks gather, they can make an open roll, adding 1 to the result. That's how many mooks they get. The mooks will serve for 2-3 days without a reward before leaving. If given what they were promised, they stick around until they stop getting paid or they die. Any mooks who survive 3 combats under you become "battle hardened," turning into named characters. You pick the names. They can now gian XP if allowed to attune to feng shui sites (but through no other means), and they don't die as easily.

Sadly, Criminal Masterminds suffer from a limitation: Slave to the Cheese . If they capture or nonleathally defeat any named cop or Buro character, they are complete;y incapable of simply killing them and must do everything in their power to prevent anyone else from doing it. Killing them out of hand is too easy, too quick. They have to toy with their foes using elaborate deathtrops or desperate but psychotically fair gambles to win their freedom. Further, they can't resist gloating and must tell all prisoners about their plans. They get 3 weapons and are Rich.

Next time: Living with Buro.

Fer your protection and edification, the Penitence Assistance Officers are equipped with Pacification Implements.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Fer your protection and edification, the Penitence Assistance Officers are equipped with Pacification Implements.

You took a test and passed with flying colors. That got you shot full of drugs, tinkered with by doctors, indoctrinated, deprived of sleep and subjected to horribly sadistic training. You loved every second of it, because you are a Supersoldier . When you got out of training, you were a member of the ultra-elite in Buro military. You were sent on suicide missions, outnumbered, outflanked and expected to win without any civilian casualties. You did it. Then you got sent to the Netherworld, and at first you really got off on pitting your big, bad self up against demons, sorcerers and megalomaniacal tantric dog breeders...until you had to fight some guys called the Silver Dragons. They had class. Real class. You noticed a difference between the way your team did things and theirs. Buro talked about freedom, justice and righteousness, but they were really doing it. And then you heard all the Dragons were dead. You started wondering. It didn't take too hard for you to find the truth, not with your Terminal Gray Theta Circle Bravo clearance. Besides, everyone figured you for a mindless thug. Maybe they were right. After all, you could've stayed in Buro as a mole, finding all their dity little secrets. You didn't do that. You shot up an army base and went AWOL. Maybe the Dragons are gone and you'll do this alone. But maybe they're not.

Supersoldiers are from 2056. They get Bod 5, Chi 0, Mag 5, Mnd 5, Wil 8, Ref 5. They get 2 points to spread around secondaries, and then 6 more for secondaries of Bod and Ref. No more than 5 points can be added to any one attribute. They get Arcanowave Device +8, which can't be raised, Guns +9, which can't be raised, Martial Arts +4, to a max of +5, and Sabotage +3. They get +4 to spread around, and may swap Guns and Arcanowave Device if they want. They get either 2 Arcanowave schticks or 1 Gun schtick and 1 Arcanowave schtick. They get 2 weapons and one unique schtick: Pain Feels Good . Whenever they take an injury that causes Impairment, they make a Willpower check, diff (5*current Impairment from wounds). If they succeed, the Impairment becomes a bonus to all combat actions for the rest of the sequence. This check takes one shot to make. The Impairment penalty returns next sequence, but you can roll again any time you take additional wounds. Kindly GMs may give you a bonus for shouting and talking about how your drill sergeant would tell you to walk it off, you pansy, you should be able to do this with both arms broken and a wounded buddy on your back! Supersoldiers have no wealth level listed, but I'm guessing Poor.

You're the result of CDCA experiments, nicknamed the Uber-kid project unofficially. (Officially, it was Project: Ubermensch.) You still have nightmares. From fertilization, you were tweaked, modified, trained to be the perfect human. Curtis Boatman's vision of it, anyway. One thing the CDCA overlooked in making a better, smarter human was that they might make someone smart enough to escape the lab, wean themself off the drugs and make it to the Netherworld. Actually, escaping was the easy part - the hard part was debugging your own subconscious to weed out their controls. You're pretty sure you got 'em all, though. Your highest priority since escape has been learning to fight. You know you'll need it. Luckily, you're a quick learner. Finding a teacher was easy, as was convincing him to teach you kung fu. People are always easy. Once things calm down, you'll figureo ut how to destroy Buro utterly for their mistreatment of you. You just have to pick which insurgent faction you want to lead. There's only one problem: Ubermensch was greenlighted in 2047, and you're nine years old.

Uber-kids are from 2056. They get Bod 4, Chi 4, Mnd 11, Ref 5. They may add 2 to either Chi or Ref, and 2 to a secondary attribute. They get Detective 0, Deceit +2, which can't be raised, Fix-It 0, Medicine 0, Guns 0, Martial Arts +8, which can't be raised, and Info: Geomancy 0. All the zeroes can be rolled but have no bonus to the attribute; they were learned from observation and not being taught. They get +4 to spread around Info skills. They get 1 fu schtick and three unique schticks. First, Quick Study : they get 1 extra XP each session. Second, "Elementary, my dear Watson." : they can spot things no one else can. Spend a Fortune die and the GM will tell you one fact - someone's skill level, say, or the details of a specific schtick. It can also be used to get the details on something in the environment. You get to pick the fact, but it has to be pretty specific, and the GM can veto you - but they should give you something. Lastly, Squirmy Lil' Bastard : You get +2 to Dodge, just like the Scrappy Kid. They get 2 weapons and are Poor.

We cut back to Chang. He is shot, drugged and tortured, and he doesn't know if he broke. He then gets sent to 'court' - a tiny room with a camera and a tablet using a language he doesn't know. This is a blank court, where all communication is digital so that judges can't be influenced by charisma. He is found guilty, as he can't figure out how to work the machines and thus doesn't defend himself. Then we're off to Shiny, who ends up in jail. He's been there before, but he got the 'Penal Restraint Operation' reversed after those, so the guards don't know that. The guards make an example of another prisoner by shocking him into unconsciousness. We cut now to Jef and learn that he did not betray his lover - but he did get convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government due to someone who looked like him breaking into a base. He wasn't htere, he was with his lover - but without betraying her, he can't prove that, and then he'd be guilty of same-race relationships without a license. So he, too, is shipped off to prison. All the same prison: 668. Jef is planning an escape.

We jump now to another pamphlet - this one for Tactical Operatives on life in 1996. They are reminded that unlike home, 'Consumer' is not an acceptable mode of address, and that 1996 has no greeting with equivalent respect and equality. Males are 'man', often with a slightly exaggerated drawl, and females are 'honey 'or 'girl'. The honorific 'Mc' is split into 'Mister' for men, 'Missus' for married women and 'Miss' for unmarried women. We are told this enforced the dominance of the masculine hierarchy. Racism is also a fact of life, and that interacting as an equal with others of different races will alarm or annoy. 'African Ethnics' are 'black', 'Euro Ethnics' are 'white', and 'Oriental Ethnics' are 'orientals'. Blacks are expected to express resentment and rage towards whites, while whites regard blacks with contempt and/or fear. (We are directed to refer to film selection 'Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song.') Orientals are expected to remain aloof and not interact with others normally. (We are directed to Sixteen Candles.)

Guns, Buro tells us, are a fashion accessory, and while technically illegal, these laws are not enforced. If law enforcement troubels you, they are just looking for an excuse, and the custom is to bribe them with a sum of money known as a double sawbuck or a food known as a dough nut. People of the period have poorly evolved grasp of consumer values and do not refer to things by brand, but general classification. This is due to pernicious belief that all things in the same category have equivalent value. In order to fit in, pretend that brand names mean nothing, despite your knowledge that they are very important. Food is highly impure and organic, and so extreme caution must be taken, especially with so-called "Mexican" food, to prevent gastric distress. The dietary staple is the cheeseburger, despite the fact that its mean component is not cheese, but animal flesh. Coffee is a common beverage which only vaguely resembles Buro coffee. Tactical Operatives are warned not to drink it, not buy anything fried and not to eat chocolate. If you must eat, eat rice or soup. You may have to eat something that was, at some time, alive. Special training to help with this is available by request.

Homosexuality, they are told, is not tolerated and should not be revealed. The average person would rather commit suicide than be considered gay. (We are directed to the film Heathers.) Skirts, kilts and dresses as well as cosmetics are for men only, and men who use them are considered homosexual. High heels and neckties should not be laughed at and are considered normal. Surprisingly, the greatest writer of the age, Daniel Pinkwater, is tragically underrated and serious discussion of his works should not be attempted. The major cultural icon is Michael Jackson. If you are not fitting in, the phrase 'Man, that Michael Jackson is one cool motherfucker' should fix things.

We now return to out-of-character information. 2056 is pretty grim - social undesirables are treated like garbage, the bureaucracy is a nightmare, success is very rare for most people and the only real freedom is the freedom to choose between brand names. Tactical Operatives are entrusted with sensitive time travel missions and are thus very trusted by Buro - which might be hard for a PC. If you want to play one, well, there's some advice. First: it's very easy for someone from 2056 to be patriotic, thanks to Buro's feng shui. Most people don't even need propaganda. If you've been a flag-waver all your life, they trust you, especially if you ratted out a family member for some minor infraction. Once you get to the Netherworld, though, that stops being enforced by chi and you may begin to wonder if all you did was actually right. These doubts tend to get stronger in 1996, as the people there, contrary to what you are told, are not evil, miserable, completely sexist or completely racist. Usually.

Or maybe you've beeen raised by Buro because your parents were agents. You've never seen the dark side, but even you've never had real food. Cheeseburgers might be enough to turn you. Of course, so might the lack of habitual fear, or the fact that you can be anonymous, a thing that is impossible in 2056. Or, hey, maybe you were a hero. You did something big and right, and Buro thought it was patriotism instead of just being a nice guy. You got TacOps training without them realizing you weren't brainwashed, and you didn't say anything to make them think otherwise. Now, you're in the perfect position to act against them secretly. Or maybe you're a spy, planted by some other agency. Or...well, maybe you're an abomination. Most don't rebel, the same as jeeps tend not to come alive and flee to the jungle to live with the apes. But you're not most abominations. Maybe you got treated well by your TacOps handlers - not impossible, though rare. Maybe your Neural Grepper broke and you've just been waiting for the right chance at revenge. Maybe you even want to do what's right, despite being a monster.

The real thing to remember is that 2056 does not look at the 1990s as a golden age. They think the place is horrible. People tend to notice the worst things about other junctures first, after all. So, what are the worst things about 2056? Rights are nothing but rhetoric. There is nowhere in the entire world where anyone has the legal and civil rights that most of Europe, the US and Canada have in the 90s. There are no pets - dogs, cats and guinea pigs became endangered during the first Reckoning, due to mass famine, and are only now being bred back up. Chihuahuas and wiener dogs are most common, as they were less meaty. Police entrapment is standard procedure. All TV is pay-per-view, except for the ads. CDCA biological experiments occasionally get out of hand and contaminate things, resulting in mutations, deaths and illnesses whose behavior is baffling. Most people never even hear about this.

People just accept that it is impossible to find the truth about any controversy; no one even tries. They just accept being lied to and accept that there's nothing they can do about it. A common graffiti slogan is 'The Truth Is Nowhere.' It is impossible to get ahead, as a "level playing field" is enforced ruthlessly so that even bright, hard-working folks are not much better off than slackers. The government wants you to sit down, shut up and do what you're told. The government is amazingly corrupt, and even the lowest-grade government worker has a higher standard of living than any other field, excepting entertainers. Everyone is afraid, because through bad luck, discovery, mistakes or any combination of the three, the cops might decide to take them away - and the legal system is a soul-crushing expanse of bureaucracy and terror. Most people cannot imagine a life without fear. Ninety-nine out of a hundred people believe there is nothing they can do to make things better.

What's the worst things about 1996? Shoddy consumer goods. You never know what's in your hot dog or your dumpling. Businesses and corporations care more about short term profit than long term productivity. Politicians care more about short term success than long term goals. Entertainers are worshipped like gods, especially sports personalities - to most people from 2056, it borders on obscene. The environment is the most polluted it has ever been, and no one cares. Despite centuries of coexistence, racism is rampant and women are second-class citizens in much of the world. It's not as bad as they've been told, but it's still bad. Religious polarization is on the rise, and atrocities are "justified" in the name of faith. Where you were born and what you look like has more impact on your comfort, success and safety than anything you do or say, and the majority of the world live poorly even by 2056 standards.

What's the best things about 2056? Buro does try to take care of everyone. It's not loving or gentle, but everyone has (minimal) hassle-free healthcare, somewhere to live and something to eat. Food doesn't spoil. There's always a cop around when you need one. Murder rates are way down. Lack of guns means it's much harder for people to kill each other. The air smells better - most pollutants have been settled out of the atmosphere and oil and coal are no longer in use. Computer technology is so advanced that you can download a movie and virtually re-cast it. Ever wanted to see Casablanca starring Marky Mark, Drew Barrymore and Stevie Wonder? There is widespread tolerance of racial and sexual diversity. (It's violently enforced by the police, but it exists.) Oh, and 57,000 channels without downloading new ones. When you get put on hold, you pick what music plays.

What's the best things about 1996? Freedom is real. Even those in the worst circumstances have hope. The food tastes good. Political jokes are allowed to be funny. The weather is often nice and you can get out of it when it isn't. No one has a monopoly on ideas or answers. You can travel to a different place and have it actually be different. The artistic spirit is strong thanks to free exchange of ideas and diverse cultures. There's a free media, and even governments that commit horrible crimes against their people cannot do so with complete impunity. At night, you can see the stars.

We cut back to Chang, who is being lectured by the prison warden. He is forced to take part in a gladitorial deathmatch, but because he doesn't actually like using violence except when necessary to serve the Guiding Hand, he refuses to fight. The fight stops before he is killed, which pleases him - it means they didn't break him and get him to betray the Hand while he was drugged. We cut to Jef and Shiny now, who are making their escape. Chang has forced them to include him by threatening to tip off the guards...and he ends up saving their lives by using his fu powers on the guards when the escape begins. Jef ends up taking down an aircar by hurling a guard's electrified stun-chain into its front jet...but that doesn't quite solve things. See, the car was full of abominations, and they survived the impact.

We now get to see a Buro TacOps summary designed for the Buropresident himself, covering their interests in the Secret War. The Netherworld is something they have a huge value on, even before the Molten Heart fiasco. The unique physical laws make it essential for research and it is the only way to move between junctures. However, they do not yet dominate the Netherworld; to accomplish this, they plan to ally themselves with Huan Ken of the Thunder Pavilion. They've fought him before, but it doesn't seem to bother him, and in fact he admires their battle skill. Also he likes the gun they gave him. He is entrenched and has lots of secrets that are useful to him, especially his sorcerous knowledge. In return for his help, he wants to destroy the other three Monarchs. The Architects plan to help him attack them, but want to keep it covert, striking a balance between being subtle enough to avoid reprisal and open enough that Huan Ken continues to like them.

They plan to use abominations with anti-sorcery powers, and to frame the Lotus for it. Of course, that might result in Huan Ken becoming dominant instead; thus, they plan to find a way to play to their strengths, not his, so that they get the most out of it. They assess their strengths thusly: first, they control an entire juncture, which makes them very rich indeed in terms of armed conflict. However, they have to avoid seeming overwhelmingly powerful and thus becoming the target of everyone. They will do this by using superior technology. Their military might has had mixed results, so they want to develop a bio-agent to deploy on the Netherworld, which, while stoppable by chi power, would be devastating. Plus, they could "discover a cure" and thus get many Netherworlders to join up in return for it. Getting Netherworld support is seen as necessary.

They are also attempting to build the Transtemporal Communications Cable, though there have been setbacks in the form of attack by giant firebreathing infants. (They aren't sure who uses those, and in fact are rather creeped out by them.) These setbacks make the project seem inviable, but they want to continue it. They have arcanotech 'Transtemporal Vocal Communication Devices' (read: time cell phones), but those are only available for arcanowave users, and the TCC would allow real-time data transfer to all junctures without arcanowaves. It would remain secure even if CDCA was compromises or arcanowave broadcats could be interfered with (which they believe is being done), it'd allow any agent in another juncture to call for backup, would help dramatically increase espionage activity and would make surveillance much easier, asi t could be done by operatives at home. If it were introduced in the 90s, they could use their full computing power to break the old networks and control them, and overall it'd allow for a whole lot of power. They believe someone within the Buro is opposing the plan out of fear of lost influence. (Specifically, Bonengel suspects Boatman.)

Next time: Buro in other times!

Dammit Shiny, that was completely over the top!

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Dammit Shiny, that was completely over the top!

69 AD is actually hard for the Architects - the Lotus, unlike the Ascended, are totally willing to fight them openly and in public. In fact, doing so helps the Lotus convince people to serve them in exchange for protection from abominations and demons. The Architects thus plan to withdraw from 69 a bit, taking the fight and the monster hunting to the Netherworld, where people tend to be aware of what's going on. This doesn't mean they'll abandon 69, though. Instead, they're going to be looking for the natural feng shui sites they know exist in Australia, South America and Antarctica...and which the Lotus know nothing about.

The plan involves modular submarines that are taken through the portals and constructed in 69, which will allow them to strike a decisive blow by taking the remote sites. Not as strong as the ones in China, but much easier to do. If there are any problems with the plan as they see it, it is that others in the Netherworld woll figure it out and try to beat them to the punch, so their main goal is securing any portals outside China. One portal to Antarctica would completely change the situation - a guerrilla war would mean the same mess, but if only convential means can be used to get to their sites, they win. The Architects also have a spy in the Lotus in 1996 - they repaired his castration, and he doesn't suspect his balls are bugged. Or that he has a bomb in his head. This is a plan they want to repeat on other eunuchs.

The Architects see 1850 as the least urgent juncture. The Hand and the Ascended are in a stalemate in which the Hand are suppressed but impossible to eradicate, and both factions want to keep the place stable. The plan for the Architects is to throw gas on the fire. They've prepared a list of "expendable" feng shui sites which they don't occupy in 1996 or 2056, but which the Ascended have in 1850 and the Hand think are culturally significant. They plan to burn these sites. Doing so denies them to the Ascended in 1996, prevents the Guiding Hand from taking 1850 easily, will provide some temporarily useful power and will piss everyone off, demoralizing the Hand.

The know one raid will take everyone by surprise and probably work. A second, not so much without overwhelming force. That doesn't matter - they're a distraction for Project: Rip Van Winkle. What they plan to do is take some soldiers to 1850, put them in cryogenic stasis and wake them up in, say, 1932, when the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War are making it so that feng shui sites change hands a lot. This would mean losing a team of elite fighters for 82 years, but it could easily take over 1996. The Architects also, as a note, prefer female agents for 1850, as the Hand are a bit misogynist and underestimate them.

1996 is the most hotly contested juncture, and while the Ascended control a lot of it, it's basically chaos from the perspective of the Secret War. The Architects are basically okay with the Dragons getting destroyed, though it has meant that the Lotus are now focusing on them alone. The Architects aren't sure why the Ascended hated the Dragons so much, though. It might have been their unpredictability and willingness to take big risks? The Buro want to see if they can boost their operatives' self-esteem to get more of that Dragon-like enthusiasm. They also want to look at the more painful and darker areas of 1996; sure, the best feng shui sites are in good areas, but the suffering and poverty will get the agents to realy want to hurt the Ascended. Besides, lots of small sites are as good as one big one.

Incidentlaly, the Architects have a huge war chest in 1996 because of the Biff Gambit: they've looked up old sports scores and gambled on them. Most major events are being fixed by the Ascended to prevent this, but small events can still be milked for cash. (The Buro are also rewriting all sports histories in their archives to prevent anyone else from doing this.) They also plan to show up in areas they know will have tragedies, presenting themselves as saviors when the tragedies do occur. Thus, they will recruit those who would otherwise become Dragons! (This plan cannot fail, surely.)

We return to Jef, who has gotten the escapees into some maintenance tunnels, where he cracks open a food tube to feed them. While it could give away their locations, this is a food tube that was meant to be replaced but some administrator stole the funds for - so they're probably safe. We cut to Chang, who has helped to ambush the work crew sent down to fix it - though he's disgusted by Shiny's killing most of them. They find a map and make a plan to steal some disguises. Now, with Shiny, we go to a maintenance workshop, where he glues his shotguns together so that they can be pumped and fired at the same time. Unfortunately, that's when an abomination blasts through the door and nearly kills Chang. That is, until Jef and Shiny manage to shoot the thing, get its attention...and provide Chang the time he needs to beat it into unconsciousness. Unfortunately, there's still a whole lot of cops outside.

Now then! New equipment. There's all kinds of toys in 2056. Like Efficiency Shoes ! Efficiency shoes are made by Unity Footwear, and the soles have wheels in them. They're not like roller skates - the wheels are smaller and only go forward. You can lock them by hitting a button on the toe, which will free them up again too. The shoe transforms the 'wasted' energy of your foot hitting the ground into forward velocity, making your foot move 10-20 centimeters when you step down on it. It works, and feels sort of like riding a bike when you stand up on hte pedals. The shoes are wildly popular, and kids love the Silver Dragons (the name is pure coincidence, really) because they make sparks. When wearing efficiency shoes, you add half your Bod to your Mov. Anyone from 2056 can own one automatically, while anyone else must spend 1 xp and a comic scene of trying to figure out how to use them. If you don't spend the XP, you roll Agility, diff 6. Succeed and you get the bonus for a sequence; fail and you fall over.

Eyeball Farms are...well, human eye cloning devices. See, in 2056, the retinal scan is the most popular form of ID. DNA samples can be used to clone new eyes, which takes a bout a die. It's a 90 minute operation to implant eyes, but really skilled eyeball farmers can do it in 30 minutes or less. That gets you into the accounts of whoever had the eyes you're wearing now. That's not the most common use of farmed eyeballs, though. More common is making new identities by creating eyes whose retinas have never been read into the Omnet. Almost every hospital has an underground black market eyeball farming ring that can get you registered as a newborn infant, usually for some insane fee. More advanced operations will create an entire new history for you! Note that there are other ways to recognize you - they're just not used as much.

The Gravity Crane is...well, a crane. The Architects know a hell of a lot about gravity and how to control it. The gravity crane works by making an object weightless (though not massless - the Architects can't control mass.) Gravity cranes resemble giant, ugly rugs. Stuff on them is much easier to get into position thanks to being weightless. Alternatively, you can set them to reverse gravity, sending everything on them shooting upwards very fast. Usually, you turn it off when your object is halfway to where you want, so that it'll slow down due to normal gravity. Then, when it hits the apex, you switch to null gravity. Timing this is usually left to computers, but can be done manually. All Gravity cranes have a safety mechanism limiting the amount of time reverse gravity can be active in a single period, to avoid accidents. I am sure you can think of plenty of stunts. Anything flying over a crane must make a Driving check, diff 8 in null gravity or 15 in reverse, to avoid crashing...unless they're expecting the change. It takes a diff 7 Fix-it roll and 10 shots to remove the safety features and allow reverse gravity to be on as long as you want. Sadly, turning the thing horizontal doesn't do anything - it only works vertically.

Only cops and military are allowed Hand Held Gravity Distortiny Utility Tools , AKA suckerlights. They look like flashlights and can be used like flashlights, though they have a strobe setting which can be used to take down folks who've had a Penal Restraining Operation. (More on that later.) They also have a gravity distortion setting. When turned on, everything the light touches is drawn toward the flashlight. The strength depends on how diffuse the beam is - wide is weak, narrow is strong. It's a lot like using a lasso, really. There's all kinds of uses for this thing - grabbing dropped guns, clinging to helicopters, whatever. The gravity feature even works if the light is covered, and the newest model uses infrared as well as normal light, for SWAT teams. These things are beloved by the black market, but they're hard to get - they have a self-destruct mechanism, see. It means each has 24 hours before it breaks itself unless reset at a Public Order station. Rumor has it this was put in to keep PubOrd officers from using the things to vacuum their homes, but probably it was for the black market. Suckerlights used to pull stuff into people have Damage 6. They have Strength 4 on diffuse beam or 5 when concentrated. Anyone with Strength over 5 automatically reissts being pulled, but anyone with 5 or lower has to roll Strength, diff 5, to stand their ground...while anyone holding the suckerlight with low Strength must roll to avoid letting go of the thing. If used to smack people, the thing deals damage as a club, but gets +1 damage if the suckerlight is on and uses the pull to augment the blow. You can use a suckerlight on someone in melee to cause 1 Impairment by throwing them off balance.

The Integrated Suspect Restraint Device is better known as a blackout sack. It looks like a hoop with a black skin, sort of like a tambourine. When you activate it, it expands in size, and the skin becomes a big, loose sack. You then contract it around someone. Basically, you put it over the head and arms and contract it into place. The fabric is completely opaque, but allows suspects to breathe, with difficulty. It is quite uncomfortable, and has an "extreme sanction" setting, which will suffocate people. The sack will not come off until a key is touched to a special button. Getting someone with a blackout sack is a Martial Arts check which takes 3 shots. Anyone in one takes 4 Impairment to anything requiring use of eyes, which can be negated by any schtick that negates blindness, and 2 Impairment to anything that uses arms (and yes, these stack). When it goes into extreme sanction, it can be cut by any edged weapon and has 6 HP and Toughness 3. Before that, it will stretch out of the way. The mouth can be pried open, but has Strength 9. Oh, and if hit by lightning or another strong electrical charge, the sack will expand until it pops.

Landridge Cutters resemble ballpoint pens with a bell guard. They work like buzzsaws, except they cut through anything. The cutting surface looks like a whirring, buzzing, glowing red disk, but is actually a loop of very strong, thin wire. There's a slider that adjusts how wide the disk is. The only problem with a landridge cutter is that the wire can break. When that happens, it makes big mess that snarls up and slashes everything - but it only happens when it hits things beyond its capacity: diamond, marble, metal thicker than a centimeter or another landridge cutter. These things, by the way? Really, really expensive. They are Strength+4 weapons, and armor works on them...once. At which point they destroy it. (Magical armor works normally.) Cutters malfunction in two cases - when used to cut through really tough stuff, like diamond or the armor of certain monsters and transformed animals, or if used in combat and you fumble. A malfunctioning cutter self-destructs, doing 10 damage to the wielder, which can be resisted as normal. A cutter used the wrong way even once is in danger of coming apart whenever it is used, even when being used appropriately.

The Lightweb Space Transformation System , usually shortened to lightweb, is a hologram projector for home use. It makes the area look like anything you want. You just aren't really there, sadly. Many companies have invested in giant lightwebs to integrate every office in their building, making them look really nice - like giant forests. (Only managers get brookside offices.) Integrated lightwebs also make most office supplies obsolete - your computer, for example, doesn't exist. It's a hologram that reacts to your touch and is routed through a computer somewhere else. Pen and paper don't exist, but can write on each other. There are subtle clues to identify where real walls are, but people from other junctures tend to be bad at spotting them, which can make gunfights interesting. Some police stations are experimenting with lightwebs to make the illusion of extra cops, to disorient prisoners, as well as hologram walls, to allow them to shoot at prisoners while unseen. These allow for great, surreal fight scenes and can be used as a metaphor for Buro as a whole: on the surface, things look good, but underneath is crap.

Officially, Loyalty Roaches don't exist. They started back in the 90s, with Ascended scientists working on self-directed spybots. They got made, but they were too expensive for what they were meant to do - shotgun mikes, hidden cameras and bribes were cheaper. When the Architects took over, the CDCA found the spybots and realized that a cockroach or spider could do everything they could do...except broadcast sound and audio. With 2056 tech, mounting cameras and microphones on a roach was easy. Thus, the loyalty roch was born. They are bioengineered to be superior to normal roaches and are used to spy on basically everything. People who watch roach cameras are known as Roach Rustlers. Officially, they don't exist, but everyone knows one, is related to one or knows someone who knows one. Usually, the roaches are allowed to go where they want, but the Roach Rustlers can command them via tiny shocks. These are great excuses to have PubOrd burst in without warning, if you need an excuse for some reason. They're immune to 2056 pesticides, but 90s bug spray will kill them. Secret warriors often sell 90s bug spray on the black market.

The Omnet is the evolution of TV and the internet. It is the sole provider of information for 90% of the planet. Shopping? Omnet. Banking? Omnet. Relecom systems? Omnet. Research? Omnet. Entertainment? Omnet. It has many interfaces, but it takes the form of miles and miles of cable and satellite data, routed through the government networks. Taxes were eliminated in 2056 because all transactions on the Omnet take a small cut for the government. And it is one of the ways everyone gets tracked, you know, in case you needed even more . Criminals often get Omnet privileges revoked. Particularly severe crimes can even get your entertainment entitlements taken away!

The Penal Restraining Operation is a medical procedure done to convicted criminals, who lose the right to control their own bodies. Gruesome experiments are reserved for the worst offenders, at least. Instead, the Penal REstraining Operation is done. It leaves a prominent scar, getting victims the nickname 'zipperheads', and makes the victim prone to epileptic fits in the presence of strobe lights and other bright flashes. Any zipperhead has a 50% chance of going into seizures for 2d6 minutes when exposed to these, and all prisons and public buildings have strobe lights for emergencies. The PRO can be reversed, but it costs lots of money. (Slap Patches, Healing Chi or sorcerous healing can fix it easily, though.)

The Phallusaurus Machine Pistol is a horrible, horrible idea. It is a machine pistol with a five foot clip. A .22 machine pistol. Tiny damage, but you're never going to have to reload. The gun was built for the popular game show Combat Shopping. The clip has a metal spike that can be used to attack with, dealing Strength+4 damage, or it can be pokedi nto the floor to help stabilize your gun. It became wildly popular due to looking cool and having a stupidly macho name. The government was initially hesitant to give cops such a silly gfun, but a test case in Toronto showed that people were intimidated by the Phallusaurus (As Seen On TV!), and resisting arrest went down by 4%. Good enough. These guns arei llegal for civilian ownership and posession is considered Blatant Intent To Commit Homicide. The clip holds 200 shots, and the gun basically sucks. If fired without being poked into the floor for stability, it has -1 to hit. When fired on full auto, it has no "free" bursts before penalties start. It can't be used with Both Guns Blazing, Eagle Eye, Fast Draw or Lightning Reload (but you'll never need to reload this thing). This is a weapon from a game show and it is designed not to kill folks easily. It also gets -1 to all melee attacks made with it unless the clip is empty, because it is so poorly balanced.

Productivity Drugs are the latest way to get high and relax. You get the comfort of Prozac, the relaxation of alcohol and just a bit of opium's complete apathy, but there's no hangover, lethargy or wait for it to kick in. As a result, there is not actually a black market for most drugs. Hallucinogens have a narrow market, and tobacco is pretty big, but that's it. About 65% of the population uses Productivity Drugs on some level, and 13% cannot get out of bed in the morning without them. About 1% of that 13% felt bad about that. These also slightly impair critical thinking and provide a greater tolerance for dull, repetitive tasks, all without loss of alertness and manual dexterity. In short: it makes you shut up and do your job. Most people in 2056 don't realize this, they just know the drugs make them less miserable. And the drugs can't be bad for you, or Buro wouldn't sell 'em, right? Taking one dose of Productivity Drugs makes you mellow, pleasant and agreeable. It also lowers your Chi (and all of its secondary attributes) by 1, and your Intelligence and Willpower by 2. These both last for around an hour. Multiple doses are cumulative; the only benefit is that you feel better, and PubOrd is a little less suspicious of folks with the distant expression of a habitual user. Lots of Jammers and Free Sex Militants are actually addicted to these, they just feel safe and happy while blowing shit up instead of working in the vats.

Yuuzik is a special rig with earphones, a heartrate monitor and a facial response reader. It designs and plays constant music based on your mood. Sure, you lose a bit of perception, but hey, no worse than a boombox, right? A standard rig learns your tastes by seeing what sounds make you wince and what sounds make you smile. This means Yuuzik is highly personalizes, and some were even stolen and held for ransom before a backup feature was installed. Some folks love Yuuzik so much they wear it everywhere. Everywhere . Others hate Yuuzik.

The Zogeevator is too fun for the poor, and is found only in high rent apartments, Buro complexes and really expensive department stores. The word is a compression of 'zero gravity elevator', though it's not really an elevator. It's a shaft. At the bottom is a machine that nulls gravity. There are handleso n the walls to climb with if you want, or electromagnetic tracks so you don't have to do anything at all. If a zogee field unexpectedly stops, there is an airbag at the bottom of the shaft. The trigger for the airbag is suspended over the zero gee device, under the floor, so normal gravity triggers it. Some people have learned that if they hit the floor hard enough, it knocks the trigger down, since only inertia holds it up. Thus, the bag inflates. If you're standing on the bag when it inflates and the field is still on, you get shot up to the top of the shaft really fast. Fun! The Great Mall in Buro's capital city, Capital, has a zogeevator that's 35 meters across, with a fan to pull people up. At the top are handholds to getover the side and get to the shops. If you want to get down, you pull yourself with the handholds. SPUD-U pilots always keep track of zogeevators, since the field usually extends about a mile above the building, and that's why zogee field generators are illegal for private use.

Next time: GM Secret Devices!

I thought your 'Cop Channel' said we must run for a full day to be free.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I thought your 'Cop Channel' said we must run for a full day to be free.

Okay. Some tools the players won't have access to unless they break into a secure Buro base or, somehow, are trusted Buro troopers. Deathsabers are quite appropriately named. They resemble suckerlights, but the pull is weaker and the range is shorter. On the other hand, they can do two other things: First, they can push as well as pull. Second, they can "vibe", oscillating between push and pull very, very quickly. When vibing, the deathsaber makes a loud noise, like metal being sawed. It creates a gravity column a centimeter wide and 3 meters long. In this column, every piece of matter is pulled in and pushed away about a hundred times a second, and is probabgly shaken to pieces. You swing it around like a sword. Also, it causes enough friction to ignite wood, melt lead and char flesh. A deathsaber blade starts transparent, but eventually traps smoke, dust and matter particles and becomes a smoky gray-black column. Deathsabers are incredibly expensive, and only TacOps gets them.

A deathsaber fortunately does not get a Strength bonus to damage. It deals (3+Outcome) damage...but it ignores both armor and Toughness and is impossible to parry. Holding a deathsaber is very hard on your hand, though. You take -1 to all Martial Arts attacks with it during the first sequence you use it, and the penalty goes up by cumulatively every sequence. If you turn the saber off for a full sequence to rest your hand, you start over at the -1 penalty. You can also use a deathsaber as a suckerlight, but it only has Strength 2. It can push objects as well as pull them, but it has no light to use as a guide.

The Disintegorator Ray is only given out when heavy resistance is expected, like rogue abominations. When fired, it shoots a silent ray that seperates any matter it hits into component elements. The ray looks like a thin flame with heat distortion over it. A steady shot will shoot a hole about five centimeters deep and two centimeters wide into anything. Of course, against living targets, steady shots are rare. The problem with energy that disintegrates anything, though, is that it's hard to contain. Buro hasn't figured out how to do it yet, so you can't reload a disintegrator ray. When the last shot is fired, the weapon dissovles. This is annoying, but less annoying than the idea of Jammers getting their hands on the thing. They come equipped with a camera on the barrel, so Buro can keep track of what you're shooting. The grunts, of course, rarely get told about the fact that monitors can remotely stop the gun from firing, remotely fire the gun or destroy the thing completely. Sometimes, Buro lets these fall into dissident hands on purpose, then start firing them when they get examined.

Disintegrator rays do 13 damage, kill mooks really easy, and have ten shots. Any armor they hit works once and is then destroyed, unless it's magical in some way or is granted by a schtick. You can disable the remote control and self destruct with a Fix-it roll at diff 15. These things aren't too unbalancing due to the limit on firing them. The big drawback, also? If you get a fumble, all the shots go off at once in random directions. For each shot remaining, start with the wielder making a Fortune check. If it fails, wielder gets hit. Then you start picking people the wielder's fighting. Check their Fortune. Continue alternating sides until the gun is empty and self-destructs. The only gun schticks that work with this gun are Both Guns Blazing, Eagle Eye and Fast Draw, and you can't start the game with a disintegrator.

The Eardrummer and Nosey are Buro spy gadgets. Buro loves being sneaky. And violent. And cruel. And arrogant. But sneaky is what matters here. The eardrummer goes in your ear. No anesthesia or special instruments needed - you get a compressed air gun stuck in the ear, it fires, there's a painfully loud noise and BAM! It's in. (Sometimes Buro tells recruited agents from the 90s that the airgun is standard procedure to inoculate against airborne AIDS.) The eardrummer uses your eardrum as a sounding surface, and anything you hear, it hears. It can also broadcast sound to you that only you can hear if Buro feels like it. A slightly larger variant can actually crawl into your ear of its own accord with only a momentary sting and ear-popping feeling. These are tricky, though, since there's guidance gear or cameraas. Eardrummers are often voluntarily accepted by Buro operatives. It shows your patriotism and it's nice to be able to call for backup at any time.

The nosey is more elaborate. It gets installed in your sinus cavity, causing nasal congestion and headaches. One plug goes to the eardrum and works like an eardrummer, while another leads a fiber optic camera up to where your tear duct used to be. (The tear duct gets removed.) Traitor bombs (we'll get to those) are often used in conjunction with noseys, but there's all sorts of other remote devices to kill people that you can fit to eardrummers or noseys! They just prefer the arcanowave bomb for innerwalkers. Noseys and eardrummers don't set off metal detectors, run on body heat and can't broadcast across junctures, so you can only be spied in on the same juncture. Eardrummers can be knocked loose; if you take five or moer wounds in a blow or gunshot to the head, it gets knocked out (modified by Fortune, depending on if you wanted to be monitored or not).

The firing tripod or fipod is a gut-high column with a 30 centimeter base. The base has treads for moving on even surfaces and a kick button that activates a null-gravity unit. This lets you use huge, ungainly weapons even if you can't lift them! A few drawbacks, though. When you mount the gun, you need a way to steer it, so they put a steering wheel on theb ack. When you push the wheel, the thing moves forward. Turn it, it goes left or right. However, since you also use these controls to fire, it can be tricky to get used to. Further, the fipod only works with specially modified guns, and because the trigger is on the back of the gun, you can't fire it normally if the fipod breaks. (Barring monsters with sufficiently long limbs and strength.) Fipods can also be used creatively by removing the gun and using the thing as a frictionless, all-terrain skateboard. Fipods remove the strength restriction from the mounted gun, but give -1 to your Guns roll unless you're trained in their use. Only Carnival of Carnage, Eagle Eye, Lightning Reload and Signature Weapon work with fipod-mounted weapons.

Flying Victory Ammunition was developed to get past metal detectors in the 20th century. (Buro prefers microwave radars.) Flying Victory has no metal in it, and comes in any caliber. However, it's very expensive, so you need a good reason to get ahold of it. Handy! Since being made, Buro has taken to using airport murders, and are even making the metal-less Reliants (we'll get to them) to look like cheap toys to get past security.

The Grav/Antigrav Oscillating Beam System , or GOBS, is a gigantic deathsaber. It can push or pull, but that's rare. More often, it's a weapon. Its beam is 10 centimeters wide and up to half a mile long. Luckily, the GOBS is also huge - 3 meters long, 1 meter thick - and that's without the power pack. These things are only found on buildings or mounted on vehicles that might as well be buildings. They have Strength 20, and deal 50 damage that ignores Toughness and armor. Any unnamed NPC in the way just vaporizes, period. Fortunately, the thing is so slow that everyonge gets +5 to dodge it.

Lie Detectors are in all Buro interrogation chambers, hidden from sight. You can't shield yourself from them, and portable sets are available, though not very useful. See, they can't be made smaller than a large trunk and they definitely aren't covert, so it's obvious when they're in use. At the high end are the ArcanoEncephalographs, which monitor brain waves, but these aren't portable, ever, and are found only in real hotspots, like Texas. Lie detectors add +5 to the difficulty of all Deceive attempts. ArcanoEncephalographs, found only in CDCA or BuroMil hQs, add +10.

The Madame Curie Microwave Laser Cannon is qa terrifying weapon, and microwave lasers penetrate a lot better than visible light ones. It's a giant rifle that usually gets found on vehicles. It only gets used with large-scale work, like Jammer attacks or multiple rogue abominations. Most police stations only have one. They never run out of ammo, deal 15 damage and ignore all armor. Unless mounted, they need Strength 11 to carry and no starting PC is getting one of these. Also, they break easy in the field. When they malfunction, they never jam. They always break. It takes a Fix-It roll outside combat at diff 15 - and failure means it broke for good (except for Signature Weapons). The only gun schticks that work with this are Eagle Eye and Signature Weapon.

Microwave Radar is Buro's preferred detection device. They're about the size of a CD player and scan an area the size of a human body. They display the different densities of matter within that area, and even eardrummers show up clearly. It's also a great diagnostic tool for doctors, since it can ID broken bones. Some cops have helmets with one built in, and they reduce the difficulty of detecting hidden weapons by 10 as well as providing vision in total darkness. (Though it's topgraphical - no reading in the dark, just shapes!) The helmets are also bulletproof, providing 4 Armor to the head, and usually have radios. TacOps in the 90s usually get micrader sets disguised as walkmans and sunglasses.

The Buro Reliant was a gun developed when Bonengel got mad about Buro's weapon jam problems. It never jams. Ever. It also never breaks. You can do anything to it and it will work. Freeze it, run it over with a tank, set it on fire, feed to an alligator, it'll work. (They tested that last one.) The reason? Very few moving parts. It fires by using an electric charge from crystal electrodes. The barrel opens a microsecond before the bullet leaves and closes right after, forming a watertight seal. The drawback? It takes 15 minutes to reload and can't be done in combat, since it needs a special reload kit. The gun, incidentally, floats in water. There is no metal in its construction at all, so it can be taken on 90s airplanes. It never jams, even on a fumble.

The Single Pilot Urban Defense Unit or SPUD-U is an antigravity motorcycle. It runs on a 10 hour battery for normal use, or 4 hours at top speed (around 260 kilometers per hour). It turns on a dime, stops like a car with antilock brakes, can take off and land vertically and looks really cool. It operates by making a zero-g field below and gravitational suction in front, like surfing a gravity wave. Most cities have around ten, and only the best cops get to use 'em. They're armed, depending on model. Standard is two Blue Spears synched by computer in the helmet, so they point at whatever the pilot looks at. There's also a net weapon, which shoots a 3 meter polymer net covered in goo that leaves a nasty stain. Anyone hit is glued to the ground or wall until they break free, and the gun has three nets. Also there's usually a shotgun in the cockpit.

The SPUD-U-H, or Hellzapopper, is equipped instead with a Hellharrower, which can only be fired straight ahead, since pointing it to the side would send the SPUD-U into a barrel roll. Like a helipcopter, SPUD-Us are not built for barrel rolls. The SPUD-U-H is found only in trouble spots, like Texas, and has no net shooter. The SPUD-U-A, or Arcanowave variant, is restricted and issued only to very loyal innerwalkers. It looks alive, breathes even when turned off and has an AI/O port to interface with the driver. It has a single weapon mount suitable for Helix Rethreader, Helix Ripper, Helix Activator, Tracer Resin Projector or Wave Suppressor, with extension cord to plug into the pilot. Some SPUD-U-As have standard machine guns instead. The SPUD-U-AH, or Hellbound variant, has a Hellharrower attached. The SPUD-U-AD or disintegrator variant is widely considered a myth.

The SPUD-U has a Move of 75 in normal combat, and the difficulty of hitting it goes up by 12 at top speed, but it blows up after 35 wound points. A called shot that hits the front gravity unit does double damage. Breaking the nets is a diff 10 Strength check. The pilot can fire both guns at once at anyone right below, behind or in front of them, using only one attack roll. Helloharrowers can only shoot straight ahead and have effectively infinite ammo. SPUD-U-AD is real and has ten disintegrator rays set up so that when one is used up, it gets automatically replaced. That's a hundred shots! However, if you botch when shooting one, the whole SPUD-U blows up and the pilot only gets a DEath Check if the GM is feeling merciful. There are exactly six of these. One got blown up and the other five are in storage. The project leader got a reprimand from Team Joy and is now one of the most cheerful vat workers in Liberty City. His chief engineer is in charge of changing his diapers.

The Woodchuck 70mm Missile is a missile, 70 millimeters wide and 20 centimeters long. They are fired from bazookas, vehicle-mounted guns or ground-defense installations. They do 25 damage, and it takes Strength 8 to use the bazookas unless you'r braced or have a fipod. Anyone within 10 meters of impact takes 12 damage. There is no guidance system, but heat-seeking or laser-guided systems can be added with a diff 10 Fix-It check. Heat-seekers use a Guns skill of 10 regardless of the skill of the user, and laser-guided Woodchucks give a +1 bonus but take an extra shot to fire.

Remember Yuuzik ? It delivers subliminal messages. The traditional problem is that too blatant messages get noticed too quiet messages get issed. The gap is narrow and constantly changes. The only way to reliably program someone's subconscious is to have feedback - the same feedback Yuuzik needs. There are three messages played: 'Love Buro' when you're relaxed and happy, 'Fear PubOrd' when tense and anxious, and 'Bonengel' with whatever sound gets the most consistently positive reaction. The messages play maybe once or twice every few hours of use, but those who use it for more than four hours a day or so tend to get indoctrinated, providing a -1 to all actions taken against PubOrd officers and requiring a diff 3 Willpower check to do anything that might hurt Bonengel himself.

Now then - new arcanowave devices! The Chi Wave Monitor/Mapper looks like a clamshell the size of a dinner plate. When opened, a spongy, sticky keyboard inflates and the top half is filled with a smeary goo that works sort of like a computer screen. It is a sophisticated chi detector that can map chi flow in a single floor of a building or out to a mile in open ground. (It stops mapping at walls, floors and ceilings because chi stops flowing at them.) It stores these maps, which reveal feng shui sites, and can print them out bif you fold a piece of paper, put it in the shell and name the map you want. The printouts are a bit smelly, though. These don't get assigned to frontline troops much - they're not that useful for them and are very expensive. They mostly get assigned to geomancers and mission coordinators, and have no effect in combat.

The Emergency Jumpstart Arcanowave System , or EJAS, allows someone with no AI/O ports to use arcanowave devices. The EJAS resembles a meaty greenish glove with black, chitinous warts on the joints and pores that exude goo. The back of the glove has an AI/O port. To understand why this isn't a great device, you have to remember: arcanotech is alive. It's not intelligent, but it is very angry. It wants to be used, and it mutates folks to get a better platform to operate from. Since it's angry, it wants to kill anyone it can't mutate in a process called 'unraveling'. More on that later. Abominations are well-suited to wreaking havoc, so arcanotech accepts them. People with the Arcanowave skil lget mutated, but won't be unraveled since they're at least meeting the tech halfway. Someone without any skill who puts on an EJAS will suffer. The injury can take any form. Those with the Arcanowave skill don't need a schtick to use an EJAS and basically just get an AI/O port out of it. Users without the Arcanowave skill who put one on can use whatever device is plugged in as if they had Arcanowave Device +3. However, they take 5 wounds each time they use it. On a snake-eyes roll, they get all the same malfunction results as normal. And if you take 10 points of damage from it in a fight and fail any kind of Death Check, you don't just die - you unravel on the spot, as if a Traitor Bomb had gone off in you. (We'll get to that next time.)

The GateMaker resembles a cross between a telescope and a slug. When activated, it makes a portal to the Netherworld. This can be great - if you get cornered, it's an escape hatch with little chance of ambush n the other side. However, it's hard to predict where you'll end up. That's why more Jammers use these than Buro. Also, it can't get you out of the Netherworld, just into it. The Buro GateMaker 2.1 has a built-in beacon that activates when the device is turned on and continues until turned off manually. This alerts the Biomass Reprocessing Center to send a retrieval squad to pick you up. Alternately, a hit squad, if you stole it. Oh, and there's no way to know how long the gate stays open. To get the thing to work, you roll Arcanowave Device, diff 10. Then the GM starts counting time. It stays open for a number of sequences equal to the number rolled on the positive die, but the GM won't tell the players that , so they can feel super cool for figuring it out. And yes, someone can chase you through the thing.

Next time: The worst forcefield ever, traitor bombs and the life and times of Curtis Boatman!

But at the BHP they made me happy, and when you're happy all the time, distinctions like right and wrong lose their meaning.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: But at the BHP they made me happy, and when you're happy all the time, distinctions like right and wrong lose their meaning.

The Gravity Distortion Sphere was developed based on the deathsaber. See, the techs started wondering how they could make a spinning bubble of gravity distortion to knock away bullets. They ran into two problems, though - first, a near-miss could be turned into a hit by the distortion, and second, getting gravity into a sphere rather than a straight line was really hard. The bubble problem proved unsolvable until CDCA got involved, using arcanowaves to hook the device into a living being and allowing the subconscious to sculpt the gravity form. Sure, this meant only cyborgs and abominations were getting the things, but oh well . The solution to the near miss problem was to layer additional bubbles inside the first, spinning in different directions. Six layers was enough to stop almost anything. However, they ended up causing a lot of heat - enough to combust any loose oxygen in the air when the thing got turned on. So anyone inside the sphere got fried. It also ran out of oxygen in there really quick.

The scientists added an oxygen tank and planned a fireproof suit, but the thing was just getting really delicate at this point. That was when someone pointed out that you'd have as much trouble shooting out as shooting in, between the gravity walls and the fire. The CDCA wrote the thing off. A few working models had the oxygen tank incorporated, but the fireproof suit was too expensive. The thing only gets issued to fire-proof creatures, and even they have trouble. There's a few more problems: First, it's really, incredibly loud. You're not going to sneak up on anything, or hear anything less than a shout. It leaves a burned, semi-molten trail behind you. And dear god, never use it on a flimsycatwalk or anywhere there might be a gas main under your feet. Now, rules-wise, the device projects a two to three meter diameter sphere around you. Anyone trying to punch or kick you must reach through the field and take 10 wound points from the gravity and fire. The difficulty of shooting someone in the field is at +10, between the fire blocking vision and the gravity walls. Any hand-to-hand weapon that goes through is shattered, burned or melted, unless it's magical or being used with a fu schtick. Those are fine. (And I suppose signature weapons count, since Signature Weapon is a fu schtick!) The person inside the field takes 10 damage per sequence from heat, so I hope you're immune to that. Oh, and you run out of air after the first sequence, so you start following drowning rules unless you have an oxygen tank. If you punch or kick outside the field, you take 10 damage due to gravity walls and fire. If you use a weapon, it mightb e ruined as above. All ranged weapons fired out from inside have +10 difficulty to hit with. Good luck! (And, of course, enemies can try to kill your oxygen tank.)

The Helix Activator is a revolver which resembles a human face, stretched out horribly. The barrel is a nostril, the hinge to reload from is the jaw, and bullets are loaded where the teeth would go. When it's plugged in, blind eyes on the trigger guard open. The bullets have their own faces as well, which disturbs some operatives. Anyone hit by a bullet from a Helix Activator mutates, growing tentacles, mouths, demonic claws and so on out of the area struck. The bullet itself is harmless, but the demonic limbs attack their 'owner.' You grow bullets by plugging the empty casings into an AI/O port for ten minutes. Each bullet you grow adds 1 to your mutation check for the session. The gun has to be plugged in to fire, but doesn't add to the mutaiton check. The patch of demonic limbs it creates is considered an unnamed hcaracter. Its martial arts starts at 10 and drops by 1 per shot. The limbs can attack their host every shot, until the Martial Arts hits 0, when they are reabsorbed or fall off. They do get to act the shot they are created. Anyone hit has 1 Impairment per patch of mutant limbs. If an unnamed character gets hit and the Outcome is 5 or more, they are ripped apart by the mutation; otherwise, they get off scot free. Also - keep track of the damage the target does the limbs. When they go away, the target takes that damage, too. Anyone hit by a Helix Activator has to make a mutation check at the end of the session, with the difficulty going up by 1 for each shot they took from it. Taken as a signature weapon, the Helix Activator's mutant limbs start at Martial Arts 13.

The Temporal Perception Suppressor is a small, ugly handgun made of what appear to be tarantula legs, with mucus-covered cartilage where the trigger would be. Yes, you have to shove your finger into it. It shoots an invisible ray of energy. Anyone hit with the ray closes their eyes and stands perfectly still as long as the beam is on them. When the beam is interrupted or blocked, either by turning off or something getting in the way, the subject opens their eyes but has no sense of time passing while the eyes were closed. If everything appears the same, the subject believes they blinked, even if hours have passed. If things are different, it's startling, but does not disorient enough to keep them from reacting. The Architects, needless to say, adore this thing. Known as fazers in the field, despite CDCA's best efforts, they are used for spying and implanting traitor bombs without the targets ever realizing. There's just one problem with them.

They affect the user, too. Exactly as if they were the target. To make an immobile target, you have to become an immobile target. There's a timer on the back - an analog clock with little bone hands. The time is set by mental command before you fire. If no command is given, it defaults to whatever you set as the default. You stay frozen until the timer runs out or the gun is unplugged. Changing the timer setting takes 1 shot, and it counts time in shots instead of seconds, for easy of use. The game suggests preventing abuse by having any player that uses it go stand out of the room while it's in use. Thus, they will avoid abusing it in combat because they miss out on the fun. It can't be a signature weapon.

Traitor bombs are much less humane and decent than other methods of killing traitors. They're an arcanowave device around the size and shape of a house key. They get implanted directly inside you, usually in the appendix. Once they're in, Buro will either tell you, show you the timer which will blow it up, and demonstrate their ability to stop the timer, add time to it and, importantly, remove time from it. You do what you're told or you die. Alternatively, they don't tell you it's in there at all. These things don't get picked up by metal detectors, since there's no metal parts, but Divination will definitely find them. X-rays might, but they're often set to detonate if x-rayed. Buro will wait to blow them until you go to some secure feng shui site with your traitor buddies, usually.

When a traitor bomb goes off, it doesn't just kill you. It unravels you. See, arcanowaves can get really angry , and they will wipe you out utterly, releasing your chi in a horrible explosion that permanently sours the local feng shui. First, you take 27 wound points from a big explosion. If you die, the chi is soured here. Otherwise, you can try to fight off unraveling by rolling Arcanowave Device (or Constitution), diff 10. You may permanently lower your Bod or Chi to get +5 per point you lower them by. This represents literally burning your own body before the arcanowaves can, thus keeping them from doing it. If you succeed, you suppress the unraveling. Fail, you take another 13 damage and must make an immediate Death check. (Well, unless you're a Big Bruiser.) If you survive, you're one really tough guy and can be rushed to a hospital. The area is still ruined for feng shui, though. The Fertility schtick can repair the area, but the difficulty is equal to your Arcanowave action value, plus your Chi score. (If you burned off Chi and still died, you use the lesser Chi score. Not if you survived, though.) The game warns GMs to be very careful about using these and always to give PCs a chance for ample vengeance afterwards.

The Transtemporal Vocal Communicaiton Device looks like a pair of bat wings with computer chips in them. When unfolded, there's a keypad in the middle, which includes buttons for each juncture. It's basically a cell phone that can call across time. Buro has given up trying to get peopl to stop calling it a batphone. The batphone can only call other batphones, and receiving a call makes the thing chitter so you can plug it in and answer it. Connections are notoriously staticky, especially over long temporal periods. Some agents claim that people can intercept calls, probably ghosts or monsters. Every time you plug in a phone, you add 1 to your mutation check at the end of the session. Don't get a wrong number. And no, there's no way to turn the ringer off, so these can go off in stealth situations and mess you up. If the Transtemporal Communications Cable is finished, the batphones will be able to call normal phones as well and have no static, but they'll be phased out since normal phones will work just fine for crosstime work, too.

Variable Mass Weaponry was developed whan a CDCA tech got drunk and wondered why Helix Rippers way less when plugged in. When he recovered from the hangover, he was inspired, carefully working alone to develop VM weapons. (Unfortunately, he ended up mutating into an abomination thanks to that care, but he did get a cushy guard post job as a reward.) See, the guy decided to mess around with inertia. You plug in a helix ripper, it's lighter, you can swing it faster. What if you unplugged it just before it hit? All the speed, three times the weight. Triple the inertia. Best of the both worlds! BM wepaons triple their weight the moment they strike, increasing damage. VM bullets increase their mass when fired, making them hit much harder. (This doesn't pull them off course. Science.) They're available as clubs, daggers, swords or bullet growth kits. The kits allow up to six bullets to be grown at any one time, then you have to wait for more. All VM wepaons are greenish, feel slimy, and have screaming faces somewhere on them.

A VM weapon in melee does extra damage. A dagger does Strength+4 instead of Strength+3, clubs and swords do Strength+5 or Strength +6 instead of +3 or +4, respectively. For each sequence one of these is plugged in, you get +1 difficulty to your mutation checks. Bullets are different. When you grow one, you pick how much bonus damage it does, between +1 and +4. For each point, you add one to your mutation check. And yes, this counts from each bullet, and you grow up to six at once. This is why they only issue six shells - people mutate fast enough with these things.

We cut over to Jef now. He and the other escapees are running low on bullets, but the people that enter are...his girlfriend and her buddies. Who, it turns out, framed Jef with the intent that he'd betray her and get them both hit with minor misdemeanor charges. See, they're Free Sex Militia. Except...Jef didn't, and she realized she really did love him. Or so she claims. The Free Sex Militia did it because they needed the guns they'd used Jef's face to smuggle. Chang approves of the Free Sex Militia, but mostly out of racism. He's kind of a racist. He suspects they aren't as fond of Jef as they claim, but he keeps that to himself. As the group flees, they are ambushed, and Jef saves Chang's life, telling him to go and leave him behind. Chang does so, as his mission is more important. Jef, meanwhile, gets taken by Buro and sent to the Bureau of Happiness and PRoductivity. It's harder than the torture was - because it doesn't hurt. He's just...happy. All the time. And when you're happy all the time, you stop caring about right and wrong.

Now then. Curtis Boatman , one of the two most powerful men in 2056. He's half the reason the world's so terrible. The chi focuses on him and his desires, prejudices and beliefs. He's very powerful - he can use any and all arcanowave schticks, but he's immune to fumbles and mutation, and doesn't need to plug in to use them - his entire body surface is one big AI/O port thanks to the world's chi. Also, in 2056, he gets +10 to all Seduce rolls. See, Curtis is....a prick. He's a selfish, arrogant prick who cares about nothing but his own pleasure. He's the only man in the world who never eats vat food. He has a huge greenhouse of rare plants, and a huge list of rare and exotic mistresses. His wife suspects, but she's married to a scumbag with all the chi in the world. He wants her to feel guilty for suspecting, and to suffer for it - and so she does. He wants her to be miserably devoted to him. So she is.

Left to himself, Boatman would just be living it up in a life of pleasure and indulgence. His ambitions have been achieved, and he sees the whole structure as existing to bring him enjoyment. He has, thus, really come to hate Bonengel. Bonengel can't accept that they've won, the work is over. Bonengel keeps rocking the boat. Boatman thinks he'll wreck everything, but at least the Secret War came along to distract the guy. Boatman has plans, if the Secret War starts going badly, to replace Bonengel. He's ensuring that CDCA is loyal to him, personally, that CDCA controls the abominations...and he's growing clones. Bonengel doesn't know about the clones. Almost no one does. The first person he cloned, see, was Bonengel. Boatman plans to kill Bonengel at some point, and the clone is to prevent riots. Most early experiments failed and had to be put out of their misery, but Boatman's cloning has improved.

Now, he has the spitting image of Bonengel, General Olivert and several other prominent allies of the Buropresident. Boatman has lots of plans for these clones, but one problem: they haven o souls. At least, that's how Boatman explains their inability to use chi and magic energy and their resistance to such powers. (In fact, he's started wondering if the Jammers are soulless, too, including his ex-lover, Laura Villaverde. The thought amuses him.) Boatman's clones also don't have much a moral sense, but that might just be a product of their environment, since while they range in physucally being between 8 and 67 years old, not one is older than 10 and their emotional maturity is lacking. They're quite clever, but are very bad at not getting instant gratification, seeing things objectively or forgiving insults. If Bonengel were to discover that Boatman has cloned him, there'd be an open rift between the two, diminishing their ability to fight outside threats. And, of course, an escaped clone would be rife with possibilities for cool action scenes.

Unlike Boatman, Johann Bonengel has a conscience. He likes to see himself as a good person. He needs to. In fact, not just a good person. The best person. A savior. Man's got a bit of a messiah complex. Unlike most dictators, he doesn't just want to be obeyed. He's obeyed easily - chi ensures that. But he wants everyone to agree with him. That's why he's so obsessed with destroying the Jammers - it is utterly intolerable to him that someone could look at his utopia and reject it. This rather warped view has its roots in his personal history. He used to be in love with a Sri Lankan woman, Danusha...but she was beaten to death by skinheads while visiting him in Berlin, since they disapproved of her association with an Aryan like Johann. This spurred Bonengel into politics: he wanted a world where ethnic crimes and personal violence are forbidden. He's close - and the only cost has been human rights.

He got sent onto the world stage when Haiti was destroyed. See, there was a virus called the Melter, which killed victims hideously and painfully. An airborne strain arose in Haiti, and Bonengel took responsibility for cordoning off the nation and shooting enough missiles and bombs at it to turn the place to rubble. That wasn't enough - he used a weather control satellite, the Fist of Shiva, to utterly wipe the place off the map. The year after Haiti was destroyed, massive weather disruptions ruined most of the world's crops. More civic disorder, Bonengel to the rescue again. He stopped the wars. He built the vat-food factories. And when the dust cleared, he was Buropresident.

A few years later, Boatman explained to him that his personal chi had probably caused the wars, the Melter and even Danusha's death, all to fulfill his self-image as a noble, martyred savior. Bonengel did not take this well at all, and it was the start of the split between him and Boatman. Everything Buro's done seems hollow to Johann now. He feels like he's a puppet driven by his own unconscious and the feng shui. The secret war is everything - because for the first time, his opponents match him. They aren't strawmen set up by his own chi to be knocked down. Bonengel needs to win - his sanity and his soul are at stake. He's a really powerful dude in 2056, incidentally. While there, anyone who tries to hurt him must roll Willpower against his Charisma each attack, or they spend the shots dithering and not attacking. He gets an extra positive die on all rolls in 2056. And while there, whenever he tries to convince someone of something, they roll Will, diff 6, or believe it as long as they're in his presence. He can't do that last one in combat, though.

Dan Dammer, Jammer Slammer grew up in one of the ugliest wars of Buro's rise to power. He remembers very little of it, but after years of therapy he has become a public, rich and beloved member of the cops. He's more than just a cop, realy - he's a celebrity. He has his own show on cop Channel. He's a huge man, extremely handsome and the exception all beat cops have in their disdain for the pretty boys with the syndicated shows. Dan's a real cop - he's been stabbed, hurled out winders and even shot in the face. If he acts like he's got something to prove...well, he does. Dan has a recurring nightmare - himself and his sister Cindy fleeing something. Something horrible. It gets her, and he runs. He leaves her, and Cindy dies. Few know that Dan's parents were resistance fighters, though he's been told. It fuels his hatred for the Jammers, whom he thinks led his parents astray. What he hasn't been told? The thing he fled, the horror he dreams about...that was one of the first cyborg squads, sent to take down his parents. If he ever learned the truth, it might destroy him.

Desdemona Deathangel is, in many ways, an emblem for the Buro. The average consume loves Bonengel but fears Buro. Desdemona is both loved and feared. On TV, she is seen only in her extremely attractive human form, and a few blurry glimpses of her transformed abomination state. Everyone knows no one survives seeing that. The networks always want to interview Desdemona, but CDCA won't allow it. They'll have to live with soundbites and cheesecake pinups. There's a very good reason for this: Desdemona is completely evil and utterly incapable of hiding it. She's too dumb to lie and has never needed to. It'd be a PR nightmare to let her answer questions. For example - she eats people. Once a week, to survive. She prefers babies, but CDCA has kept her on a diet of criminals.

Desdemona is a terror weapon. She can't be trusted to show discretion, so it's only safe to unleash her when total destruction is the goal. Now that the world is pacified, she's pretty obsolete, though she can be used in the Netherworld or in 69 AD. She has no neural grepper, incidentally. The only thing keeping her obedient is the fact that the Architects keep her happy. The CDCA knows she'll desert them in a moment if they don't, but they haven't told the rest of the government yet. (And yeah, she's super dumb. Mnd 3, though Cha 12 in human form just on raw sex appeal.)

Next time: Blowing up 2056!

I must have miscounted. There was supposed to be one left for me.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I must have miscounted. There was supposed to be one left for me.

Sonja Maccarrelli has been shit on by life. She started out okay - a colonel's daughter who went into the military and performed bravely in Texas. She got promoted, got on TV, had a bunch of Jammers try to assassinate her and killed them all. She gets promoted to TacOps and made an arcanowave cyborg. They don't tell her about the side effects. Not until she mutates horribly, becoming a mass of bleeding steel and burning skin. Once that happens, they tell her they're going to give her a neural grepper, to kill her if she disobeys orders. Except Sonja's never disobeyed orders - ever. Her mother had been made a general by this point and pulled some strings. Bonengel himself comes down to see her, asks her if she's going to rebel and needs the device. Answer: Sir, no, sir.

Bonengel personally orders the grepper not be installed. Sonja is devoted to him from this point. Everything she does is for Bonengel. She handles the vivisection as they study her regeneration, learns to become human again, regains her mental faculties - all for him. TacOps sends her on some dangerous missions - most notably, Operation Tent Pole, where she goes up against a demon called the Mother of Corruption and the Dragon called Ting Ting. She ends up nearly dead and calls for reinforcements...but hears on the radio that none are coming. Not for "just an abomination." Somehow, she drags herself back. At this point, Sonja hates BuroMil. She loathes the CDCA. She is in this for Bonengel - and Bonengel alone. She was offered a job on his bodyguard team, but turned it down out of fear that she'd fail him. Instead, she's his personal independent TacOps agent.

Sonja hates her abomination form and avoids using it if at all possible. (She's actually worse at fighting in it.) However, her Inevitable Comeback always returns her to that form, and it takes a Will check to turn human again in a half-hour, excruciatingly painful transformation. Her abomination form resembles a steel hawk with a whole lot of internal organs shoved inside it. Every movement tears open her organs, making blood flow down her metal form, but the wounds immediately heal. She can't speak in this form, and if threatened is likely to lash out at random or flee. She also cannot use guns or most of her arcanowave schticks.

Now we get away from named folks. Well, sort of. There's Bonechills , which are...the worst thing that can be done to you if you get arrested. The BHP turns these people into loyal minions. They resemble sociopaths - no remorse, no empathy, but unlike sociopaths, they are loyal. To Buro, at least. The BHP has made service to Buro the only factor these people care about. They're worse than zombies or brainwashing - see, Bonechills are self-directed, have intuition, can innovate and plan. They're not sadists; rather, violence is a neutral concept to them. It is a tool, pure and simple, with no greater meaning. Bonechills are incredibly creepy - you can spot them a block away if you know what to look for. Dead eyes, motionless expressions...they can be deceptive when needed, but are otherwise cold and blank.

Outside of 2056, a Bonechill could be rehabilitated. The Queen of the Ice Pagoda could certainly do it, as could Quan Lo or Gao Zhang. The Ascended have shrinks that might be able to, and a scrappy, caring psychiatrist might have a chance if it was dramatically appropriate. The example Bonechill...well, you remember Jef Moor, from the fiction segments? Jef is a Bonechill. He can't even kill himself any more - just serve Buro.

Bouncing Benjis are a form of abomination based on hopping vampires. The Biomass Reprocessing Center sees so many of the damn things that they make them on assembly lines. Officially, they're known as the Close Combat Demoralization Unit, but no one calles them anything but Bouncing Benjis (or Berthas, if female). They're slightly smarter than the average jiangshi, if only so they can grasp the idea of 'instructions', but they're still incredibly dumb. Also, they lose several powers in the conversion process. On the other hand, while the whole hopping thing hasn't been fixed, they've managed to remove the inability to cross sticky rice and the vulnerability to rice paper. They can't teach 'em to shoot things, though. First, they're too dumb, and second, the giant claws get in the way. They've also developed an anti-sorcery variant which replaces a Spirit Shield Generator with a Feedback Enhancer, and a Medic variant which has a Slap Patch. (I'm not sure how they train it to know what to use the thing on. These things are complete idiots.)

BuoMil has a number of divisions, but only two are particularly notable as anything other than grunts. There's the High Mobility Combat Union , Buro Special Forces. They're infiltrators, counterterrorists and experts in civilian unrest suppression. Most TacOps get promoted out of these guys. Tactical Operations are, well, Bonengel's personal special ops branch. They are the best of the best, and all of them are Innerwalkers. Training ain't easy, and and the best of them get given arcanotech. The ones who don't have it are no slouches, though - these guys are the best Buro has to offer, arcanowaves or no.

Buro Public Order, or PubOrd, come in pairs. You still get the partner system, though the buddy cop genre has been replaced by buddy cop romances, in which unlikely partners fall in love. A little over half these movies are about heterosexuals, and 98% are about interracia couples. People from the 90s tend to find the movies rather surprising when they first see them. Anyway, PubOrd also travels in packs - they call for backup really easily, and any cop can get across most cities in around 20 minutes or so. So yeah, mess with PubOrd and it's quickly going to become a horde.

The final notable group? Hell's Postmen , the Arcanoengineered Messenger Division. Picture your typical demon's head, give it enormous wings coming out of its skull, and replace the ears with arms. Now shove a giant arcanowave device resembling a slug on the back, a Spirit Shield Generator on the jaw and a backpack over the wings. This is a Hell's Postman, scientific name 'wingey bastard.' They are not actually male any more - the spirit shield generator replaces that particular bit. Buro tells them they'll get it back after ten years of service. (Which is a lie - they get killed at ten years and made into spirit shield components.) The reason the lie is told is that these guys don't do well with greppers - it interferes with their Navigation schtick, a unique power that lets them automatically track anyone whose blood they've tasted. Buro keeps blood samples on file for this purpose. Hell's Postmen are not combat abominations, but messengers, and the thing on their backs is a GateMaker. When an operative vanishes, a Postman gets sent to find them. (Sometimes they're used as bombs to take out traitors, but fortunately for everyone, traitor bombs also mess with their Navigation powers.) If the Transtemporal Communications Cable were finished, these guys would become redundant and would be culled en masse. Learning that might make quite a few turn traitor.

We return to our fiction again...and to Jef. He shows up on Chang's doorstep, claiming to have escaped Buro custody. Chang takesh im in and gives him a place to stay with the local Guiding Hand disciples. Jef gets up in the night and kills several in their sleep before the rest wake up. He shoots most of them. He thinks he got them all, but isn't sure - he's soon too busy fighting Chang. Chang doesn't understand why they're betrayed, and Jef tries to explain: Productivity drugs. He's so drugged up that he cares about nothing but his next fix. Chang tries to offer to save him - but too late. Jef chases him down, killing him. He finishes and Shiny shows up. Shiny's also turned traitor - but not by force, like Jef. He jumped ship when they offered him some new toys. Jef kills Shiny, and then tries to kill himself, but he's made an error: he ran out of bullets.

Now then! Major places in 2056. Let's see - Sun Farms , in Mesa, North America. That is to say, Arizona. All the vast stretches of open, baked soil have been turned into sun farms - acres and acres of generators gathering solar power. This is what powers a lot of civilian infrastructure. (The military prefers power sources that aren't endangered by clouds.) However, the CDCA has also realizes that sun farms can be used as chi amplifiers, using the solar cells as geomantic mirrors. As a result, the sun farms are common Jammer targets. Buro does not actually mind that - sure, they lose the chi from the sites, but the PR is great. ('The Jammers have once again decided you need brownouts, consumer!') The Jammers relaize that this is not going to actually stop Buro, but the burn rush is good for them, and they try to keep Buro from rebuilding. They like to do that by dumping radioactive waste, but moving lots of dirt would also work, as would diverting rivers. If you could find a river in Arizona to use. Sun farms do have guards, but they tend to be screw-ups, losers and those being punished. Sure, there's lots of 'em and they're allowed to attune, but they're still losers.

The Megamall of New Sydney, Australia, is a monument to the fundamental value of Buro society: consumerism. Like most new cities, New Sydney was built on a feng shui site, and the Megamall is the epicenter, designed to drive a spike into the collective unconscious and push the idea that you are what you own. It's shaped like two immense golden domes, and is pretty dancy. It's got two roller coasters in it, which twist around each other, and the atriums at the center of each dome have two of the world's largest zogeevators. All kinds of stores, and at the center is a perfectly preserved 1970s ranch house. In fact, Info: Geomancy, diff 6, or any chi-mapping schtick will reveal that the house is the center of the site and essential to it. It was built by hand by a very self-reliant couple who were, essentially, entirely taking care of themselves. The house has absorbed their can-do spirit, and it has been caged and crippled by Buro, making everyone on the planet that much more desperate and insecure. (Bonengel believes they are more social and civic-minded.) However, the beautiful thing here? You destroy the house, it can never be rebuilt, for each beam was uniquely hand-carved. Burning the site gives 7 XP, not the normal 5, and would destroy the entire feng shui site of the Megamall and New Sydney.

Not that getting to the house is easy. Every entrance to the mall has a discreet but functional scanner built in, to detect strong magic or kung fu. Anyone who makes it register gets special attention from four uniformed PubOrd cops, though Buro knows that won't slow them down - they're just there to make you reveal yourself. There are also microwave radars to detect concealed weapons. At any given time, there's 40-50 cops in the mall, along with two dozen Bouncing Benjis in suspended animation. The guys in charge of the monsters may or may not care about civilian casualties; the Benjis absolutely do not.

Liberty City, Cuba is home to the Lair of Doctor Diabolos ! Cuba has always been a haven fro crime. In the 50s, gambling. In the 90s, sex. In 2056? Illicit nicotine and eyeball farms. It is home to the most feared criminal mastermind in the world, Doctor Diabolos. He's never been caught, despite his theatricality. The local PubOrd sector commander, Hector Ramone, has sworn to catch him or die trying. Diabolos is not a Jammer, despite the Bureau of Truth and Ideological Hygiene's claims or BuroMil's suspicions. In fact, the truth is stranger. Hector Ramone will never catch Diabolos because he is Diabolos. He's placed high enough in PubOrd to know about feng shui (though not time travel), and he owns Fidel Castro's old house - a powerful feng sui site that is very helpful to those facing vastly superior foes. (What, you thought the CIA's idiot plans to put itching powder in Castro's scuba gear and LSD on his mouthpiece were entirely because they're dumb? Oh no, chi helped that one.)

Diabolos is playing a very dangerous game. On the one hand, he has to appear competent enough to make sure he doesn't lose the house. On the other, he has to make Buro look foolish. He runs a huge "sin complex" under the ruins of old Havana, with gambling, LSD labs, the world's biggest eyeball farm and even an underwater submarine bay that serves as the backbone for his tobacco smuggling operations. Gamblers come to compete against each other and the Doctor, while fugitives know it's a good place to get new identities. This makes it very popular with Innerwalkers...especially Jammers. They're the reason Ramone can keep his power: as Diabolos, he gives them false papers. As Ramone, he tracks them down and arrests them any time pressure comes down on him. If the truth ever came out, both Buro and the Jammers would hunt his ass down as a traitor. Anyone who finds out about his secret has plenty of blackmail material...and an enemy for life.

The Bureau of Happiness and Productivity is based out of New Des Moines, North America. And yeah, these are the guys who rape your brain until you're a slave. GMs are warned: do not turn PCs into Bonechills. Kill them, sure, but do not turn them into Bonechills. It pisses people off. The headquarters in New Des Moines is built underground, as the former Heartland is ripped to shreds by tornadoes every year. The only aboveground structures are the Temporary Wind Generators, or TWiGs, which get ripped up by the tornadoes and replaced every year. Supposedly the new ones are biodegradable. Anyway, New Des Moines is underground, all of it. Its a sunless, joyless layered city with the Bureau at its center. They're not flashy and intimidating, but they are critical to Buro's success. They destroy souls. That is their job. They don't use feng shui or demons - just pure, organic, homegrown human evil.

Theoretically, the place is run by Governor Poussain, but he was in office for less than a year before a whirlwind marriage to Dr. April Mucosa, head of the BHP. Within three months, she was essentially in charge and making the first Bonechills. ?New Des Moines is now her experimental blueprint for the next generation of Buro cities. Citizens are encouraged to participate in "Joy Treatments" to "alleviate stress of sunless life." At first, it did seem to make folks happier, but as time wore on, the neighbors noticed that people who went seemed to get brittle. The smiles became grimaces. Less happiness than hystical giggling. Lots of folks decided they'd rather be unhappy, so the treatments will soon be mandatory.

Flying Fortresses can show up anywhere. They resemble missiles with stubby wings and a jet tail. There's two giant treads on the underside, in case the flight is disabled, and they're five stories tall. And about as long as a football field. There are less than twenty of them, officially designated Superconducting Antigravity Fire Platforms, or SCAF-PLATS, but that's plenty, since one of them can kill everything in an area the size of Acapulco in about an hour, down to the last microbe. (Sure, that doesn't last long, but they really do sterilize a place.) Buro only uses these when there's serious problems - say if the demon island Kun Chau were to become a menace in 2056. Otherwise, they just erase towns or make a point about military power.

There's five floors in a SCAF-PLAT. The bottom is mostly armor and weapons pointed straight down - three GOBs, six turret-mounted Hellharrowers, six missile launchers and two grav-car hangers. Also the controls for the irising gate to the plasma vent. More on that in a moment. The second level is all the superconducting circuits needed to keep the thing flying. These only work at 0 degrees Celsius or below, so the whole fortress is cold but this floor is quite a bit colder. Above that is the core, housing the command clevel, cockpit, radio shack, kitchen, mess hall and cramped quarters. Above that is the fusion generator, which makes it the warmest level - aorund room temperature or so, or really hot right next to the fusion core. It is also home to that plasma vent's firing controls. Again, more on that in a moment. The top level has two more GOBs, four Hellharrowers and six missile launchers, along with four SPUD-U hangars. These aren't what sterilize an area. That's the plasma vent.

See, the plasma vent is a big empty space in the middle of the SCAF-PLAT, around 20 feet across. It goes from the bottom level all the way to the fusion reactor. It is a giant plasma gun. It takes ten minutes to warm up, during which time the barrel is opened. When first fired, it's at the lowest setting, otherwise the heat might break the superconductors. As the power increases, more energy is diverted to keeping those cool and insulating the crew from the weapon. The whole platform grows hotter and hotter, and eventually the antigrav gear turns off and the thing is kept up by the gun itself. With skill, the thing stays balanced and then you slowly power it down and turn the antigravity back on. One plasma vent at full power can melt a skyscraper. Put twelve of 'em over a city, they can set the atmosphere on fire for miles. If you're lucky, you run out of air and die before the fire hits you.

Next time: Breaking Flying Fortresses 101

It's like they opened my skull and scooped out the part that gives a damn.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: It's like they opened my skull and scooped out the part that gives a damn.

SCAF-PLATs are big and intricate...and as a result, htere's all kinds of things you can break. The second floor superconductors, if destroyed, will choke off all power to the antigravity nodes and drop it from the sky. This takes 1000 points of damage to all the coils and wires...but that's a lot, isn't it? You can disable them all from the central circuit junction with a diff 12 Fix-It roll over the course of one sequence. The trick is finding and fighting your way to the central junction. And since it's the second floor, the area's full of ice and coolant and so on. The eaiest way to make the cooling system fail is to head to the cockpit and take it offline on the third floor, which takes a sequence and a diff 6 Fix-It roll from the commander's control panel. (It involves getting the computer to believe the plasma vent is being turned on when it isn't.) The third floor has the most guards, naturally.

You can blow the entire thing up if you manage to turn the plasma vent and then either prevent the cooling systems from switching to plasma shielding, get the plasma vent working at full power and turn it off while the fortress is balanced on top of it or turn the vent on when the vent guard is closed. All of these can be done from the commander's computer, and each takes two sequences and a diff 6 Fix-It roll. You can also do the first one from the second floor. It's diff 10 to find an auxiliary control panel (which can be as awakward to find as the GM wants), and then a second diff 10 roll to make it happen. If you're doing this while the vent is preparing to fire, you're good - you have sixty seconds to get out before the thing blows up. Try hijacking a grav-car.

If the fire sequence has not started yet, it's off to the fourth floor to start if by finding the other control panel and rigging it, with the same difficulties. Then it's the same sixty seconds to get out, but you have two more floors to go back through. Of course, if you use this method, Buro's already destroyed whatever's below you. If the PCs can find that fourth floor control panel and sabotage it - which means more than just shooting it - the SCAF-PLAT will start falling immediately. PCs have about 20 seconds to get out before impact. Good luck!

The simplest option is getting the plasma gun to fire while the gate is closed. It maeans finding yet another control panel and making a diff 13 Fix-It roll, since you're basically breaking the gun. Then it's back upstairs, find the vent controls, activate them as before. You now have ninety seconds to get out, because the platform isn't going to crash until it explodes in midair. Anything in the mile underneath it is still pretty fucked, but that's...well, that's normal when you're under a Flying Fortress. And yes, a lot of these options involve screwing around on the fourth floor, which is super hot and full of tubes containing plasma. If those break, everyone gets a brief moment of horrible plasma burns! But not deadly ones, just really painful.

Your homework is to come up with new and exciting ways to kill a SCAF-PLAT. Overloading the fusion core, shutting down the engines or breaking all the antigrav units on one side so it starts spinning in place really fast, that should all work. Basically, as long as the PCs have fun and work out a vaguely plausible method of breaking the damn thing, let it work as long as it isn't easy.

CDCA Research and Development Facility #1 is where it all started: Ad Dammam, Saudi Arabia. It is the small, secret lab where Anita Dao and Boatman were able to work unencumbered by oversight. It's a decent feng shui site, but not compared to what else is around these days. It doesn't see a lot of cutting edge research any more, not since the Biomass Reprocessing Facility opened. Still, Boatman has a bit of a soft spot for the place in what passes for his heart. That's why the place is perfect for the Museum of Abomination Research, better known as the Zoo. There's a dozen types of early and obsolete abominations here, kept in secure and rather unpleasant habitats that simulate the areas of the Underworld the critters traditionally come from, such as the Skinned Alive Forest or the Ocean of Boiling Blood. Fun! There's also some more impressivem onsters that, for various reasons, can't be deployed.

R&DFac1 is out in the middle of the desert, so it's not easy to get there. Getting back once you blow it up might be worse. The good thing is that if you let the abominations out, one of two things will happen. Either they're going to shred the local landscape so much that the building can't be rebuilt, or the Buro will send in enough firepower that the building can't be rebuilt. Boatman's still attuned to the place, so bonus ! The facility itself is a big dome in the middle of a valley, with turret-mounted GOBS on either side of the canyon. Once you get past those, there's a road that is carefully monitored by a turreted Hellgarrower in front of the dome. It's probably easier just to rappel in from the cliffside.

Once you get into the dome, there's the zoo, home of the fabulous Blood Squid, modified for anti-submarine activity, or the Earth Swimmer, so dangerous it's kept sedated at all times! The monsters are kept in the dome's big chamber in individual habitats, with paths between the exhibits, much like nay zoo. You've got your basement labs as well, full of tools that could kill people, and your five to six dozen soldiers in the barracks. What gets kept there? Well, we start with the blood squid, a giant squid demon with lamprey mouths for suckers. They keep it in a giant aquarium full of blood, and as far as I can tell they just don't use it because it's hard to steer and is really, incredibly tough. Also it dies when out of blood for around six sequences (or, perhaps, water - we'll never know). The Inside-Out Demon appears to be a moderately attractive woman. However, she can split herself down the middle and fold herself inside out, allowing her to terrify folks with her hideous muscle-and-bone armor and to drain their blood. She can then turn herself back the right way, taking the shape of the person she drained. She gets that person's stats (except Mind) and memories, making her an excellent spy...if it weren't for her ease in rejecting neural greppers. As a result of that, she's kept locked up here.

The Cybertengu was made of a tengu, a Japanese mountain demon whose skill with the sword is legendary. This particular one was machine-gunned half to death and put back together, so he's got nasty scars as rell as red skin, a huge noise and blue, coarse hair. All tengu have a unique ability: their Martial ARts score is exactly equal to the person they're attackin. The Buro figured that if they gave the thing a VM sword and a few other enhancements, like a Neural Stimulator, it would be more than a match for any Guiding Hand fighter. Turns out they were wrong, thanks to kung fu powers. The Cybertengu got shelved as an oddity and has not been used since. The Flying Bladder used to be part of a giant demon named Yang Luo. It killed two squads of monster hunters, so they sent in their normal response to such things: overwhelming force. Even that only blew him to bits rather than killing him. His evil was so powerful that even his organs were able to move around and be intelligent. His legs ran back off to the Underworld but had to make a deal with the Lotus to get in. Same with one arm. The other arm got melted by the Ascended when it found its way to the Hub. The intestines got to the Sunless Sea and are a menace to navigation. The heart was captured by Ming I and became the base for the Molten Heart. The head has never been found. But the bladder and kidneys? The Architects got those. It's eight feet tall, four feet wide and has its own eyes and mouth. They stuck wings on it and figured it'd be a great tool. The neural grepper worked great, but Buro learned that the Bladder was able to grow new brains somehow...and since it was chronically disobedient and needed a new grepper each time, well, they decided to wash their hands of the whole project and locked it in the Museum. It is damn hard to kill.

The Earth Swimmer is the final major monster in the Museum. It resembles the blood squid, vaguely, in the same way a Great Dane resembles a Chihuahua. It is twenty feet long, has three faces, each with one eye, and one gigantic mouth on theb ottom. It can slither along on the bottom face, and has several tentacles tipped in fifty foot digging paddles. The Earth SWimmer's immense size means it takes up most of th display space in the museum, and it is constantly kept sedated by an industrial-size Wave Suppressor. It was supposed to be theultimate weapon - it's big, it's strong, it swims through the earth itself. Unfortunately, its brain is too big to be effectively killed by a neural grepper. The Earth Swimmer is so big that a grepper large enough to kill it would weigh so much that it wouldn't be able to use its special movement abilities - and htose were the point, since it was meant to destroy feng shui sites from below. They tried a few missions with it, but when it had to carry around half a ton of explosives to do its digging, it was really slow...and no one wanted to be near it. By the time it got to its objectives, the enemies had either fled and burned the site behind them or fortified the place massively. Either way, not worth it. Now it stays in the museum, and the Wave Suppressor is all that keeps it safe - they had to remove the neural grepper to fit it into the facility. Its unique attack is Devour - it grabs a guy and eats them. At first, you take no damage and it takes a full sequence to move you to its mouth. You can spend 3 shots to make a diff 15 strength check. Succeed even once, you squirm out from beneath the Earth Swimmer. If you go an entire sequence and don't get even one success...you get eaten. And die. Period. No roll, no damage, just death. One success but less than three keeps you alive until next sequence, when you have to try again. Three successes in one sequence means you break free. People being eaten cannot make Martial Arts or Guns attacks while being eaten.

We head now to Hollywood and the set of Combat Shopping! You've seen the Price is Right. Have you ever thought 'this would be way more entertaining if everyone had guns and wanted to kill each other?' So did Buro! The show evolved from pro wrestling and Japanese game shows, creating an entire subgenre of ultraviolent game shows. (I don't think Bonengel likes them much.) Anyway, the contestants are all given a sum of money to buy guns and armor. Anything they don't spend they get to keep if they live, so greedy contestants can be completely underequipped. Once you have your gear, you're set loose on a giant set full of durable consumer goods. All the goods have a price tag, and you have between seven and ten minutes to grab all you can. Anything you grab increases your score by its price. Any item you destroy decreases your score by half its price. Any item you take from another player decreases their score by its price and increases yours by double its price. Obviously, you want to steal stuff from other players.

Easier said then done - there's more danger on the set than homicidally greedy clerks. The set looks like a department store, but it's full of traps. About one prize in a dozen is booby-trapped by the same sort of people who design the temples Indiana Jones runs through, and the best prizes usually have hazards protecting them. At the end of each round, you get to cash in your prizes and reinvest in more weapons, so there tends to be escalation. However, anything spent on weapons is not kept at the end of the show. Combat Shopping is so popular that the network actually set up a professional league; the rules are a little different, but not notably so. The amateur version is still very popular, too, thanks to the fun of watching accountants and factory workers try to kill each other.

CDCA Secure Facility #12 in Bonengel, Australia is where you're going to go if you get arrested. They used to keep captive Innerwalkers in the Biomass Reprocessing Center, until one too many prisoners got out via Shaping. Now, they use SecFac112, which combines prison and experimental lab, where they try to figure out chi powers, sorcery and so on. Sometimes they interrogate, sometimes they vivisect, sometimes they create false chances to escape so prisoners will use their powers. Other times they just get fed up, kill prisoners and try to see what they can recreate from the brain's memory structures. It's not an exact science, but they've gotten some successes.

Ice Station Yves in Antarctica is also known as Paranoia Base. If everything goes wrong and a war starts in 2056, a serious war - well, this is where the top brass will be coming to hide. (Except Boatman. He plans to run to the Biomass Reprocessing Center. Bonengel suspects this, and has a hidden part of his brain trying to figure out what to do if Boatman betrays him.) The best troops are stationed here, doing cold weather training and getting ready for anything. Sometimes they take captured rogue abominations and hunt them in the ice, but not often - CDCA doesn't like giving them out. Bonengel is also doing offensive training here - he knows that Antarctica is empty in most junctures and sees it as the perfect place for a secure base. (He is not aware that the Ascended have beaten him to it in the 1990s.) His troops are training to build bases and survive in the least hospitable place on Earth, and when the logistics are ready, he's going to send them to 69 AD to build a polar base.

BTM HQ is in Geneva, Europe. Here, the Bureau of Tactical Management plans all of BuroMil's operations. Three of the flying fortresses are stored here when not in use, security patrols the place in full platoons and all sorts of secret plans exist in the computer banks underground. There's miles of 'em. And yes, that is all we're told about the place. Well, that and 'Have fun!' We also get a fun little picture telling us that Curtis Boatman's childhood home was a massively powerful feng shui site that ofcused its energy in his nursery. His parents bought it in 1999, and he was born a year later. Interesting!

We now get the first of two adventures here: The Cancer Factory . This is designed for starting PCs. The Cancer Factory, AKA the Dunville CDCA Lab, requires a bit of understanding of Buro politics. Bonengel likes cops, doesn't like the CDCA. He is terrified of civilian insurgency - it's his personal pet peeve. Most counterinsurgency tasks and funds go to PubOrd as a result. One day, though, CDCA promises a solution to the rebel problem which is cheap, fast, certain and costs fewer lives. Bonengel is dubious, but they promsie it'll kill Innerwalkers, too, so he funds the research and the Cancer Factory is born. The theory is that demon DNA can be harvested, nuked into dormancy with arcanowaves and added to food. As longas the mystic climate does not change, the DNA stays dormant. If it changes, the DNA wakes up and kills the host like a form fo savage, nearly intelligent cancer.

Leaving 2056 is a climate shift enough to wake it - but the CDCA wants it to reactivate for a more subtle change, like that caused by fighting against the world's dominant chi flow. If it works, then Buro doesn't need cops and surveillence, it just needs tainted food that will kill poeple if they think bad thoughts. The first widespread experiment was done in the small town of Dunville. When the CDCA introduced their food, it took between a week and ten days to get an effect. The local hospital was overwhelemed, and when it became clear tha their experiment was becoming an epidemic, the CDCA shut off the railroads and had PubOrd send in choppers to round up those who made a run for it. The citizens tried to riot and invade the lab, but the PubOrd Floating Fortress assigned to the area killed them all before they got out of town. The next batch of PubOrd officers didn't have guns - just bulldozers and backhoes to bury the dead. Once the magnitude of the catastrophe became obvious, the CDCA got the Bureau of Truth and Ideological Hygiene to delete Dunville completely. It isn't on maps, trains don't go there and everyone who lived there disappeared from the phone books overnight. Relatives were told a variety of stories, from train wrecks to an outbreak of the Melter to Jammer violence.

So, how do the PCs get involved? Maybe a confused relative wonders why Aunt May's body wasn't shipped out to be buried like she wanted. They investigate and find the whole town gone. This could be a friend of any PC from 2056. Maybe one of the PCs inherits something from a relative in Dunville, but htere's a legal complication: there is no Dunville any more. Maybe the Ascended found out about Dunville and steer the PCs towards it in the hopes that it will make the PCs hate the Architects, which isn't unlikely. Or, hey, the CDCA lab is built on a feng shui site. Anyone who's got it in an earlier juncture might want to go see what happened to it. The 1990s site is an isolated ranch house in Dunville, Montana which gives only 2 bonus XP per session but makes the PCs totally invisible to income taxes. MAybe some of Dunville's survivors escaped and one of them found hte PCs. Whatever you want, really.

Your first problem is getting to Dunville. It's in the middle of nowhere, trains don't go there and the old road goes to another town around 100 kilometers away. However, the Architects missed a Netherworld gate around 9 kilometers from the town, out in the woods. Maybe the Ascended or another group found it and told the PCs. Once they get to Dunville, well, it's a ghost town. It's obvious to anyone there for an hour or so that there was either a battle or a massacre here, complete with a fresh mass grave. Digging the bodies up isn't very revealing, though - the CDCA introduced microbes to encourage decomposition so the corpses didn't get hauled in for autopsy. Only bones are left. All the charts and records from the hospital were deleted. Detectives, cops and so on might be able to judge from the grass that the slaughter happened maybe a month ago. Only one road has been used since then: the road from the train station to the lab.

There's two main ways to get into the lab: the smart way and the dumb way. The smart way involves spying on the place and learning that boxcars of supplies get sent in once a month, and that there's a fifteen minute gap betwene the time the boxcar is dropped and a truck hauls it off. (The delay is because the only two people who met Buro's safety standards for large vehicle operations are nicotine addicts having an affair. They usually drive down to the railroad tracks, have sex and smoke in the empty truck before loading up the boxcar.) If the PCs can sneak into the boxcar, they're golden. Instead of a horde of guards, they just have two who'd rather have a snack and a nap than a fight. They'll be found soon enough, but they'll probably get past the wall and maybe even the courtyard by then - and no one in the factory will be ready for them.

Next time: The dumb way.

I'm dead, Chang. Dead like you. But the drugs at least make me feel half-way alive.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: I'm dead, Chang. Dead like you. But the drugs at least make me feel half-way alive.

The dumb way into the Dunville lab is very simple: walk up to the front gate and fight your way in. This is harder than the smart way. It involves first getting past a three meter wall covered in cameras and motion detectors. Climbing the wall is hard - see, it's not hard to climb, but halfway up, electrified spikes pop out. You have to make a diff 7 Reflexes roll to jump off before you take damage. To get in or out, people with clearance use the gate, but the guards aren't about to buy that the PCs have clearance. 100 damage will break the wall, 60 for the gate. The gate will go down if hit by a car. Once inside, there's a whole lot of guards in the courtyard in front of the lab - about three per PC. The lab itself is Art Deco meets Giger. If the PCs are doing really well, the GM may add in some Bouncing Benjis. At night, the guards are disorganized and scared; in the day, not so much. There's also some barracks and housing, but those are unimportant, boring places that no one has to care about.

Once inside the lab, it's time for fights even if the characters got in the smart way. There's plenty of places to do it. The first floor has the factory floor, which will have some guards and probably the security chief, Warner Ng. Warner was a counterinsurgency guy with BuroMil and the only survivor of a Guiding Hand attack. It was pure luck, but it convinced everyone he was a badass. (He's not terrible, but he's not a hero.) He jumped at a chance to avoid it happening again when CDCA offered him a job. He's not happy the PCs are here to mess up his cushy job. There's also a cafeteria full of cutlery to use in the fight if factory machines aren't enough ofr you. Heading upstairs, you run into the CDCA offices, which aren otable either for being rather pleasant and tasteful if bland or for having a lightweb. Lots of motivational posters and office supplies to hit people with.

Eventually, the party's going to head down to the basement, which is where the real trouble is. The basement's got a supply closet, an operating room, som cold storage and and processing lab for evil demonic goo. The whole place smells funny and feels unwholesome; often things feel fleshy and warm, and something seems to be throbbing. The place is locked off to anyone without Target Gold Beta Deciduous Clearance, but PCs have never cared about that. Cold Storage is a giant freeze full of the corpses of Dunville's former inhabitants. There's some tanks full of super-cold liquid of some kind that the PCs can steal with a Fix-It roll, diff 10, if they feel like throwing them at people. The supply closet is a supply closet, though it also has two jugs of EZ-Zterile, a sterilizing agent. It doesn't do much to people but give them a nasty rash in around ten hours, but that demonic goo takes (Outcome+3) damage per squirt, and each jug's good for a tousand squirts. Hitting them with the whole jug does (Outcome+10) damage. EZ-Zterile also smells like honeysuckle. No ammonia, no bleach, it smells like the flower. Exactly like it. CDCA's good at this.

The operating room recently had some CDCA scientists in it dissecting a ten-year-old girl. The GM dcides if they're still there. At night, they probably aren't and the girl is probably in cold storage with the rest of 'em. There's not much in here of note except a nice, labeled laser scalpel. You shoot it with Guns and it does damage similar to a pistol, but it's got a nice accuracy bonus the longer you spend firing because it has no recoil and is very easy to correct. Downside: It's big and bulky and is attached to a console you're going to have carry around. Anyway, eventually they'll get to the Bioprocessing Lab. Here, well, there's a giant bowl in the center full of gray-green-yellow, pulsating slime. It moves all the time, generating things that look like faces, muscles, claws and so on, but never for more than an instant.

The ceiling is covered in hanging catwalks and tracks. The tracks support a transparent bubble containing a control room, where Doctor Moy Pendrasil is hanging out. He's a CDCA goon - the epitome of one, in fact. He's professional, logical, practically asexual and runs off to hide in the bubble when combat starts. He knows a whole lot about what's going on, but will need to be terrified into talking - at which point he will break down into useless blubbering between explanations. But before that can happen, we should mention the giant Wave Suppressor aimed at the goo tank. This is important. It keeps the goo suppressed. There are also ray projectors around to stun the goo, which cannot be moved - they aim only at the goo bowl. They can't kill the goo, but do 10 damage to it per shot for stunning purposes. (The PCs may try to take some stunned goo home for study in the belief it's dead. Let them, it'll be entertaining when they find out.)

Anyway. Once a fight breaks out, Moy hides in the contral bubble and uses it to be a pain in the ass. The only weapon he has is the Wave Suppressor, which is no good on humans, but he uses it to herd the goo at the PCs and make it avoid Warner Ng. See, the goo...the goo is what happens when you dissolve a bunch of demons and charge them with energies to allow them to rewrite DNA, but before you bake them into cookies to sell to people. The goo is very alive and very angry. It wants to kill people. This is why the Wave Suppressor is there. When it goes off, the goo is going to try to eat anyone nearby. The goo is pretty tough - it's immune to normal bullets, any unarmed attack not enhanced by fu powers and normal melee weapons. The laser scalpel works fine, though. It can tank a ton of damage, and can split into smaller pieces that havfe less tanking ability. Fortunately, the goo dies whenever it'd make a Death Check, no roll needed.

Once the goo is handled, it's time for the denouement. Moy knows everything, but there's a good chance he got killed in the fight. Warner Ng only knows they were putting the goo into food for some reason. The ray projectors may have a clue - inside each one, there's a comatose human being kept alive via intravenous feeding. The projectors seem to be powered by their exposed brains. The computers, if you want them to, have the answers: these guys in the tubes were extremely loyal servants of Buro, and their brainwaves were used to break the goo's will and program it with the target for its ideologically-activated carcinogens: anyone who doesn't think like these vegetables. Really clever PCs may decide to alter the files to make it look like the whole experiment was a dangerous failure. This is a good idea.

And now, the second and final dventure in the book: The Fist of Shiva . The Fist of Shiva, of course, was the weather control satellite Bonengel used to destroy Haiti. It was blamed for massive weather changes that ruined areas of the Americas in China afterwards, and has since only been used to try and help repair the damage it did. Nothing drastic. We'll get back to it later. Meanwhile, the Architects are on the verge of constructing a feng shui pattern that will encompass the entire planet. The final link of the plan is a specific European leg of the Transworld Maglev Network, and it's near completion. With it in place, Buro will warp the world's chi to a massive degree. Everyone else - literally everyone - wants to stop this, but no one is up to doing it alone. Cooperating is pretty much impossible, as none will permit their veteran operatives - who are the only ones to stand a chance - to take orders from someone else. The only choice is for a gang of independents or Dragons to steal a space shuttle, take over the Fist of Shiva and use it to end the hopes of the world feng shui site forever. This is, naturally, only a scenario for very powerful people.

We open at any given train station in 2056. The PCs can have any reason to be here - maybe they're picking something up, are here to steal a shipment of guns or maybe they're just meeting with some people there. Hell, maybe they're just there to settle a bet as to whether the station's ticket taker is really the spitting image of Brad Pitt or not. It doesn't matter. The reason they're here from an OOC perspective: they're here to fight some abominations, and to notice that they're heading to Rome for some reason. There's a BuroMil shipment coming through, and everyone thinks it's guns. It's not - it's abominations. They're in suspended animation, and if the PCs are looking to hijack a car, this is the one they've heard about. Even if not, they'll hear about it soon enough - it's going to be headed right past them. If they're here to get someone, their train is delayed so a government car can go through on the tracks. Same if they're leaving.

This is when the train crashes. If the PCs were planning to blow it up, they do so. If not, the crash is because of some rogue velocity addict sapping the rail power, Buro mismanagement, drunken engineers or whatever you want. The reason is immaterial; the train goes off the track and hits a wall at 60 kilometers per hour. The crash has ripped open the car ceiling, and if the PCs were planning to steal weapons, they're in for a surprise when they go in and find a dozen Bouncing Benjis. I told you before, Buro has huge amounts of these guys. If the characters had no plans here, well, the abominations come out of the car. As mentioned, there are twelve Bouncing Benjis in the car, formerly in suspended animation. Six are normal, six are anti-sorcery and all twelve are being supervised by Lieutenant Chjip Chang, who is either unconscious near the back of somewhere in the car. These Benjis are Chip's first command since promotion, and he is really nervous. He's assuming this crash is a Jammer attack and has woken the Benjis. Chip's a gung-ho go-getter and in a few years he'll be an obnoxious, by the-books autority figure. When he fights, he prefers to use Tracer Resin to give the Bouncing Benjis an edge and hides behind them. He's a bit of a coward, too. This fight should leave the boxcar quickly, since fighting inside the car is not as much fun as the stunts the platform lets you do. (There is a sidebar noting that some PCs may, for some unexplainable reason, prefer to avoid fighting. If this happens, the monsters get released anyway when Chip gets knocked out in the crash and will start to attack random bystanders. If that doesn't get their attention, they aren't playing Feng Shui correctly.)

The platform itself has two sets of Maglev tracks about a meter below platform level, repeated several times. The ceiling is around six meters up and full of rust and stained plastic. Tons of vending machines around requiring retina scans to use, lots of light fextures to drop on people, electrified tracks to hurl things onto. Once the PCs one, they can interrogate Chip if they somehow get him out of the platform, but all he knows is that his squad was heading to Rome to guard a construction site. Fortunately, finding the train's destination isn't hard. Chip dropped his mission briefing in the train car or is still carrying it. Any other reasonable plan to get the info will definitely work as well, revealing the train was headed to Rome for the construction site of the Transworld Maglev Network Hub, formerly known as Saint Peter's Basilica. The Hub's significance is more than religious or historical. The Vatican was seized from the Catholics in 2050 ant they're losing power. However, people with Info: Netherworld know it used to be the Thunder Pagoda, and people with Info: Geomancy know it is the most powerful feng shui site outside China. This may not get the characters immediately into action, but that's okay.

A few days after the wreck, there's a special on Cop Channel about the Hub, which talks about the historic significance of the site and the triumph it represents for Buro. It includes a special tape "sent by the Jammers" declaring their desire to destroy the Hub, followed by a stirring speech from General Oliver declaring that she will never allow the Jammers to take the site, and that she's sent forces equal to those used to pacify Branson, Missouri, along with Desdemona Deathangel, who poses briefly for the camera before being whisked off by her handlers. The Jammer threat is suspicious to anyone who's ever met a Jammer, of course. They never give warnings and their opinions are never that coherent. The more the PCs look, the clearer it is that this entire thing was set up to justify the presence of heavy-duty firepower at the construction site. Why?

That's a good question. They already control the Vatican...so why? If they poke around for clues, the PCs will get a diagram of the Transworld Network, and any sorcerer, person with Info: Geomancy or person in tune with the Buro scientific community looks at them, they can roll an appropriate skill at diff 13 to realize that recent arcanowave research about the effects of roads and trade routes on chi flow indicates that when lots of living people use a path, their chi affects the area, like a current in the ocean. The rail paths planned by Buro, if the research is correct, will double the power of the Vatican site, making it the most powerful site in the world. Will it work? Buro clearly thinks so. (Alternatively, the players may conclude, incorrectly, that there's a Netherworld portal there that Buro plans to use to invade. They're wrong, but it gets them moving.)

The PCs should be made aware that the Network Hub is being guarded by six hundred Bouncing Benjis, three flying fortress and Desdemona Deathangel - and that's all that Buro's being public about. They never show their whole hand. A frontal attack would be insane. If they want to try it anyway...well, run it yourself, it's beyond the scope of this adventure. Warn them that they may all die uselessly (if flashily), If they want to go anyway, don't pull your punches. This is Buro displaying their primary combat doctrine: Overwhelming Force. If the PCs manage to succeed, awesome. They get a big sense of accomplishment. They haven't solved the problem, though - in a few months, the hub can be rebuilt. Even if the site is sterilized, this isn't over. Buro has spent a lot of time on this. The PCs will need a permanent solution - or a solution at all, if they weren't reckless enough for the frontal assault.

This is when smart PCs will go talk to their contacts. This plan is a danger to everyone. If the PCs don't do this, the Ascended will contact them . Somehow, the Ascended found out the PCs were pocking around, killed the Benjis on the way to Rome and want to know if the PCs have any clue what's going on. Which they probably don't, but at least they're involved now. Time for some politics. See, the Jammers know how to destroy the site for good - but they won't tell anyone unless the AScended, Lotus and Guiding Hand all give up a feng shui site. The AScended and the Lotus are down with this. The Hand isn't. The Lotus threaten the Hand, which is when the Ice Pagoda gets involved and Pi Tui spooks both the Lotus and the Ascended. Basically: everyone hates, fears and distrusts each other, and the PCs must get them all to come together to stop the Architects from winning the secret war. The solution that they're working towards is simple: the PCs get seen as the least of all possible evils and thus should lead the operation to hijack the Fist of Shiva and wipe the Vatican utterly off the map, along with most of the soil nearby and possibly some of the bedrock. This is going to take some work.

Unless the PCs horribly fuck up, everyone involved is going to send some help. The Ascended have a husband and wife team - Steve and Nayirah Chung. Steve is a stocky Chinese guy who was born a tiger in 69 AD. He doesn't talk much - but in combat, he goes from 'calm and quiet' to 'ripping throats out with his teeth.' He prefers to kill mooks first. He actually admired humanity at one point, which is why he turned himself human. However, once traveling to the future and seeing how badly we fucked it up, he decided most people didn't deserve to be human, and he's gone from idealist to bitter cynic. His battle rage is his way of showing it. He tends to disdain pure humans, but if one earns his respect, they'll have it forever. He is devoted to Nayirah utterly. Nayirah, meanwhile, is a particularly gorgeous Scorpion from the 90s. She loves innuendos and flirtation, and she's the socialite of the pair. She talks their way in, Steve shoots their way out. She is actually in love with Steve and would never be unfaithful - she just likes fucking with humans. She doesn't flirt with other transformed animals, and actually sees humans as short-sighted and irritating.

The Eaters of the Lotus have sent an expendable pawn: Chow Yen Li. He's a rarity - a sorcerer who still has his balls. He learned magic from his grandmother and then got found by the Lotus. He's built like a linebacker and is mostly notable for being a horrible lech who annoys everyone around him. He is in love with 1996. Specifically, the cheeseburgers, the funny condoms, MTV and the guns. He hates 2056 because you can't get a good pizza for love or money. He's a hedonist first, a Lotus second, and that's part of why they sent him - they don't care if he dies. He likes to scream threats at people while shooting them with lightning.

The Guiding Hand are alarmed but can't risk any of their high-level operatives being captured. They don't have as much power as everyone else, after all. So, instead of someone with a name, they're sending thirty people: the Nameless Order of Boundless Contemplation, a group of monks who have deliberately given themselves amnesia. None of them knows their own names or pasts. They are devoted to the Hand and will die before allowing themselves to be captured. They've been given uniforms and fake, non-working guns for the mission. Even if they worked, the monks would have no idea how to use them - they're there to hold their nunchaku.

The Queen of the Ice Pagoda has sent a single agent, for reasons of her own, which she won't explain. This agent is an abomination who goes by Camilla. In her human form, she's a middle-aged, dumpy woman who likes to cook meatloaf. In her abomination form, she is Lumpy McThumpy, who will cook anything regardless of how meaty it is. She prefers to be Camilla. Her Lumpy form is eight feet tall, covered in gray lumps and has a giant flower-shaped head covered in teeth. She escaped the Architects on a TacOps mission and found her way to the Ice Pagoda. She is devoted to her patron after Pi Tui didn't get mad when she turned out not to be human. She is always calm, even in battle, even when a monster, and she loves to use big words.

The Jammers don't have much to send - especially since Potemkin doesn't trust the people involved. However, they know the mission is critical, so they're sending a pilot: Jill "Mockingbird" Mokhiber. Jill is a chunky blonde woman who is guilty of steroid abuse and has a tendency to casually drop potential disasters that might happen and then say 'Just kidding', all deadpan. She's done 112 launchs in simulator...and none in real life, since she refused to launch the one time Buro told her to. She's convinced she'd have died if she did - something was wrong with the mission. She's been itching for a chance at vengeance for her domotion to vat work, and has been blowing shit up for 12 years. She's seen a lot of people die, people she liked, and she'll do anything to hurt Buro, even if it's dangerous. In combat, she goes insane, but not like Steve. Rather, she screams, weeps, froths at the mouth and shouts about her dead friends. This doesn't make her any worse at fighting than she would be if she didn't.

Next time: Grand theft space shuttle.

They tortured me and drugged me and brainwashed me, but you went willingly.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: They tortured me and drugged me and brainwashed me, but you went willingly.

Now that we have our all-star teamup with the PCs and those other guys, the Jammers reveal that the best place to steal a space shuttle is from Tillaberi Launch Facility, way out in the middle of nowhere, Australia. Of course, that doesn't make it easy. There's a 3 meter all around the place with 10 remote-operated Hellharrowers mounted on it. Inside, there's the launch control center, garrison and weird arcanotech rocket. The garrison is the 166th Orbital Services Protection Brigade, better known as the Thunderhawks. First goal: getting over the wall, across the courtyard and into the rocket. Getting to the launch center is optional but doing it will make life much easier in the rocket. Nayirah wants to talk her way in, but without adequate PC support as judged by the GM her attempt will be an abject failure, because she's an NPC. If someone comes up with a clever plan, roll with it. It'll get them to the courtyard before the fight starts. A good plan and great dice will get them into the building before all hell breaks loose.

The closer in the Nameless Monks get before the fight starts, the better for everyone. They're much better in close quarters, while Buro has the advantage in open ground. The wall-mounted Hellharrowers are a big problem - each one's controlled from the command bunker in the basement. It takes one guy to control one gun, but the controllers can switch guns at will. Any point outside the wall can be hit by at least three Hellharrowers, and there's five markspersons in the bunker at any given time. Each gun has 45 wounds before being destroyed, and when destroyed by anything but unarmed strikes, they explode. There's 40 Thunderhawk grunts, ten markspersons, five sergeants, an abomination named Big Dumb Rex and the CO, Colonel Djibril. The infantrypersons (Buro is strictly gender-neutral) stay back and shoot when possible, but can fight in melee. They will not shoot on folks in Buro uniform unless ordered to by a superior officer.

The markspersons are extremely deadly and accurate, though still nameless. If a fight starts (hahahaha if ) five are in the bunker and five get deployed to the roof as snipers. The five sergeants are also nameless, but better than the grunts. Each one commands ten grunts. Big Dumb Rex is a nine foot humanoid thing with huge, hairy wings and eyes on his hcest and a giant lower jaw for a head. (He is grumpy because he has to rub his teeth on things to chew them.) He might be guarding the rocket if hte GM is merciful, or sent out to fight right away if not. Djibril is a tough, tall and scarred woman who takes no lip and prefers not to fight personally, instead focusing on intelligently coordinating the Thunderhawks.

The courtyard is not a good place to fighting. It's a killzone. It's designed to be a killzone. If the PCSs just rush in, things are simple: it takes one sequence to cross the courtyard in a car, two on foot at top speed. For every shot in each sequence, every named character must dodge a shot from a sniper or Hellharrower. Every shot, one of the Nameless Monks dies. Djibril and Big Dumb Rex act seperately, as well. If the Innerwalkers are crossing the courtyard after a fight starts somewhere else, well, play things by ear, the Buro will be much less organized. The building itself is where the PCs want the fight to start - the close quarters are much better for the Nameless Monks and the halls limit the number of Buro who can engage them at a given moment. There are three interior floors and a basement. The command bunker and barracks are in the basement, the ground floor has a mess hall and officers, the second floor is all officers and the third floor has the launch controls. The roof has a wall for snipers.

Launch control is a great place for the PCs to go. There, Jill or any other techie can do three things, each of which takes one sequence and a diff 12 Fix-it roll. First, they can prep the rocket for launch. Second, they can hack the computer and reroute control of the rocket to the rocket's cockpit. Third, they can take over internal systems everywhere except the command bunker and the Hellharrowers, which run on a seperate system. After that, any specific command to the building ('turn on the sprinklers', 'close the exterior gate', 'turn off all the lights') takes three shots. I'm sure you can see why this will be fun. The command bunker is behind a blast door in the basement. The blast door has 60 wound points, and there's as many well-armed goons inside as you like. And by well-armed I mean 'the munitions locker is in there and they've got a rocket launcher'. There's not much cover, it's cramped and there's nowhere to run. It'll e a hell of an ugly fight, and everyone inside the bunker gets +5 to their first attacks on anyone coming through the door, since they'll have spent the past while aiming right at it and it's cramped. Advice? Don't go after the bunker...but if you do, I guess if you won you could seize Hellharrower control.

The rocket itself is a big icky arcanotech thing. Still, same basic thing as the rocket. Big Dumb Rex will fly over here if things get nasty. Still, once you get into the rocket, things change a little. There's room and oxygen for a dozen people - maybe thirteen if Lumpy turns human. But there's only two space suits. You don't strictly need space suits for launch, but they're sure to make you feel better, right? Anyway, if you didn't take the command center, well, that's gonna be a fight for control of the rocket. The command center will begin draining the rocket's fuel, and Djibril will order the Hellharrowers to fire on the rocket. They'll pierce a fuel line even if the rocket's control was taken. Someone is going to have to crawl or fly out and patch it - and that's nasty if the launch already started. Basically, the GM should somehow ensure that some of the fuel gets out of the rocket before the launch occurs. Ideally it lands on the launch pad so that it explodes with the launch, is hurled upwards by the gravity crane and rains down like fire from heaven, but, you know, that's gravy. The plot demands the rocket be low on fuel. Jill (or whatever techie is piloting) will announce that the rocket has only enough fuel tp maybe make it to orbit, and not enough to headb ack. This is a one-way trip. Chow may or may not freak out at this point and demand to turn back. Jill will refuse, as should any PC - it'd mean failure! Chow may or may not start a fight over it.

Eventually, the rocket will reach the Fist of Shiva, empty of all fuel. Things may look grim, but there's a job to be done. The Fist has five modules: docking/cargo bay, crew quarters, the control room, a worskhop and a surprisingly large and very nice bathroom. Each area can be sealed off and made vacuum. The entire satellite has normal gravity unless the notoriously touchy G-system is shorted out somehow. (Yeah, guess what should happen in any fight.) The Fist has only three soldiers and three scientists on board. The soldiers have orders to blow the satellite if overrun, but the scientists don't like the idea and may even help save the satellite if the self-destruct sequence is started. Of course, there's backup on the way - once the Buro realized what was going on, they launched their own rocket with a crack team of zero-g commandos to intercept. They'll be showing up in a bit. Oh - one more thing. The walls are pretty thin. Bullets wil lgo through them, making the entire section implode. Any Techie or science-minded character will know this on a Perception roll, diff 4, or automatically if they ask. Anyone else needs a diff 7 Int roll, but if no one makes it, Jill might mention it.

Yeah, that means gunplay can kill everyone. If a wall gets pierced, it takes one sequence for the room to empty out, at which point everyone in it pops, because this is an action movie and not realistic. Safety slugs will prevent this, and kindly GMs will ask PCs what ammo they're using before the session starts. So, how do you find out if a bullet ruins everyone's day? Well, as long as you don't miss, you're golden. Once the PCs start to miss, the GM rolls some dice with the results hidden and then decides what happpens based on what will advance the plot best. Perhaps stray bullets hit an important control panel, or ricochet off a strut and hit the guy with lowest Fortune. Maybe there's enough time to get out of and seal the module. Keep the danger real, but don't let everyone die a boring, unfulfilling death.

Entry is via the docking bay, where two of the three soldiers wait. They'll take cover immediately - the really good kind of cover, 90%, and shoot at the first person out. (At +3, they've been aiming.) They have space suits, so they don't care if they miss. If either soldier takes a slug or comes under heavy attack, they retreat through an airlock, seal it and try to blow the cargo bay. It takes a diff 10 Fix-It roll to prevent this. Dealing with these guys won't be hard, though - just annoying. It can easily devolve into a Bennie Hill chase around the station, and should eventually end with the survivors sealing themselves in the control room. If the three soldiers are all killed, that's some nice breathing space. The scientists can be bullied with Intimidate rolls (though if these fail, the scientists only pretend to cooperate). If things drag out, though, someone will notice that there's another shuttle docking. The PCs may or may not get the Vatican Storm starting before they get there, up to the GM. (The storm is essentially a Biblical terror that will be reshaping the landscape utterly. It is visible from space as a horrible black storm over Europe.)

Anyway. The Fist has no anti-ship weapons, and the soldiers' shuttle will either dock or use a docking portal glued to the side of the Fist and cut their way in if the PCs ruined the bay. There are some ways they can stop from being boarded. Chow going EVA in a space suit might be able to stop them by shelling with magic or bullets. GM's call. The exosekeleton in the docking bay is not strong enough to poke a hole in the ship, but nice idea. You could fly the rocket into the shuttle and destroy both...but whoever piloted it would end up dead, and then no one would have a way home unless the PCs carry a GateMaker around, so everyone else will end up starving to death. Still, there's another option: let the shuttle dock. It's got ten commandos, their leader, Edna Ramirez, and their abomination, Laverne Onions. All are trained in zero-g and are really good.

Laverne Onions is named that because she's the color of uncooked liver and covered in vaguely onionlike ridges. Yeah, it's a pun. She's armed with a helix ripper, which won't hurt the satellite. Edna is a 40-year-old woman who, unlike Djibril, loves getting in the thick of things. She knows it's dangerous but she really, really likes fighting. She is also mutating - her hair has started to turn green, and the green patches form the shape of the ancient chinese character that, roughly translated, means 'corruption of the heart.' Also, her eyes glow and she's growing fangs. Off-duty, she's actually pretty likable and easygoing, and swears like a sailor. Too bad she won't be off-duty here! However, she does have a GateMaker. If she sees all the PCs and their allies in one spot, she'll shoot a hole in the wall behind them and then try to escape through the gate.

Anyway, stuff in the Fist of Shiva. The docking bay has three space suits, each of which lets you survive in vacuum and get Armor 2. It also has a giant cargo-hauler exoskeleton, like theo ne from Aliens. It gives the user Strength 11 and takes 6 shots to get into. It won't fit through the airlock to the rest of the station and can't go outside. Also, there are oxygen canisters. The crew quarters are small, cramped even by Buro standards and meant for six people. The workshop is full of tools and raw materials. Lots of both. This includes both a landridge cutter and a Strength 3 suckerlight which can push and won't self-destruct, but can't vibe. There's an exoskeletal arm that gives Strength 10 for the right arm only, which also has a micro-hand built into the palm that allows you to interact with tiny objects with the same dexterity as if they were ten times larger. While using the micro-hand, the arm cannot move, but you get +4 to any task that would benefit from it. There is also an 'extender' which shoots a clear film that, for ten minutes, acts and looks like plastic wrap and then freezes in place as a hard, clear plastic that takes Strength 10 to break. Also, more oxygen.

The control room? Resembles the Enterprise for some reason. Lots of control panels that run everything on the station. Center of the room is a big Captain Kirk chair. The ceiling and floor are clear to show the starfield and the earth below, and fortunately it's super tough and won't break if someone is thrown into it. The main function of the control room is to control the earth's weather. It is an automatic action, no roll needed, for any techie, Jill or the scientists. (However, the PCs are not to know it's automatic - the GM will tell them to roll anyway and try to keep it tense.) Any non-scenario-essential function is a Fix-It roll with difficulty between 5 and 15. The bathroom? It's a bathroom. Someone who built the Fist of Shiva thought it should get a really nice bathroom for no apparent reason.

Once the fight ends, the PCs have two real options. First, they can steal the commando shuttle and head back to Earth, where Buro will surely have guns waiting for them. Second, they can try to use the GateMaker, which won't have quite as hot a welcome waiting...but will get Buro on their tails immediately. Remember, Buro GateMakers send out a beacon signal. So that won't be much easier, especially if they land somewhere dangerous. The GM can feel free to make one of these the easier option if it will lead more easily to the next plot. One last thought: the last time the Fist of Shiva was used to destroy something, it permanently ruined the weather patterns, creating the Reckoning. What'll happen this time? Totally up to the GM, but make it fun.

Next time: choose!

We have Seal of the Wheel (Ascended), Thorns of the Lotus (Lotus), Iron & Silk (combat stuff) and Blowing Up Hong Kong (Hong Kong). I can look into purchase of one of the other books, too. These would be: Elevator to the Netherworld (Netherworld), Friends of the Dragon (new PC options, ways to tie groups together), Glimpse of the Abyss (the Underworld and demons) or Blood of the Valiant (Guiding Hand).

He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.

We open with the tale of Hoi Mao Qian, son of Haoi Zi Yun. Zi Yun is a farmer with many children and good harvests. Indeed, he is a very lucky farmer. His farm becomes rich - but Mao will inherit none of it. His father has had him made a eunuch and shipped to Lo-yang, that he might serve in the Imperial Palace. Mao is accepted by a shrill-voiced eunuch, who laughs at hm and brings him away. Mao swears revenge on his father in his heart.

We begin with the Lotus's history of man, as taught by a member, Xia Tian Yu. A lot of this book is written in character. In the beginning, there was neither heaven nor earth, but only the egg of chaos. Within the chaos grew the first man, Pangu, and he cracked the chaos like a shell, seperated it into heavy and pure - earth and sky. Yin and Yang. For eighteen thousand years, the sky and earth grew apart, ten feet per day. Pangu grew at the same rate, filling the distance. On his death, his body collapsed and became the world. His breath was wind and clouds, his voice thunder and lightning. His left eye, the sun. His right, the moon. The five great mountains grew from him, and his blood and fluids became the rivers and seas. His nervous systems formed the layers of the earth. His flesh formed the soil, his hair and eyebrows the stars and planets. His teeth and bone became metal and stone, his semen pearls, his bone marrow jade. His sweat is rain, and from his fleas grew the human race.

Since the day of creation, it has been man's duty to bring order out of chaos. In the ancient past, the world was ruled by animals, and man was few. Then the Three Sovereigns and Five Sage Emperors arrived, teaching the ancestors of man the secrets of the world. Fu Xi invented the trigrams, Shen Nong agriculture and medicine. The Yellow Emperor taught the ways of writing and weaponry, and Yu the Great tamed floods. So it was until the Virtuous Emperor Yao abdicated the throne in favor of the wise commoner Shun.

Shun was humble, and would not claim the name 'Emperor', for he was no equal to the Sage Emperors. He called himself King and founded the Xia dynasty. For four centuries, prosperity ruled, but the Xia became greedy and corrupt. Heaven withdraw their support, destroying the land with flood and disaster. Revolution spread, and after Tang killed Jie the Wicked, the Shang Dynasty was formed. The Shang conquered much of the steppes, but they too grewq corrupt, and the Mandate of Heaven passed to the frontier chief Zhou, father of the Zhou dynasty.

The Zhou ruled for seven centuries, producing the scholars Confucius and Lao Tzu. But the Zhou were weak, and invaders conquered their land, dissolving their empire into warring states. We now get two sidebars - one on our narrator, Xia Tain Yu, who is one of the first of the Lotus. He is a powerful sorcerer indeed, but his greatest power is his ability to mold his students, and he gets +2 to all uses of Influence magic on his past or current pupils. We also get a sidebar on the Guiding Hand's thoughts on the Han dynasty. They feel that it is corrupt and blatantly manipulated by the eunuchs, a pair of diseases which foul all they touch, turning the Han into hedonists. The Han will fall, and the Mandate will be lost.

But back to Xia Tain Yu's narration. From the warring kings came Qin Shi Huang Di, who drove the universe before him. He conquered the whole of China, naming himself Emperor. His orders became law, he developed the bureaucracy, built the roads and laid out the ways of taxation. His rule was absolute, the penalties for lawbreaking severe. Thus were the Legalists born - Legalists who called man innately selfish, who said the only road to order was law from above, enforced with severity. Thus did the Qin Emperor rule, and thus did he silence all who opposed Legalism. He exiled or killed thousands of Taoists and Confucians, burning books that challenged him. He worked hordes to death in great projects - the Great Wall in the north, the Imperial Palace.

Qin believed his empire would last ten thousand generations. It lasted one. His death was concealed by his minister Li Si and his chariot master Zhou Gao. They used his body to issue procalamations, arresting their rivals or forcing them to suicide. They tried to choose a good successor - but after two months of summer, the corpse's stench could only be hidden by a pile of fish. Suspicion grew.

A revolution broke out, led by Han Kao Tsu. He condemned the Qin Emperor, calling him barbaric, cruel. He instituted Confucian ideals of statecraft, but kept most of the harsh laws and the bureaucracy. This, we are told, is an important lesson: the Legalists were right, but their laws must be coated in a sugar of empty humanitarian gesture to let everyone swallow it. The Han have ruled for more than two centuries. This is the height of Chinese civilization. All that lies in the future is a slow decline into weakness and corruption. Conquerors will seize the Empire, and it will grow weak and decadent. It is the destiny of the Eaters of the Lotus to change the future, to maintain this golden age of the Han, halting revolution and conquest.

Sidebar on hunting rules! There are many animals hunted throughout China, such as deer, rabbit, pheasant and duck. The most dangerous and aggressive creature is the tiger, and many stories tell of tigers attacking travellers. Some even believe these tigers are evil men who turn into animals. Hunting is a huge part of Han culture, and we get rules for it: first, you make a Perception check, diff 5 (with modifiers) to spot prey, and then a diff 10 attack check to shoot it over open ground, 15 if it's hidden. All animals except tigers are unnamed characters and resolve damage as such.. Tigers can be named or unnamed.

Back to the narration. The Empire is largely divided into east and west. The west is dry, full of desert, steppe and mountain. The east is humid, with rainforests in the south, forests in the center and taiga in the north. The north is a land of millet, wheat and farmland. The people of the north are sturdy and dour, slow but tough. The south is a land of lakes, rivers, rice and water people. Riverboats and fishers are common, and the southerners are quick-tempered, noisy and devious. Much of the Empire is harsh and inhospitable - especially the western half of hte Tibetan plateau or the high Loess Plateau, which borders on three deserts. Lo-yang, the capital, lies upon the Loess Plateau.

Skipping ahead a bit - there ar many cities in ancient China. Many resemble large, sprawling villages more than anything we'd call a city. Yet they are magnets for scholars and artists, merchants from all lands - even as far as Turkey. Thus, China's cities are the richest in the world, though most Chinese are rural farmers. The capital, Lo-yang, was chosen after the death of the usurper Wang Mang. The Han, wishing to return to power after the usurper, were led by Guangwu Di to capture Lo-yang. Thus, Guangwu Di returned the Han to power, crowning himself Emperor and ruling from Lo-yang. OVer ten years, the city was built by a strict plan, becoming a massively strong, defensible grid. It is said to have 52,839 households, and more than 195,504 people. It is the third-largest city in the entire world.

Lo-yang is the center of Chinese culture, and despite its inhospitable location, it is much preferred, for it offers access to the northern frontier. The north is important, for the Hsiung-nu are constantly raiding across the Wall, and Lo-yang has greatly aided in the defense of the Empire. Unfortunately, the north cannot support either the Court or the army, so many trade routes stretch far east and south. Food, supplies and money all come to Lo-yang, which takes its share and then distributes them.

At the center of Lo-yang is the Imperial Palace, a city unto itself. The outer palace, called the World of Men, is a narrow ring win which the Emperor meets with his advisors, scholars and generals. The Emperor's eunuchs maintain it, as they maintain the wole of the palace. By tradition, the eunuchs protect the Son of Heaven from the baser elements. Thus, they control his appointments. The World of Men is also where the Emperor's sons live once they reach maturity. The pleasure gardens are a barrier between the World of Men and the inner palace. Men may not enter these gardens unless invited by the Emperor, and the eunuchs carefully watch the doorways. No one enters without their knowledge.

The gardens are beautiful, with a thousand types of flower and a thousand types of tree. Nothing is ever out of season, though sometimes silk flowers and perfumes are needed. A silver lake lies in the center of the gardens, with the inner palace lying behind it. Many exotic animals live in the garden, even tamed tigers. Within the inner palace, no man may ever enter, save the Emperor. (Eunuchs are not men.) Here, the five hundred consorts, the maids and the eunuchs live, ensuring the Emperor's pleasure. In this way, the Emperor is kept busy and out of the way of the Lotus's goals. They use a web of secret passages throughout the palace as their private fortress.

Sidebar: once the Emperor is Emperor, his name cannot be spoken or written. He gets a new name, which is used while he rules. These names are generally lucky ones, meant to shape his reign. The current Emperor is Harvest of Jade. Upon his death, he receives a temple name, which will be used in all written histories. Anyway. The Son of Heaven keeps 500 or more consorts, both to show his wealth and to keep their families from gaining too much power. This is also why his advisors are mostly eunuchs and his consorts are mostly from poor and middle-class families. The favorite becomes Empress, and her eldest son the heir.

Of course, they don't always stay weak. When Emperor Wu Ti died, his wido Empress Lu seized power. She failed to put a family member on the throne, but she did make a strong faction that reached beyond the Imperial PAlace. Ninety-five years later, her descendant Wang Mang managed to usurp the throne and create the very short-lived Xin dynasty. The current Empress, Jui Szu, was born to a southern merchant. Her beauty was heard of by a magistrate, who adopted her and trained her, then sent her to Lo-yang, to be a consort. At that time, there was another Empress and she was one of many. For years, she lived in isolation, holding low rank in the women's hierarchy. Two years after her arrival, though, the Empressed died and the hierarchy shattered. She proved a manipulative and skilled woman, with both beauty and wit, gaining the Emperor's favor and becoming his Empress. For five years, she hared the throne.

The Lotus deemed her too dangerous. She discovered and threatened to expose them, and they were forced to dispose of her. They could not convince the Emperor to kill her, but she was exiled from the court, and now she performs purely ceremonial roles. The people lover hre, but the Lotus believe she is now harmless. The Emperor, Harvest of Jade, was the son of Guangwu Di and was a young man when his father took the throne from the Xin. He became a skilled general in his own right and lead several imperial conquests. His career did not end until he took the throne, in fact. However, palace life has corrupted Harvest of Jade, and he has lost his edge and clarity, preferring wine and women. Now, he is 65 and more figurehead than emperor. He approves the decisions of others and is a shadow of his former self.

Governance, to the Lotus, is a game - a game they will win. Authoirty passes from Heaven to the Son of Heaven, and from him to the bureaucracy. Society is defined by hierarchy and responsibilities. Thje government has two major factions. First is the Central Authority, based in Lo-yang and the provincial capitals. They consult the Emperor and help make decisions...or make decisions for him. They devise the means of taxation and maintain order. Below the Emperor are the Prime Minster and Head of Civil Service, the two most powerful offices, and below them, the nine major offices and four generals. They divide the empire into commandaries and kingdoms. (There are 83 commandaries and 20 kingdoms.)

Each commandary gets a provincial administrator from Central Authority, and these are called Little Emperors for their relative autonomy. They are not allowed to serve their home province and are moved between provinces, to prevent divided loyalties. In fact, few people in the bureaucracy have stable positions year-to-year, getting moved around a lot. The commandaries are divided into prefectures, which divide into districts, which divide into wards, each with their own bureaucrats. The kingdoms are ruled by kings, all related to the Emperor. They in theory get greater autonomy, but in practice succession is manipulated by the Central Authority, as well as the appointment of royal advisors. All of these most collect the Imperial Tax, keep the peace and draft people for labor or military service as needed.

Next time: The Eunuch Faction.

He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: He is of no use to us, except maybe for scrubbing chamber pots.

The eunuchs are the only men allowed to enter the inner palace, serving as janitors, guards and advisors. Thus, any children born to the consorts are ensured to be the Emperors. (Unless the eunuchs choose to let someone in for reasons of their own. It happens.) And, of course, the Emperor believes eunuchs have no interest in wealth and power, for they've convinced him that men with no children have no desire for dynasties. In truth, there is little the eunuchs have to live for but wealth and power. Most eunuchs are fat, have no facial hair and speak in high, squeaky voices, especially if castrated at a younger age.

Sidebar. The Hand believes that if the Eunuchs were not so dangerous, their arrogance would be funny. They waste so much on protecting such small amounts of power, and they ruin their own people. Rebellion is coming, and the eunuchs don't see it at all. Eventually, the people will rise up, finding a hero in He Jin, and the eunuchs will die. Anyway! Some eunuchs have received castration as a punishment for some screw-up, or were prisoners of war. Most, though, are voluntary. A father can castrate a son, ensuring his place in the Palace. Since the operation is voluntary, it doesn't threaten the family line. Only a father with many sons would do it. And, of course, a few eunuchs castrate themselves in search of political power by being close to the throne.

Ancient China was a land of silly hats.

We now return to Hoi Mao Qian, who is working as a janitor in the Palace and sharing quarters with a sadistic boy named Five Rats. Mao Qian finishes cleaning...only for Five Rats to shit on the floor and tell him to clean it up. Mao hates the guy, and has considered killing people just to get out - even if it meant his own death. However, he discoveres a secret passageway, finding how to open it. Inside is an old man, who invites Mao in and tells him of the Lotus, for he shows true promise...

And now, we get the history of the Lotus, as written by Gao Zhang himself. Gao Zhang began as governor of the province Chen-wei, a land of cold and bitterness. He tried to bring order, but they rebelled. He sent his troops to slaughter them, burning their villages, but his troops were caught in a rebel ambush and slain. Word of this reached the Emperor, who ordered Gao Zhang to return to Lo-yang. The province dissolved into chaos, and Gao Zhang was blamed, punished with castration. For two years, he was made the Emperor's personal assistant. But he did not lose hope. Instead, he served loyally, hiding his revulsion, and came up with a plan. He learned the secrets of the court and became trusted, acting as the Emperor's scribe. That was the first lesson: Information is itself power. By changing a few words or delaying a message, he could influence the Empire, siphoning off wealth and power. Other eunuchs began to flock to him, seeing his power, and they blocked access to the Emperor unless properly bribed. If anyone opposed them, they got cut off, and they hired bandits or thugs to enforce their will. But this is not a new thing. It had been done before.

Gao Zhang's true rise to power came with the arrest of three outlaws: Yin Shu, Er Chan and Gui Long, members of the occult society named Ten Thousand Eyes. It was founded in the early Zhou dynasty, and once had informants in all courts. Their spells were great and powerful, flooding rivers or causing drought, shortening the lives of some kings and extending those of others. At first, they were on;y spiritual guides, trying to build a future. They used hardship and destruction to clear the way for prosperity. But they did not understand the corruption inherent in humans. As time passed, the Eyes were tempted by money and power. Some took bribes, undetected for decades. Eventually, the inner council noticed. They decided to move against the wayward sorcerers, but they failed, and the infighting grew fierce. Hundreds died. Greed spread, and eventually the Eyes sought more than just money.

The Eyes turned to the Underworld, summoning demons and trading favors for their assistance. The demons agreed, seeing a chance at corruption and power. The Ten Thousand Eyes became decadent, encouraged by the demons, and their order withered, reduced by the pact they'd made to gain power. When Qin Shi Huang Di united the empire, the Ten Thousand Eyes were too weak to resist. Qin burned their books and slew them when he found them. By the time Gao Zhang met them, there were only a handful left in hiding. (Sidebar has stats for Gao Zhang, who is good at few things beyond leadership, lying and sorcery, but he's really, really good at those things.)

We get a sidebar now on the truth of Gao Zhang's rule in Chen-wei. Little grew there, and Gao Zhang bled it dry, slaughtering those who could not pay taxes. The people starved, and they had no choice but revolt. At first, it went badly, but Gao Zhang drove more and more to rebel, until at last it spread beyond the province, and their armies were able to face his on an even footing. Anyway. Gao Zhang's influence in the Palace has spread far, but people are starting to complain, and he can't risk their words reaching the Emperor. That's when he hears about Yin Shi, Er Chan and Gui Long, who had been spotting entering the city with a wagon of rotting corpses. They thre fire and acid around and set fire to several wards before being captured. More than 20 died in the battle, and he knew they'd be executed...but sorcerers were a source of untapped power. Gao Zhang had the three brought to him, offering them their lives if they taught him the dark power.

They agreed. They initiated him into the Ten Thousand Eyes, and Gao Zhang had three beggars put to death in their place. It turned out he had a natural talent for sorcery, and he realized that the three bandits were weak, short-sighted. Slaves to corruption, not masters. Within two y ears, he learned all they could teach, about both magic and their history. ARmed with this, he expanded his powerbase, killing his mentors and destroying all Eyes left in Lo-yang. He chose eight loyal eunuchs and together, they formed a new secret society: the Eaters of the Lotus. Gao Zhang would be Center of the Lotus, with the eight as his Petals. He moved to ensure the loyalty of all palace Eunuchs. The trusted joined the Eaters, while others were used as simple thugs. The squeamish were killed, disappeared or framed.

Thus did Gao Zhang seize power, arranging for promotion of htose loyal to him and threats against those not. A host of demons and ghosts were summoned to handle anything the thugs could not. Slowly, the Lotus spread from Lo-yang, sending sorcerers across the Empire to infest the place with demons and spirits. After letting the creatures run rampant, the sorcerer would come and offer to exorcise them for a fee. If the villagers hesitated, the attacks grew more violent and the price wnet up. The protection racket worked well, gathering money and obedience. As power grew, so did the need for caution, though. Gao Zhang began to work more through levels of henchmen, each with only a slim view of the big picture and no idea about the Lotus. Whenever someone got too close, he would create another scapegoat.

The Lotus employed feng shui geomancers to create several towers throughout Lo-yang, using them to create more feng shui sites and increasing his ower. The greatest of these is the Hall of Brilliance, within the Imperial Pleasure Gardens. It, Gao Zhang believes, ensures the prosperity of the Han. It is also fully controlled by the Lotus. However, it fed off Lo-yang's chi, which itself drew power from the entire empire. It is the wellspring of the entire Empire's chi, focused several times by the city and the palace. We also get a sidebar on the last survivor of the Lo-yang purge of the Eyes. Hu Lei is a relatively skilled sorcerer who barely escaped the purges and has been planning complex revenge by summoning hordes of demons.

Anyway. Lotus membership. At first, it was little more than a loose group of conspirators. However, it soon grew, requiring a rigid hierarchy - though the hierarchy applies only to full members. The hired thugs, freelancer sorcerers, demons and so on are outside it, and few know the truth of what they are involved in. For the most part, outsiders are the lowest of rank, unworthy of initiation. However, some powerful beings, such as demons, powerful women, some mercenaries and a few hermits are higher than this, commanding obedience despite technically being ineligible as Lotus members. Ironically, a growing number of demons are demanding obedience rather than meekly serving. The Petals are getting worried, and Gao knows that it's how the Ten Thousand Eyes were destroyed, but he believes a sorcerer who can't control what he summons deserves what he gets.

Gao is the Center of the Lotus and undisputed leader. He has established rules for replacing any rank but his own. There are no rules about how to replace him, should he die. In truth, he just doesn't expect to ever retire or die. Many believe the only way he'll be replaced is by murder. No one wants to try, yet. Under Gao are the Petals of the Lotus, a ruling council who organize the long-range plans, distribute resources and so on. These are the eight and on ly eight, each member named after a dark reflection of the I Ching trigrams: the Underworld, Emptiness, Silence, Drought, the Pit, Stillness, Frost and Desert. All eight are eunuchs, though all but of the original Petals have been replaced. Sorcery is practically a prerequisite to be a Petal, though one of them, Shi Zi Hui, the Desert, cannot cast any magic. RAther, his strategic thinking and combat skills earned him his seat.

Shi Zi Hui was once Imperial General of the Northern Frontier, but he lost a decisive battle against the Hsiung-nu. They took him prisoners and continued their raids. He liveds as a slave amont htem for five years, but eventually his fighting skills got them to let him ride on raids against other clans, and even to lead his own. During one of those raids, he escaped, fleeing across the Frontier. Unfortunately, he was captured by imperial troops. They believed him a traitor, and he was castrated on the spot and sent to Lo-yang. He served for less than a week before Gao noticed him, recognizing his impressive knowledge, and he has helped plan all major offensives since that day. Though the Petals are theoretically the same rank, there is a rough seniority, with the Underworld at the top and the Desert at the bottom. After accepting a seat, a new Petal soon manifests aspects from their trigram. Somehow, there's a spiritual side effect made in the initiation, though some say it is just an affectation.

We get a sidebar on one of the demons of the Lotus, Plague Bearer. He's a pretty tough demon who can shoot disease and pass through anything but wood. He also has a unique Contagious Attack power - anyone hit by his disease blast can infect those who touch them. He was summoned early on to harass a community, but turned out to be too good at it, destroying the village within a month. Gao has since kept track of Plague Bearer and uses him only to destroy entire groups now on purpose. Back to the Lotus! Gao has divided them into two ranks: Thorns and Vassals. Thorns operate without direct supervision and are trusted to execute orders and act on their own initiative. The Vassals are always watched, though, for they are simple mooks, not expected to think for themselves.

ao has often considered expanding this to include ranks and distinctions, but demonic advice has led him to instead just hand out titles and honors. We get a sidebar on Shi Zi Hui, the DEsert, who controls palace security and will lead personally in important battles. He's actually pretty damn good, though not supernatural in any way, and has the unique schtick Leads By Example , which gives all Lotus mooks +1 to rolls while fighting in his vicinity. Anyway. Titles are the actual responsibility each person has - stuff like General for command of a region or juncture's military, Captain for a small force, Lieutenant for their second in command and so on. Some are very specific indeed. Titles are theoretically in charge of everyone under their responsibility, but many titles overlap, causing confusion. Honors are just badges, awards and ceremonial stuff, no real power granted. That's why Gao likes them, and hands them out liberally. Some are common, like the Blood of the Lotus, given to those wounded in battle, or the Jade Leaf, to signify a debt owed. Some are very obscure, like the Master of the Pool of Blood. As far as anyone knows, there is no pool of blood, but you need a Master for certain ceremonies anyway.

Gao has divided the Lotus into five divisions: Water, Fire, Metal, Wood and Earth. The Water division encompasses the bureaucracy, maintaining supplies and collecting resources as well as organizing training and communication. It may be unglamorous, but all Petals and most high-titled Thorns are Water. It also contains the Pillars of Heaven, one of Gao's internal policing groups. The Metal division handles all research. Originally, it was just sorcerous experimentation, but since the Netherworld was discovered, it's quadrupled in size and includes exploration of other Junctures and study of future history. The Wood division handles all spies - even the ones that spy on other Lotus members. They divide spies into the types listed by Sun Tzu.

Specifically, there's the local spies, hired from the indigenous population. The inside spoy is hired from the disaffected ranks of the enemy, such as relatives of executed criminals or wrongly punished officials. Reverse spies are enemy infiltrators whose loyalty you have suborned - so, double agents and renegades. The dead spy is a group mostly made of incompetent spies sent into enemy territory with false information, planning based on that. (Thus, enemy spies fed disinformation can become dead spies!) They are named this because they tend to get killed when the enemy thinks they've betrayed them. Living spies are the most trusted: they pass back and forth through enemy territory, gathering information. They must be chosen carefully, and most be fast, powerful, brave and loyal. They must be dedicated. However, since Gao trusts no one, all of the Lotus's living spies are bound with magic to keep them from betraying.

Wood also contains the Silent Eyes - in fact, they make up the most of the Wood, and they're Lotus internal police. Fire division handles expansion forces. They are usually small teams with specializations, ranging from thuggery to terrorism to recruitment. It's very glamorous and anyone in Fire quickly gains honors and titles. It's also the only real way for non-eunuch non-sorcerers to gain prestige...if they survive it. The Fire division has the highest casualty rate, even more than the hired help. The final division is the Earth, and while technically defense, it includes all standing military. For the most part, they organize the Lotus infiltration into the Imperial army, and also include bandit groups and private warriors hired by the Lotus. Unlike Fire, Earth is made for mass combat.

Typically, when you call a person by rank, you use their division and rank - so Water Vassal or Fire Thorn. This can be confusing and makes it hard to tell who's in charge of who, which may be why the demons recommended it. In the end, power is what you can seize. We get a sidebar now from a Dragon historian writing about how the Empress Lu created the Order of the Empress, a secret alliance of revolutionary scholars and magistrates seeking to reform the excesses of the Han. Despite the Empress's defeat, her ORder grew, and eventually assisted Wang Mang in seizing power and forming hte Xin dynasty. They were decimated by the return of the Han, and the survivors have flocked to Empress Jui Szu in her exile. She is apparently rebuilding them as a military and political force.

Next time: Lotus vs. Empress

This was, of course, the Old Man's fault.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: This was, of course, the Old Man's fault.

The Lotus's power is, essentially, parasitical. They have their own armies and demons, yes, but their true power lies in their ability to influence the Emperor. Through him, they control the imperial army and the bureaucracy, with access to the Empire's full resources. Thus, they are strongest where the Empire is strong. Their main power is focused on the cities, especially Lo-yang, Ch'ang-an and P'eng-ch'eng. In the rural areas, they depend on the loyalty and reliability of their on-site members, and one Lotus often controls a large area - sometimes an entire province, near the fringes. The Lotus also has little influence on the kingdoms within the empire or the lands outside the borders. Gao Zhang has sent teams to infiltrate other lands, especially the Hsiung-nu and the imperial kingdoms, and Lotus explorers have even reached the edges of Rome, but they have no immediate control.

Lotus command centers are found on strong feng shui sites, and in many ways they are duplicates of the palaces of the provincial magistrates. One Water Lotus will run the place and command it, typically with an Earth company and maybe a Fire squad, though some command centers have only a few minions. Every command center tries to further Lotus goals in the area, but on extreme frontiers they are often merely guards, watching for rebellion and questionable activity and reporting on it. The Petals then send responses - Fire teams or Earth companies, generally, and priority is given to the areas near a city. Disasters hitting multiple spots at once, such as after a major feng shui site is destroyed, often get remote Lotuses instructions to 'handle this yourself and await further instructions.'

Now then - Empress Jui Szu! She's a fairly skilled archer and a very good leader. She was suspicious of the Lotus, and noticed the eunuchs having strange meetings. She presented her fears to her husband, and soon the Emperor also grew suspicious. Gao Zhang almost lost everything. The eunuchs abandoned him and a few sorcerers even turned on him, much to their later regret. Gao Zhang created evidence of a false sorcerous society in the palace, framing those who'd turned against him of conspiring with demons against the throne. The Emperor, moved by his groveling and his false evidence, spared his life and told him to find the root. Which he decided was the Empress and her eldest son. The boy was ordered to commit suicide and did, but Jui Szu was only exiled and stripped of power. She now lives in a small temple in Lo-yang, and her bodyguards have stopped two attempts on her life already.

Gao Zhang believes the danger has passed, but to ensure it never comes again, he has sent a demon of nightmares to visit the Emperor. He has a sleeping potion (which is really just wine) to cure the nightmares, and so makes the Emperor dependent on him, that the Emperor will never truly question him. For twenty-five years, Gao Zhang then concentrated on securing his power. He expanded into Korea and Vietnam, using his private army to raid villages and execute people as part of the whole protection racket thing. Demons also get used, and few magistrates ever dare to oppose him. However, in the Shu province, there is trouble.

The magistrate Wen Zi refuses to pay Gao Zhang's taxes, not out of any kindness, but because it would drain his own treasuries. He rebels, and is painted as a hero by the people, who flock to his banner. He has severa Lotus henchmen put to death - and Gao Zhang has Wen Zi ordered arrested, sentenced to death. Most of Wen Zi's troops abandoned him and fled. His fortress fell to demons, and the Bone Drinker slew everyone within the fortress. Still, some rebels escaped to the mountains. Commander An Bao and the sorcerers continued their campaign, but had heavy losses, especially when working with demons. Strange beings in outlandish clothing were attacking them and seizing the supernatural creatures. Odd, that.

The Bone Drinker, incidentally, is a pretty tough demon whose main trick is attacking via transmutation blasts which liquefy bones. He then drinks the skeleton after killing the victim. He's mostly used to infiltrate strongholds and destroy the leadership before the army arrives. Anyway. An Bao focuses on the new threat, and won several battles, but never gains any true victories. The enemy, after all, has no supply lines, holds no territory and disappears on retreat. Eventually, a swordsman called Meng Jen leads a group archers and zombies through the mountains, where they get ambushed by the outsiders. Meng Jen survives the ambush but is paralyzed, watching as the strangers steal the zombies. Meng Jen decides to follow them, and finds them entering a cave. Within the cave, there is a howling, and then silence.

Soon, Meng Jen finds his way into the Netherworld via the cave portal. He becomes hopelessly lost until he finds another portal, and from there manages to make his way back to the provincial palace. He reported the incident, but no one believed him, and he lost his rank and left hand. Other, similar reports begin to come in, though, and eventually Gao Zhang hears of them. He iusses a decree pardoning Meng Jen and sends him along with the sorcerer Shen Yo to explore this realm, along with an army of demons and martial artists. The two soon learn about the Netherworld and the Secret War. They find the 1850 and Contemporary junctures as well as trading food for strange devices that disappeared on leaving the Netherworld (mostly). The journey forever changes the Lotus.

Since that time, they have emphasized exploration of other junctures, learning more of the Secret War. The Order of the Wheel, the Jade Wheel Society, the Buro and the Guiding Hand are now their enemies. They study Chinese history, learning of their eventual downfall, and decide to prevent it. Lotus agents operate in every juncture and will soon conquer time itself. Meanwhile, Meng Jen is working on making a strike force of Netherworlders. He is still a Lotus mercenary, but his loyalties are suspect. He's too fond of 1996, and he has open ties to the Dragons and the Monarchs. He's an great martial artist and has a unique schtick, Friend of Steel , which gives him Armor 2 against all bladed weapons and makes any sword in his hands act as a signature weapon. Shen Yo continues exploring, seeking information on the Lotus's enemies and the art of Netherworld shaping. He is especially interested in Guiyu Zui, the gate to the underworld.

Future history was especially shocking to the Lotus, who learned that within 60 years, the general Han Jin would rise to destroy them, killing the Emperor and ending the Han as well as slaughtering the eunuchs. The Lotus tried to strike back, but Hand destroyed them. Gao Zhang is forced to assume there were no survivors. He orders the ancestors of Han Jin arrested and killed, but history only changes to replace him with General He Jin instead. Events suggest that the Lotus must capture strong feng shui sites to fix time, but interference from the future has hampered them. Still, they have added 60 years to the clock so far. They must solidify their hold on 69 AD and conquer the others. Because they have the earliest open juncture, they don't fear being wiped out via changed history, and so they can build their power and extend their control across time. The Lotus, Gao Zhang swears, will become masters of all human history.

We return to Hoi Mao Quan, now a Vassal of the Lotus. He has been sent into battle by the Old Man, a leader in the Lotus. Now, he is cold, hungry and terrified. He and his Lotus allies assault a bandit camp, and Mao tries to hide in the back...until a bandit carves his way through. At that point, Mao panics and hurls magical energy at the guy, killing him with a sudden blast of transmutation power. At which point he understands. Power lies within him, and he doesn't need to fear. He starts laughing, understanding the Old Man's lesson.

The next chapter is narrated by the Old Man, a eunuch scholar and master of the study of future history. He's a particularly powerful Lotus member, though he doesn't use his magic to fight. Rather, he uses it to gather information to understand the big picture. The Lotus's first foes were the Architects of the Flesh, the thieves of their demons. We get a sidebar from a Dragon observer saying that the Architects can be blamed for unleashing the Lotus, though at least the two fight each other. The Architects are better equipped, but Gao Zhang has advantages. The Architects dare not change too much about 69 and don't want to capture it, for fear of changing their own history. The Lotus have learned to summon and bind abominations, which can be rather devastating. And as a result, both sides steal each others' best fighters. Neither side wants to admit that the other is very similar, which is good - if they joined forces, they'd be unstoppable.

Anyway. Architects. In the two years the Lotus have had Netherworld access, they have fought the Architects everywhere. These are very bloody and often wasteful, but Gao Zhang has no desire to beat the Architects in combat. Rather, he wants to suborn thei future, exploiting the corruption within the Buro to take control of it, as he took control of the Empire. The Lotus have initiated the Movement of the Twined Snakes, which has replaced several Architect operatives with shapeshifting demons. Nasty!

Sidebar from an Ascended spy, who feels that the Lotus are one of their greatest threats. There are few transformed animals in 69 AD who care about the secret war, and most just want to live a normal life, though several will aid the Pledged. Ideally, the AScended want to destroy the Lotus and eliminate magic from 69, but that could damage the timelines and possibly even erase the AScended, so instead they plan to contain the Lotus and prevent them from spreading. The Lotus, meanwhile, have discovered the Jade Wheel and the Order of the Wheel, conspiracies which eroded the power of China and allowed the West to rise. Thus, the Lotus plan to learn more of them and find their secrets, that they might be stopped. After all, with them in the way, the Lotus can't rule infinite time.

The Lotus are not entirely clear on if the Dragons are actually an organization, and they don't know about the Dragons' leaders. Rather, they think of the Dragons as idiot do-gooders who have named themselves after other idiot do-gooders who all died. This is very perplexing. After the events of Killdeer, they feel the Dragons are gone, and despite the deaths of Jueding Shelun and the Thing with 1,000 Tongues, they're basically okay with that.

The Lotus and the Four Monarchs both want to spread the power of magic, but they don't trust each other at all. They have had few conflicts, of course, and basically try to mostly ignore each other. Ming I of the Darkness PAgoda is the only one with whom they have regular contact. Gao Zhang has an alliance with her, of sorts. They both try to betray each other, but they do respect each other and easily forgive such betrayals. The price of Ming I's help is always high. The Lotus see Huan Ken as an idiot, and Gao Zhang has never liked him...especially after Huan Ken captured six sorcerers and burned them at the stake for heresy. Still, they try to avoid each other, as Gao Zhang doesn't want to throw away lives. The Lotus see Li Ting as a worthy foe who understands the nature of strength and power, and want to avoid pissing him off. (This may be because Li Ting is really good at exploiting their psychological weaknesses and tends to come out on top when they clash.) Pui Ti of the Ice Pagoda is seen as weak and ignorable; she is watching the Lotus and will not act until they truly join the game of Netherworld politics.

The Lotus are aware that the Guiding Hand hate them. They see the Hand as insufferably smug and blinded by their own self-righteousness. After all, the Lotus rule the golden age of China, yes? (No.) The Lotus fight the Hand to prevent their popular rebellions from taking hold. See, Quan Lo sends teachers and priests to instill social order in the people, and they make Gao Zhang very nervous, because they blend in in ways no other faction does. The Hand have the support of many in the bureaucracy, and they attack the Lotus furiously, with no fear of changing history too much. Fortunately for the Lotus, both the AScended and Architects want to stop the Hand from succeeding, but unfortunately, neither group is very good at telling what people are Hand teachers and what are just political critics native to the time. As a result, they've killed several natives just to be on the safe side, strengthening the Lotus.

The Lotus hate the Jammers. Really, really hate them. As in 'we want to kill you, feed you to the dogs, then hang your heads from a tree as a warning to everyone else.' This is because the Jammers love to target the Lotus, and each time they do, Gao Zhang can feel some power slipping away. After one major Jammer attack, the loss of chi troggered a rebellion which took two months to end and another two months to fix the chi damage. The Jammers are very efficient, don't pull their punches and don't worry about taking territory. As a result, Gao Zhang has sworn eternal vengeance and rallied a whole lot of magic-users to his call from the Netherworld. He may even have gotten Architect support. The Lotus are planning one massive killing blow in which they hope to kill Potemkin and every other leader of the Jammers. They've even made a deal with the Lords of the Underworld and gotten a special hell prepared for Potemkin's soul. However, Li Ting has convinced Huan Ken to help the Jammers for som reason, and many think he'll help as well. This one's going to be really chaotic.

When Gao Zhang learned that the Lotus would fall, he brooded for a week and then burst into action...and soon learned he could not alter time. He has thus begun seeking feng shui sites and conducting elaborate experiments on timestreams. They have pushed back their destruction sixty years, but not erased their foes. Many blame the other factions, but the Lotus are certrain they are ultimately unstoppable...as long as they can control 69. They don't like to admit it, but they do not have an iron grasp on the time. The homefront is not safe. Many bureaucrats resent them, though few act against them. Corruption is accepted, but the Lotus go too far, the bureaucrats say. They cannot be trusted and must be kept on a tight leash, so they do not risk their own power. The Lotus believe all bureaucrats can be corrupted.

More annoying is Empress Jui Szu. She has no real power (according to the Lotus), but she is visible and active, and many disagree with her punishment...especially as the Emperor ages. Some use her name as a banner to really around. (What the Lotus do not understand is that Jui Szu and her Order of the Empress still have power, and the Empress remains attuned to many feng shui sites. She can't move openly, but her network is devoted to her out of loyalty and faith, not power, as Gao's is. She protects the people from him and is trying to find a way to stop Gao and his demons - but she doesn't realize the Lotus is so extensive, and knows nothing of the secret war. She thinks this is just Gao and some eunuchs. She has no desire to conquer time and just wants one of her family to be Emperor.)

There are also continual bandit troubles - bandits who are often in the employ of people. Sometimes the Lotus, but sometimes others. Do not trust bandits, the Lotus say, for they care only about money. Many bandits really hate the Lotus for driving them from their homes. The Lotus also fear the Hsiung-nu nomad tribes. They are the Empire's greatest local threat, after all. Gao Zhang knows that a prince will rise among them, chief of the Mangkhol: Chengiz Khan, who will carve through the steppes. For now, the Hsiung-nu weaken themselves with intertribal war, but Chengiz will unite them and conquer China. It will weaken China even as they assimilate thes Mangkhols...but for now, the Hsiung-nu remain simple barbarians.

Next time: Sorcerers, Taoists and Demons.

Perhaps the Old Man was right after all.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Perhaps the Old Man was right after all.

There's plenty of mystery cults of sorcerers in ancient China that have nothing to do with the Lotus at all. They tend to ignore the Lotus and in fact most things. They seek only enlightenment. Eventually, one of them, the White Lotus Society, will be persecuted by the Empire and eventually sink from their ideals, hiding among organized criminals. They will briefly join the Shaolin and Guiding Hand before founding the Triads and will eventually lose their mysticism completely. The Lotus really could not care less.

Taoists are more annoying. The Taoists recommend accepting life as it is, living each moment in tune with nature - but they also seek perfection of spirit, supernatural power and even immortality. They are often pacifists, yet also stand against oppression. The most dangerous are the hermits, who often have great chi or magical power. Fortunately, they rarely involve themselves...but they also openly diapprove of the Empire. They also often aid the commoners, but usually only with a single problem and an unexpected manner. They are notable for annoying the Lotus and draining resources from them by causing rebellions or screwing around with the local tax collectors.

Demons, ogres and ghosts often serve the Lotus, but some are neutral or even oppose them. Fortunately (for the Lotus, that is), the more powerful beings are less likely to care at all about human affairs. The Jade Emperor may rule a hierarchy of gods, but he has no care for day-to-day human existence. Local spriits and gods thus are the ones with most contact and frequently have a vested interest in local affairs. As long as a village maintains its proper rituals, the spirits and gods protect them. The Lotus often must corrupt an area and drive away these beings before they can send in demons.

Lotus goals can be divided into two areas: securing their current holdings and expanding their influence. To secure their power, Gao Zhang uses a combination of informants, bribes and attacks. No one is trusted, even underlings, and the Lotus track their fortunes via spirit mediums, fortune tellers and feng shui professors. This is often rather limited - they spot general threats and trends, but not specifics. A clear image comes only when the enemy acts. Mortal spies and informations also help, as they can watch suspected threats. Gao uses them to follow up on leads, and thus often has a good understanding of important trouble spots. The first reaction to ap roblem is to try and bribe or buy off the threat. Gao Zhang knows that combat is unpredictable and there's a chance of losing - but he also knows bribes are only temporary. Purchased loyalty is untrustworthy by nature. They are a stopgap, buying time. (Often a lot of time, for minor problems. These can go ignored for months.)

Ironically, the greatest problem Gao sees are his own subordinates. He trusts no one, knowing that his loyal servants are loyal from greed and fear. He expects them to plot against him. There are also threats more subtle than rebellion - like the fact that most Lotuses are megalomaniacs. They have trouble controlling their desires. Gao knows that greed destroyed the Ten Thousand Eyes, and while he has trouble with self-control, he tries to encourage it...but his underlings often lack even his own twisted form of it. The only thing that stops them is fear.

Thus, Gao has created two similar but seperate branches: the Silent Eyes, who spy on other Lotuses and search for treachery and disobedience, answering only to Gao Zhang, and the Pillars of Heaven, who travel the Empire and ensure local magistrates and Lotus squads do not abuse their power (too much, anyway). The Pillars have full authoirty to review local records and talk to anyone. Though a branch of the Lotus, they are officially servants of the Emperor directly and meant to hunt out corruption. Their leader, Wan Qian, is not limited by law or even Imperial decree, in fact, and is the only man in the world who is not required to bow for the Emperor. This makes him very confident, and he'll even question Gao Zhang...though he knows he must not cross Gao. Both groups have orders to investigate each other, to keep them from getting out of line. Gao still spends a lot of time watching for plots and conspiracies.

Important external problems, meanwhile, get direct responses - Imperial edicts for small things, strike times or even Imperial divisions or demons for the rest. Troublemakers can be arrested, discredited, killed or replaced by supernatural doubles. Monsters besiege troublesome regions. All of this still means little against feng shui. More feng shui for the Lotus means fewer rebellions. Loss of feng shui brings disaster and plots. Thus, the Lotus are engaged in aggressive expansion.

Under strict guidelines, that is. These are an ideal, though, and time crunch and resource shortages often demand changes. Expansion plans may come from any command center, though most come from the Petals themselves. Few centers have the resources to launch attacks on their own, and Gao has no patience for failure. Only those with absolute confidence or great ambition risk it, with the exception of the generals of the junctures, who are expected to do such things. All expansion plans begin with extensive spying, as knowledge is power. Information is what has given gao his control, after all. The Wood Division love it, it makes them important and gets them resources. They are one of the Lotus's most successful branches, with infiltrators in every juncture nad many organizations. They have spies among the Hsiung-nu, Jui Szu's court and even the families of those whose descendants will eventually end eunuch control of the Empire.

Spies are not enough, though. Planners must also consult fortune tellers, mediums and feng shui professors from the Metal division, who will predict the atack's outcome and point out key things that might change it. They chart the best time to attack and oversee rituals to get spiritual support for it. Once all this is done, the Fire squads go in, making terrorist strikes on the enemy's defenses. They cripple the enemy, allowing the Earth divisions to arrive and defeat any resistance, fortifying the Lotus defenses and holding the ground the Fire has claimed. If the gains are important, the Water division then arrives to create a command center, which will be the focus and rally point for further operations. The Petals prefer such expansion by steps.

To expand into other junctures, the Petals have given each juncture a general, to oversee the Lotus's will there. They are officially servants of the Petals, but in practice pretty autonomous. Despite their impressive work over two years, the Lotus remain weak outside 69 AD, and few new forces get committed. They prefer temporary assistance. The general thus use whatever they can sccrape together, and have as a result become excellent recruiters...though they are still always outnumbered and often outgunned. They tend to keep a low profile.

The general of 1850 is Cha Tzu , a quiet man who likes tea and the classics. He is a skilled sorcerer, investigator, liar and businessman. He runs a minor trade company out of Shanghai, and he was chosen for his subtlety. He never draws attention to himself, but has made several safehouses in China and Japan, using his caravans to move supplies and agents without drawing attention. He has even recruited several dozen Lotuses - though they're loyal to him, not Gao or the Petals. Cha Tzu's company is a liaison between the foreigners and Chinese nationalists, and he's managed to avoid offending either side. One branch exports tea, bringing in Western goods and money, while another secretly sells opium, weakening the Empire and preparing it for takeover. Cah uses trade as a weapon, targeting families and regions that pose a threat. Opium is, after all, corruption given physical form - and the Lotus understand the power of corruption.

His business acumen has actually drawn both the Guiding Hand and the Order of the Wheel to him. Both organizations have approached him via low-ranking members to get his support. The Guiding Hand want him to help strengthen China against foreigners, and believe him an upstanding citizen. They know nothing of his opium dealing. The Order of the Wheel appeal to his greed, wanting his help in spreading their influence. He remains open but noncommittal, hoping that both organizations will accept some of his underlings and allow him to thus infiltrate them. He also has plans for the American west, using his business contacts to send Lotus immigrants there. The gunslingers are still 15 years off or so, when the Civil War veterans come in, but he knows that the Chinese immigrants will play a vital if unappreciated role there. He hopes to create a powerbase before it really starts by seizing power that would otherwise go to Order of the Wheel tycoons. They also want to improve the lot of the Chinese immigrants...though mostly because Cha Tzu wants their help. It's proved harder than expected, as the operatives have had to fight the native Americans for feng shui sites, and the native Americans have proven quite fierce and armed with powerful magic.

Cha Tzu had not actually expected the medicine men to have magic, since he knew the USA would roll over the natives without much effort. He thought they were weak, and has ince realized that Manifest Destiny will be achieved not by strength of arms, but by feng shui power. Cha Tzu has identified several important feng shui sites that will aid the US government. Unfortunately, that means the US will also trample the Lotus unless he can manage to make an alliance with the natives - which seems unlikely, given the bad blood he made with them.

Finding a general for the contemporary juncture was hard. AFter all, most Lotuses don't operate well there, really. The limtis on magic remove their power and they don't get technology. Also, eunuch sorcerers just don't blend in. The Petals can get specific teams to work there, and the demon island Kun Chau was a great find, but no one could establish a permanent base until they found Penny Bane . She's an American programmer working in Hong Kong. Her father was a practitioner of Chinese medicine in San Francisco, and her mother was an ex-hippie. Her real name is Pen Hei, and she grew up around mysticism and open-minded people. It's no wonder she was fascinated by the occult. She studied everything she could, but got no real power out of it.

That is, until her spells started to work one day for no clear reason. She used her magic to cure her friend, Tom Annis, of pneumonia...and that was when things got weird. Men in gray suits started to spy on her, and they trashed her apartment. They'd even stolen her diary and erased her hard drive. Fearing that she'd angered the mafia, Penny fled to her mother's old friend, Bob. Bob is a weird hippy who is quite good at breaking into places and learning things. (He has two unique schticks: Go To Ground , which allows him to be impossible to find if he wants to - along with anyone else he hides, as long as they obey his instructions, and Know Someone . Bob always knows someone who can help him, no matter where he is or what he needs help with. They may not be very good at it, though. Also, Bob is a vegan and can take no action to harm living creatures, though he'll fight mindless dead ones.)

Bob knew that the NSA and aliens were out to get him, and he knew how to hide. Penny fled with Bob to Seattle, where they studied her pursuers. Bob realized they were the Secret Spokemen, a conspiracy that controlled everything, and he said rumor had it that their direct supervisor was a mutant spider. (Yeah, Bob has no clear idea what's up with the Ascended.) After a week in hiding, Penny decided her friend was insane and she was safe. She left the apartment...and got ambushed two blocks away. She was thrown in a van...and hours later, a group of hopping vampires saved her, dropping her at the feet of the Lotus Chen Yung.

Chen had been sent to capture a minor feng shui site and happened to be in the area. Bob knew him and found him, getting him to rescue Penny. In return, Penny helped him buy out the feng shui site, a bar, without any fighting. Chen offered to teach her sorcery, noticing her power. (Penny is quite good at sorcery, but not much else except planning and lying.) She could not officially join the Lotus, so Chen Yung is officially the general - but everyone knows Penny runs the show and Chen is happy to just be her teacher. In the six months since then, Penny has established outposts in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, New York and San Francisco. She's got a phony computer consultation company, DetaTel, Inc., which serves as a front for the Lotus, though the Petals insisted she base it out of Kowloon despite the bad feng shui there. Kowloon, after all, means nine dragons - and the Lotus think nine is a lucky number.

Like Cha Tzu, Penny relies heavily on local recruits - mostly wizard-wannabes, a group of demons she has named the Popcorn Demons (whose special trick is twofold. First, if you knock 'em out, they get back up a few minutes later. Second, they explode when injured and cause chain reactions with each other), and her brother Tieh. Tieh is an accomplished kung fu master and an important local Triad. With his contacts, Penny has made friends with many Triads and gotten help from his students and buddies. All of Penny's recruits are loyal to her and her brother - very loyal. Sorcerers from 69, well, they don't like taking orders from an apprentice, especially one that's a woman. Thus, they tend to avoid contacting her for information, instructions or advice. More often than not, they also end up screwing up and dying. Penny ignores them. The smart ones will learn, and the others deserve what they get. While Penny is bubbly and optimistic, she isn't stupid and considers any problem a challenge. Failure doesn't bother her, and she always uses her wits to find a new way to her goal. She won't risk her underlings for no reason, but will do whatever is needed to succeed. This makes her very dangerous. Fortunately (or unfortunately), she is completely loyal to the Lotus, because they have given her power beyond her wildest dreams as well as saved her life. She may not like some of Gao's policies, but she won't challenge him.

Infiltrating 2056 has been almost impossible. Cultural differences and the paranoisa of the time has made it very, very hard. So far, only the Movement of the Twined Snakes has had any success. This was a simple project - a shapeshifting demon would kill and replace an Architect monster hunter. Using the identity, it would go through Buro checkpoints and find information. Early spies would return quickly to Lo-yang, while later ones would assassinate specific people. A few tried to make permanent positions in 2056, but these were inevitably discovered thanks to changes in behavior. As time went on, though, the project has broadened. The Metal division realised htey could bind the Architects' own abominations, using their soldiers as spies. Possessing spirits began to replace shapeshifters as well, getting full access to their targets' memories and only slightly changing their behavior...as well as being able to shift hosts.

The most luck any has had was the spirit Thousand Questions, who possessed an injured soldier and buried himself deep in the man's mind. Then he began to jump between hosts until he found a middle manager, John Sanders, whom he used to establish identities for other infiltrators. To avoid attracting attention, he would not use John for this, but instead would jump hosts, make the identities and then go back. Someone would find them eventually, but no major spy would be lost. Thousand Questions was very good at his job...until he started refusing requests. This confused everyone...until someone examined the 2056 juncture's feng shui and realized that it was brainwashing the people of the time. All but those few with innate resistance would eventually become loyal to Buro. This was a problem. Thousand Questions had already been fed disinformation, so that wasn't an issue - but it was a crimp in the Lotus expansion.

Next time: The 2056 Solution.

Master, my name is Two Ox. I have come to serve.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Count Chocula posted:

And Mors: 'Penny Bane'? Does every splatbook have pun names? And does that book have rules for the Flying Guilotine, the 36 Chambers of Shaolin, or being a Crippled Master?

The Guillotine is in this book. Shaolin is not - that's for the Guiding Hand book. They love them some Shaolin monks. And yes, puns...happen. Puns just occur in Feng Shui.

Feng Shui: Master, my name is Two Ox. I have come to serve.

The solution the Lotus have reached is Horned Demons X-125-A . He was originally the servant of the sorcerer Shen Yo, but was captured by the Architects, who made him into a frontlines abomination On one of X-125-A's trips to 69, Hoi Mao Qian defeated and bound him, ordering him to remain with his unit and return to 2056. Once there, he reported back on important activities. For months, he worked hard, gaining Mao's trust and that of the Inner Council. Now, X-125-A sneaks new operatives into 2056. It's a simple plan - X-125-A captured thge Lotus operative, either a demon or sorcerer. He escorts them back to 2056, and once there, the Louts operative only has to survive the Buro Reeducation Programs and feng shui influence long enough to escape and complete a mission. Which isn't easy. Fortunately, X-125-A never spends much time in 2056 so the feng shui never affects him, and he remains loyal after seven months of service - the best to date.

The Lotus have also tried to infiltrate the Jammers. It's a little bit easier - they're mostly in the Netherworld, and thus don't have the same issues with feng shui influence and paranoia. Unfortunately, their anti-magic beliefs make them hard to corrupt. One of Penny Bane's recruits, Tim Gunner , has had a bit of luck, though. He was a hacker who dabbled in explsoives before Penny started to teach him sorcery. (He has a unique schtick, Blown Clear , which lets him roll Martial Arts when caught in an explosion at a shot cost of 1, subtracting his outcome from the explosion damage.) Tim understands the Jammers and has made friends with many of their members. He's even convinced a few of 'em that magic isn't entirely terrible - secretly, of course. There's nothing like a spell-slinging pyromaniac to show the Jammers how much fun a Blast spell is. (Playing students and minions of Penny Bane is probably one of the only ways to manage Lotuses-as-PCs in the long term.)

With the reawakening of Kun Chau, the Lotuses have decided to try other time capsule plans. They've considered binding more spirits to land masses, burying magical artifacts and so on, but when it actually comes to making these capsules, they have few resources they're willing to spare. Worse, the nature of chi flow means that they cna only be retrieved during an open juncture, not intervening years. All attempts to use them at other points in history have failed. Some of the recruits from the future have suggested magic bombs - that is, inert Blast spells that will go off when exposed to magic, so that when the CDCA begin to reintroduce magic, they will get explosions. This plan has some drawbacks.

First, they can't target the weapons, so a random mystic might set them off centuries early, or they might just take out a minor abomination, wasting all that time and effort. Second and more importantly, the plan hinges on the Lotus being eventually defeated, and Gao Zhang will not support such plans, as they show lack of faith. Despite these problems, though, future operatives have found ways to reclaim lost resources. Cha Tzu and Penny both pay archaeologists to hunt for lost tombs and battlefields, looking not only for Lotus artifacts but those of other cultures. Once an artifact is found, the Metal division studies them and awakens their power. Both Cha Tzu and Penny have found useful tools.

There are also rumors that Buro has been doing the same, and unconfirmed reports say that they found the Tomb of Xian Wang, a powerful Xia king who commanded ten thousand demons, including the demon lord Chiu Szu. All of the demons were said to be sealed in his tomb. Reportedly, Buro can't yet open the tomb, but the Lotus find it very interesting and tempting to seek it out and take it. Of course, the Petals are hesitant to send a team, as it could be a trap...but maybe someone will go for it anyway.

We now cut back to Hoi Mao Qian, who is performing a sacrificial ritual over a child, using the power of the child's blood to summon forth a demon from the ground. Two Ox, the demon, swears eternal service to Mao, who is very proud indeed of his work. We now enter the chapter on supernatural entities, which I believe is being narrated by Mao but I am not entirely certain. We get his stats, anyway. He's a potent sorcerer who is not very good at much but sorcery. He also always has his demon Two Ox around, who is super tough and good at fighting. And immune to bullets. So yeah, the pair of 'em are pretty damn tough.

Anyway, we start out talking about gods. Gods come in all sizes, from the Jade Emperor to the earth spirit of a single family. As their power goes up, so does their responsibility. Your average person doesn't pray to the Jade Emperor - it'd be like going to the Son of Heaven directly. Instead, they turn to the local spirits, ancestors and gods. Proper care for ancestral shrines can provide the effects of feng shui attunement, but desecration of these sites provides negative feng shui. The imperial court often uses this as a weapon, breaking into the ancestral tombs of rebels and ritually desecrating them, disheartening the rebels and ensuring their failure. The Lotus dore this method.

Spirits, we get told in a sidebar, can protect places from evil spirits and influences. As long as they're happy, they have the same effect as a puirification spell, and their priest's action value when blessing the area determines how hard it is for monsters to enter. The purification stays in place until someone either offends the local god or some monster breaks through the spell. In either case, a priest has to properly attune and bless the place again. Also, as a note, the holy sites of various gods - the shrines and ancient oaks, say - count as feng shui sites in 69 AD. The power of these supernatural beings influences chi flow, and the chi is good when they are happy, or bad when angry, as mentioned above. This does mean there's a ton of really minor feng shui sites around.

Worship of spirits and belief in them is a powerful tool and weapon. At the bottom of the divine hierarchy are the Great Aunts and Great Uncles, minor nature spirits who are usually friendly but will turn vindictive when improperly cared for. They keep watch over the people near them and help keep evil spirits away. Each Great Aunt or Great Uncle has a special festival to honor them, and on that day, virgin attendants sacrifice food and candles to them. Above them in rank are the household gods. Every house has gods. Doorway gods keep the home secure, the earth god maintains the family's health and the kitchen god lurks in the kitchen. Most families ignore the kitchen god until New Year's. You see, on New Year's the kitchen god returns to the heavenly court to give a report, describing his family's behavior. Thus, many people coat their idol's lips in honey, that all he says may be sweet.

Above these is the village's earth spirit - a larger version of the household earth god. This one lives under the fields and controls the village's crop fertility. It is a very important spirit, as ancient China is highly agricultural. Villages also have a number of local gods, who usually have simple shrines or temples. Each will have some area of expertise and typically a local festival in their honor which lasts a few days and has great feasting and performances. The imperial court tends to have similar festivals, but higher up the divine ladder, as the Emperor and court priests appeal to the Jade Emperor directly. Indeed, most of the Emperor's duties are rituals to ensure prosperity.

The Jade Emperor and his heavenly court are mirrors of the earthly Empire, or possibly vice versa. He sits atop a massive bureaucracy which orders the entire universe, from the smallest grain of sand to the largest mountain. Of course, the Jade Emperor delegates. So most of his real work is decrees and judging divine legal cases. And, of course, his officers and magistrates frequently shift as gods gain or lose favor. Thus, some try to gain his favor by doing good deeds - especially divine exiles. (These are the only powerful gods who care at all about directly interfering in human affairs.) The exiled gods asct as wandering heroes, and so often come into conflict with the Lotus. Fortunately, they are rare and favor the countryside, where the Lotus is weak. In Lo-yang, they might easily destroy the entire organizaiton!

True, exiled gods have only a shadow of their former power, but they remain some of the most powerful beings in the world. They are immortal and can give that gift to their companions. Most weapons and spells just bounce off. And they are usually warriors. The more bureaucratic exiles tend not to, you know, cause trouble. Also, hero-gods are more likely to go maverick and get kicked out. The Lotus have only seen two exiled gods, and they have learned not to oppose them. Instead, Gao Zhang tries to quicken their return to Heaven, setting up false quests for the god to perform and achieve glorious victory over. The Lotus also hire priests to pray for the god, to report his good deeds to Heaven. The sooner the god leaves, the quicker they can return to normal life.

We get a sidebar on hero gods. They all have at least Fortune 10, and fate loves them. They are extraordinarily powerful and a GM should be very careful about introducing one, as they can overshadow the players easily. Of course, an exiled god might have amnesia and not know how to use their power, or perhaps be a prisoner for the PCs to rescue. The example stats we're given are for Shen Chang. Shen Chang is extremely good at shooting people and kicking them in the face, is literally impossible to kill and can Dodge Magic , allowing him to use Martial Arts to parry things he can't parry. He was kicked out by the Jade Emperor for brawling in the Celestial Throne Room, and has spent all his time on earth drinking kegs of rice wine and looking for trouble. He's a nice guy who tries to solve people's problems...by hitting them with a stick.

The Lotus's more theological members have theorized that, as the Court of Heaven resembles the earthly court, it must have eunuchs. The divine eunuchs must hold the strings otp ower, just as the real eunuchs do. Thus, there is a minor cult among hte Lotus that worships the Eunuchs of Heaven. Howeever, most Lotus members don't care and focus on summoning demons. Still, a few offer the occasional sacrifice just in case. No one has ever seen any obvious benefits from this, and it is possible the Eunuchs of Heaven don't exist, but the cult continues to slowly grow.

Even the demons of the underworld obey the Jade Emperor, for not even the Yama Kings can oppose his will. The Underworld, says the Lotus, is a gathering point for all souls of the dead. There, they go before the DEmonic Judge or even a Yama King if they truly merit such an honor. The judge decides their fate. Worthy souls are reincarnated as human beings, whose prosperity depends on their worthiness. Some particularly good souls become gods or achieve enlightenment. Most evil souls must spend time in the Underworld, being tortured by demons. Some stay there for a while and then reincarnate, if into unpleasant lives, usually as poor people or animals, or even demons. Some are unlucky enough to be trapped forever in the Underworld.

Of course, there's other afterlives. Some spirits go to other worlds, some cease to exist, whatever. It's limited only by their beliefs and the creativity of the Demonic Judge. Anyway, the underworld is basically a bad place even for demons. It is all extremes, nightmarish landscapes of torture where the strong rule the weak and pain is an art. The joy of most demons is only in harming others, that they may forget their own pain. Some demons even deliberately send osuls to the wrong afterlife to torment them, and while some complain, the Yama Kings do not stop them. Sometimes a hero will fight his way to the Jade Emperor and get an imperial edict, which sets right all wrongs...once. Ten thousand more remain.

Unsurprisingly, most demons and ghosts want to escape the Underworld and find the world of men. Those who are summoned can escape the power of the Yama Kings and find a poor sort of freedom...though they are often hounded by other spirits to recapture them. This can be delayed, but not stopped...unless a demon turns its back on evil and seeks redemption and enlightenment. Doing so, their masters lose all claim upon them. They are free to live out life on earth, unless they condemn themselves by evil action. Giving up the quest for redemption returns the old bonds. This is hard. The easy way to escape is to find a replacement. The Yama Kings care only that they are served and not by whom - though the conditions of the replacement tend to vary based on who's involved. Some will take only souls, so a mortal must e killed. Others require the mortal to voluntarily accept the position. Still, once the requirements are met, the demon is free forever. (Except from summoners binding it.)

We get a sidebar on Mount T'ai now. Every Emperor climbs Mount T'ai, making a grand sacrifice to show his right to rule. Some will repeat this ritual in timbs of trouble. Mount T'ai is a very powerful feng shui site, which the Emperor attunes to via this ritual, becoming a channel of good chi. While the Emperor is just, the good chi flows through the empire, bringing luck. If the Emperor becomes greedy, though, he absorbs the chi directly, losing the luck in exchange for great personal power. However, the attunement to Mount T'ai depends on service to the land, and so the emperor's power comes at a price. The people speak of a lost Mandate of Heaven, and at the worst possible time, the attunement will dissolve. The power will disappear. This marks the start of open rebellion. The current Emperor tries to rule justly, and remains attuned...but the Lotus have tapped into ount T'ai, drawing off some of the Empire's good chi. So far, the effects are limited, as Gao Zhang rations the siphoning, taking only a small amount. He knows the risks of abusing the mountain. Ironically, as the Lotus expands, the power they drain gets diluted, so Gao must draw more. And in times of trouble, he dips heavily - and while he backs off after, he always keeps a little more. This dependence may lead to the Lotus's downfall.

Now, let's talk about ghosts. Drowned ghosts. See, sometimes a violent or horrible death confuses a spirit. The drowned ghost is the most famous. They are lost, unable to find the Underworld, clinging to death to avoid oblivion. Trapped. These ghosts can gain control over water, causing or stopping floods or controlling fish. Many fishermen pour out wine as an offering to the drowned ghosts in hopes of a good catch. Others worship them as gods. Despite this, a drowned ghost cannot leave the place it drowned in, and so it is eternally shackled. The only way to be free is to drown another person there, making them into the new ghost. Because of this, most drowned ghosts are hostile, tripping people on the riverbanks or capsizing boats. Some even possess people, trying to lure them to their watery deaths. Other, similar ghosts appear after other kinds of deaths. Most are tied to a spot or an item.

Sometimes inanimate objects have spirits. Well, they always do, but some of those spirits learn to take on physical form. They can emerge only at night, when they haunt their surroundings, and all inanimate spirits are malicious for some reason. They attack people, often the person most associated with their object. Their shape does not actually have to have anything to do with the daytime object - most resemble monsters or deformed animals. No one knows why they happen. Some come out after witnessing violent emotions, others after years of daily use. Few sorcerers know how to wake one, or send one to sleep again.

And then there are the Maidens from Heaven. These are the daughters of the gods, who have magical clothing to turn into birds. Using this, they fly from Heaven down to the mountain springs, where they bathe, and then fly home. While bathing, they are vulnerable. Anyone can steal their clothes, without which they cannot return to Heaven. Some young men have used this trick to force the divine beauties to marry them. When the men are good and kind, the maidens often fall in love with them and the trick is more introduction than kidnapping. Unworthy husbands, though, find themselves outwitted and abandoned, for the divine maidens are very clever and will eventually steal back their clothing, leaving their poor 'husband's' life in chaos as revenge. A few crafty heroes have used this trick not gain a wife but to gain an audience in Heavfen, using the maiden to negotiate with the gods themselves and get their help. In this way, villages have been saved and eivl spirits destroyed. One even had a god bring his wife back from the dead. It's important to understand that this only works for people with good intentions - otherwise the gods will just destroy you.

Next time: The Eight Immortals and the Five That Will Not Die.

Dipping his brush in the life-blood of a child, he wrote the proper spell and then touched the paper to the flame.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: Dipping his brush in the life-blood of a child, he wrote the proper spell and then touched the paper to the flame.

Immortality is the dream of the sage. Some have tried poisonous concoctions in the hopes of killing that which ages, or spent months meditating. Some have been lucky enough to gain immortality by accident. A few use sleep to extend their lives. There are many roads to immortality, but most seekers fail. They poison themselves, waste their lives or find a twisted immortality that makes them into monsters. Only a few ever succeed. There are about a hundred immortals in China - or nearly immortals, at least. The most famous are the Eight Immortals of Taoism, who refuse to become involved in worldly affairs.

The first is Chung-li K'uan , who was the first true immortal. He discovered the elixir of life, which granted both immortality and spiritual perfection. He carries a fan that can revive the dead and his symbol is the peach. Second is Chung Kwoh-Lao , a recluse and mystic who studied greatly and gained many magic powers and tools. He has a mule that can travel a thousand miles in a day, which he can fold up and put in his pocket, then sprinkle with water to return it to full size. His symbols are the phoenix feather and the yu ku, a sort of bamboo instrument. Third was Lu Tung-pin , a scholar who became a recluse. He followed Chung-li Kuan and learned the secret of immortlaity, but had to undergo ten temptations first. At the end, he was given a magic sword, which he used to rid the countryside of dragons and monsters. His symbols are the sword and the fly-brush.

The fourth immortal is Ts'ao Kuo-Chiu , a military commander who became a hermit. While meditating, the wall of his cave split open and revealed a jade casket. Inside it were scrolls holding the secrets of immortality and the transmutation of metals. By following the scroll's instructions, his cave was filled with a glowing cloud, and a giant stork then came and carried Ts'ao to the Happy Land of Immortality. He is now a patron deity of drama and his symbol is the feather fan. Fifth is Li Tieh-Kuai , who studied under Lao Tzu. One day, Lao Tzu summoned his spirit to Heaven, and told him to leave the body in the care of his best pupil. However, the pupil was called away by his mother's death, and the other students thought Li dead, burning the body. When Li returned, he found only ashes. Desperate, he entered the body of a beggar who had just died, and has spent the rest of his time with a crippled leg and an iron crutch. His symbol is the pilgrim's gourd, which is full of powerful medicine, and he is known for traveling the world as a healer and patron of herbalists.

Sixth is Han Hsang-Tzu , who studied under Lu Tung-pin as a poet. One day, Lu told Han to climb a peach tree and he slipped, falling to the ground. He has been immortal ever since. He can make flowers grow and is the patron of music. His symbol is the flute. Lan Ts'ai-Ho is seventh, and her life was one of a traveling singer. Her songs spoke of life's fleeting nature and the delusion of earthly pleasures. She always wore a blue robe and one shoe, but when her earthly body died, she vanished, rising to the clouds. Her symbol is the flower basket. Ho Hsien-Ku is last, the Immortal Maiden, who learned that eating only mother-of-pearl would make her immortal. For years, she kept at it and gradually grew more and more ethereal until at last she could jump from mountain peak to mountain peak. She only became truly immortal after giving up all earthly foods. Her symbol is the lotus.

Less famous are the Five That Will Not Die , examples of the dangers inherent in the quest for immortality. The first is Two Axes , a warlord from five centuries ago. He carved out a kingdom in the northwest, leading am assive army. One day, his men found a wagon of books, ingredients and alchemy tools. The only occupant was an old man, and they brought him before Two Axes, accusing him of sorcery. Just as Two Axes was going to sentence him, the old man begged to speak to the warlord privately. He promised Two Axes the secret of everlasting life. Two Axes, feeling his age, agreed.

The old men came to Two Axes' tent with a reed mat inscribed with a hundred spells. As Two Axes laid his head upon the mat, he could feel the magic within it. The feeling in his arms and legs vanished, and his sight dimmed, until only the thudding of his heart remained. Using magic and surgery, the old sorcerer removed Two Axes' heart from his chest and put it within a clay jar inscribed with spells. Then he awoke the warlord and told him that the jar must always be protected. So long as it was intact, Two Axes could never die - but if the jar had even the slightest crack, he would die instantly. Since then, Two Axes has seen his kingdom die and traveled as a mercenary, carefully protecting his heart. However, there is a side effect. Two Axes has muted emotions, for he has no heart. He has no passion, but he has desires. He feels no anger, no regret. He is cold and utterly ruthless.

Deng Mei is the second, a boy who was apprenticed to the Taoist wizard Lei She. For a decade, he learned the names of every plant, animal and bird. He watched the stars and the spirits, learning minor powers of medicine, but he knew none of his master's true secrets. In his eleventh year of study, he stumbled upon a giant ginseng plant, over a thousand years old. It had become intelligent, in a way, and grown true power. Deng dug the ginseng up as it tried to squirm out of his fingers, and he tied it tightly in a bag. He brought the root home to show his master.

To Deng's surprise, Lei smacked the root from his hands, ordering Deng to return it to the ground. Such things, he was told, must not be treated lightly, and most only be handled with proper ceremony. Deng took the root and headed back to the mountains, but his master's words burned in him. After all these years of chores, how dare Lei She treat him so badly? He would never be ready, not by his master's judgment. And so Deng looked into his bag, hid it and remembered his studies. He knew enough of ginseng to know it had power, but not how to steal all of that power. He knew enough.

The sap, rubbed on his feet, would let him walk on water. Ingested, the root would heal any injury or sickness. With proper care, if he kept it alive and growing, he could become immortal from its meat. His bag had more power than his master ever offered. He made his decision. Deng went down from the mountains to the city of Lu'hou, where he sold ginseng to the sick and dying, using the money to buy himself a rich wardrobe and carriage, as well as an iron cage to hold the root. Every day, he would eat a slice of the root, a tiny slice. Whenever he ran low on money, he would play doctor, using the root to cure people. So things went for another decade. Deng became famous, with the best teachers begging him to learn from them. He mastered magic and medicine, and soon only rarely needed the ginseng to heal. But every day, he took that sliver for himself.

Unfortunately, Deng's body began to attune to the root. As he cut it, he could hear its screams in his mind. After another decade, its whimpers kept him awake at night. Soon, he could feel its pain as the knife sliced into it. These grew so terrible that he retreated to hide in a cave. Centuries passed, full of pain and anger. Deng now feels every second of the torture he causes the root - but he cannot give it up. He is fitter than an eighteen-year-old athlete, with the strength of five men and the reflexes of a cat. He knows most of the world's secrets, but his soul has grown hard and twisted. He is anger incarnate, striking out at all he can find.

Misfortune's Daughter is the third of the Five That Will Not Die. She was born to poor rice farmers, under another name, which none today remember - including herself. She was a little girl when the raiders came, when they killed her parents and stole her away. For a week, she was one of many slaves heading to the South China Sea. There, a man who smelled of bitter herbs bought her, forcing her to drink a potion that smelled like rusting metal and rotted meat. She was too scared to resist. Immediately, the pain started, spreading from her stomach to her limbs and head. For two days, she could do nothing but scream. Then it ended. The young man was pleased. He gave Misfortune's Daughter a feast greater than any she had ever seen.

The pain began again the moment she ate. She retched until she was empty, and a few days later, mold began to grow upon her skin. Within a month, her flesh rotted, hanging from her bones. The young man was not happy. One night, he took her out on a boat. There, he tied a bag of stones to her legs and pushed her overboard. She sank to the bottom, but did not die. After several hours, she untied her legs. After tow days, she walked to shore and escaped into the wilderness. Centuries passed, but she never changed. Her body was a corpse, but she still had her mind. Periodically, she would grow lonely and seek companions - but everyone fled from her, even the animals. Only scavengers remained, and they just wanted to eat her rotten flesh. She did not need sleep, food or breath. She healed any new damage, but would never grow or become anything but a corpse-girl. She was trapped, forever a rotting eight-year-old.

Eventually, she gave up on friends and lurked outside the villages, learning the ways of people and their skills by watching. She learned more by watching the animals. Eventually, she realized her old master had been an alchemist, that she was a failed experiment. This gave her new hope. She sought out an alchemist to return her to normal. Most were terrified, but one invited her in. He did not treat her as a person, though, but a specimen. He would cut parts off, run tests, and after a year, he had nothing. One night, she grew angry, and as he cut another slice of her arm, she lashed out, her bony hand tearing through him like a claw. His cries filled the night, and she fled.

The people were terrified of her, and the guards came to face her. She used movements copied from monks and beasts, Corpse Fu , and fought her way through four men before escaping. (Corpse Fu is a unique martial art which is frightening but otherwise unspectacular. It lets the user roll Intimidation at no shot cost when attacking a new foe, with their Willpower as the difficulty. The opponent loses (Outcome) shots, but it only works the first time they face Corpse Fu, ever. They are then immune/) Something inside Misfortune's Daughter changed. She was tired of letting the world take, of watching and knowing she would never be like people. From that day, she walked proudly into the villages, taking what she wanted and killing those who tried to stop her. Her reputation spread, and she now leads a group of bandits who respect and fear her. Five hundred, these days. Before each raid, they paint their skin white, darkening their eyes and finger nails to resemble zombies. They favor iron claws.

Fourth is the demon lord Thunder Under Mountains ...or, rather, the man Kuei Chih . Thunder Under Mountains was a powerful lord of the Underworld, commanding a full province. For a thousand years, his word was law and he lived as well as any in the Underworld could. But he grew greedy, jealous of the Yama Kings, and he plotted to rise in power. He told no one, and brooded in silence. But he had one weakness - alcohol. He loved to drink, and became drunk easily. One day, Five Claws of Anger brought him ten kegs of rice wine, and they drank it all together. His tongue loosened, Thunder told Five Claws of his plan to surpass the Yama Kings. He described his stores of weapons, the demons loyal to him alone. He would learn army against the Hall of Judgment and rule over all the Underworld.

Five Claws had brought the alcohol in hopes of just such a thing, for he had long suffered under Thunder's rule. As soon as Thunder fell asleep, Five Claws repeated each of his words ot the Yama Kings, who took Thunder before them and cast him out of the Underworld, to roam the earth fer ternity as a hungry, bodiless spirit. However, as Thunder Under Mountains was about to succumb to despair in the human world, he smelled his favorite scent: wine. Kuei Cheh, the village drunk, was drinking and fishing as the earth rumbled. A hot breeze whipped about him, filling the air with the screams of ten thousand souls. A spirit appeared before him, fifteen feet tall and jet black.

Paralyzed by fear, Kuei Chih watched as the spirit reached for his wine - and could not take it, passing straight through it. The creature leapt at Kuei Chih, and their bodies collided. The demon went into the man's body, possessing him by accident more than intent. Kuei Chih was using the body and Thunder Under Mountains lacked the strength to cast him out. So for 150 years, they have shared control of it. There is a great difference between them, Kuei is friendly, jovial and likes to laugh and relax. He is also not good at anything but fishing. Thunder Under Mountains is loud, angry and insulting. He believes himself superior to all mortals, and acts it. When his wishes aren't met, he smashes things...and despite his human body, he still possesses unnatural strength and the power to breath fire.

Whoever is in control can block out the other to a mere faint voice in the head...until one of them falls asleep or gets drunk. Kuei does give up control sometimes when in danger, though, for Thunder Under Mountains is much better at fighting. He hates the demon and feels guilty for his actions, trying to atone as best he can. Sometimes, he goes for weeks without sleep to keep the demon under control, or he drinks until his mind goes numb and hopes he won't remember what comes after. Thunder Under Mountains likes to taunt Kuei, committing atrocities to see the man suffer. The habits of the Underworld are hard to break.

Luan Ou studied the secrets of dead body chi. It's the chi that gathers in the bodies of the dead, and it can harm the living. It blocks their normal chi and creates illness and pain. Thus, people avoid handling dead bodies. However, Luan Ou was fascinated by it. He watched healthy chi transform at the moment of death and wondered - could this be reversed? This would cure death, or at least prevent it. For a decade, Luan Ou experimented iwth transforming dead body chi, absorbing it all the while into his system. His health suffered for it, causing pain and blurred vision.

Finally, as he was near death, he discovered the secret. He created a potion to convert dead chi into healthy chi. On drinking it, he fell into a deep sleep for three days. Then he awoke, fit and healthy, all of his dead body chi gone. Months later, he learned the price: his body now reclaimed dead body chi, but refused any otherk ind. At first, it was an inconvenience. He handled dead bodies periodically to top off his chi. But as the decades passed, he grew hungry. Now, he is 450, and his body no longer converts dead body chi - it lives off it. He must eat fresh corpses to remain alive. He is a wraithlike figure on battlegrounds and graveyards. He robs tombs for the bodies, leaving the wealth, but in doing so he destroys the families' ties to their ancestors, ensuring a slow decline.

Oh, and he's contagious. He can transfer dead body chi by touching someone, causing pain, paralysis or death. If transferred over several hours, though, the body grows accustomed to it and gains Luan's dependence. He uses this to make more ghouls, to serve him. Oh, and even better news! The Five That Will Not Die rarely contacted each other before, as their goals differed. At first, they opposed the Lotus as the foolish sorcerers tried to bind them. But then, they learned of the Secret War and the future. They all need magic to survive, and should it fade, all five will die. They agreed to set aside their differences, approaching the Eaters of the Lotus and offering their aid. The Lotus are, after all, their best chance at survival. It is a dangerous alliance, based purely on self-interest. When the threat passes, they will fight again...and if they can ensure their survival without the Lotus, they will abandon the eunuchs.

Next time: Dragons.

We cannot pay these. The Emperor asks too much.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

As far as I know, the Five That Will Not Die were made up whole cloth.

Feng Shui: We cannot pay these. The Emperor asks too much.

One last word on immortality: it's for NPCs, mostly. The quest for immortality lies outside the rules. It might be an interesting character goal, but they won't tell you how to do it - that's between you and your GM. Also, remmeber, immortlaity isn't easy. Most seekers end up dead, insane, cursed, damned or a combination of the four. There is also a lot of power in immortality, because this isn't your wimpy elf immortality - this is the one where you cannot die . The GM may thus want to have any PC that achieves immortality retire from the secret war and become a helpful NPC. The player should play someone new if that's the case - perhaps a relative or student of the immortal.

Now then. Dragons. Long ago, even before 69 AD, the dragons roamed free. Their strength was equaled only by gods and demons. As magic began to fade, though, they found themselves trapped in the areas where it was still strong. These are not your Western dragons - they are the bearded dragons of China, often described as having a camel's head, a snake's body, lion's claws and the scales of a carp...though some resemble giant turtles, for some reason. They have no wings, but many can fly anyway, though they prefer swimming. They breath poison gas, not fire. They either protect important bodies of water or control an area's rainfall. Most lakes and rivers have a resident dragon, while larger or more important ones will have a dragon court, with a king of even an emperor ruling over several subjects. Rainmaking dragons tend to live away from water, in hidden valleys. They fly through the sky, either in dragon form or using human form and riding magic steeds. They then spray water into the sky to make rain. The methods vary, but usually one drop of water produces one foot of rain.

Most dragons can turn into humans for a while. This is the form they prefer on land, allowing them to interact with the human world, but most dragons can only reach the communities that lie along their shores, and few have reason to do so. Some have a taste for beauty, though, and trade pearls and magic items for gold, silk and jade. A few even fall in love with particularly attractive mortals. After marrying, they take their spouse to the dragon kingdoms below the waves. Humans in a dragon's court can breathe water, but cannot leave without assistance. Whether in their own forms or human shapes, dragons are feroicious, and many are masters of the secret arts of magic, especially weather magic. Fortunately, they cannot leave their homes and leave people alone as long as they are left alone.

A few unfortunate Lotuses have tried to steal the dragons' treasures or harassed villages under dragon protection. Some really stupid ones have tried to bind dragons. These Lotuses end up dead. Anyway, ruleswise, dragons cannot survive anywhere with a Sorcery modifier less than +4. Even 69 AD only has +2, so they're trapped in small pockets of the world. However, there is a way out. A dragon in human form can easily travel beyond the magical bubbles. They're bound by all transformed animal rules...and one more: if they remain outside their bubble for more than a month, they can never turn back. Many younger, free-thinking dragons have given up their dragon forms for the chance at freedom. They have rebelled against the older dragons, turning their backs on magic.

Originally, these rebel dragons were just a string of isolated cases, but they have begun to forge links with each other and some transformed animals. This network will eventually become the Ascended. The elder dragons mourn their loss of freedom, but were never all that interested in the world anyway. Tradition blinds them, and they cannot see their doom coming. When the magic fades enough to destroy their bubbles, they will die. A few realize their younger brethren plan to drive magic out of the land. This goes from minor rebellion to outright treason. Forced to respond, the elder dragons have sent legions of servants to kill or capture the young rebels. Some have even abandoned dragon form to hunt the traitors personally.

We get stats for three dragons. First is Long Ti, Emperor of Tian Lake. He knows he can't leave the lake without turning human, but doesn't really care - there's nothing in the human world that he cares about. He rules over a dozen dragons, and not even the stories of the rebels can anger him long. Life goes on, his empire is eternal. He is mostly notable for being insanely good at fighting and magic. Long Chung, meanwhile, was also an elder dragon. He has abandoned his natural form in order to hunt the rebel dragons, killing all he can find. He works to increase the magic of the land, though he knows that it will end in his own death. He is a master of kung fu and a sorcerer, and he's very good at both - though he gets a Reversion point every time he uses his sorcery. Like all of the dragons, his stats are amazing. Last is Long Kai, a rebel dragon. He saw disaster coming. The magic was dying, and he and his fellows were trapped in their lake. For years, he argued in the lake court, warning his brothers of their doom, but they would not listen. At last, Long Kai adopted human form and joined the world of mortals. It was a grave insult, but he would not sit and die quietly. He loves his new freedom, and he trades his services as a mercenary throughout China, using his impressive kung fu skills. However, he has realized that magic is the enemy. He has the curse of the transformed animal, but worse - he will die, for the magic is gone. As such, he works very hard to drive out magic, that he might never revert.

Speaking of magic! There's plenty of folks who can use it. Magic's a part of everyday life. Farmers use rituals to ensure crops grow and know minor spells to heal the sick. But most people fear true magic - they respect itsp ower, but do not want to interact with it. That is why they hire sorcerers, priests, fortune-tellers and mediums. This suspicion of magic has spread even to the Imperial Court, and some types of magic are illegal, punishable by death. For example, manipulating minds or summoning demons. Animals are also prohibited from taking human form, and these abominations before nature are hunted and killed upon discovery. Gao Zhang encouraged these laws, as it is a good way to deal with enemies and rebellious underlings. Also it makes it hard for rival secret societies of wizards to gain ground.

Mediums are the most common form of mystic. They allow spirits to possess them, speaking through them. Mediums typically live in a temple, offering their services for a small donation. Many mediums can't use their abilities to gain power or wealth, for it would upset the spirits. People often consult mediums when they're having problems. If the problems have a supernatural cause, like an angry ancestor, the medium can recommend a solution - usually placating the spirit. Most mediums work with a variety of spirits, but a few are mouthpieces of a single, more powerful being. These range from local gods to powerful land spirits, and they generally have a vested interest in helping the local people.

The life of a medium is not one most people choose, and it's a hard one. Mediums are, instead, chosen by the spirits, typically some time in their early teens. Most mediums have yin eyes, eyes of darkness which allow them to see ghosts. Since yin eyes are associated with women, most mediums are women. Mediums who refuse the call inevitably suffer illnesses and minor accidents, but even faithful ones seem condamned to short lives. The spirits can delay death as a reward, but there are dangers. Mediums risk possession by evil spirits, and they live on the edge of desire and hatred. Most villages depend on mediums, but their fear of magic makes them ostracize the medium.

A medium's job includes speaking with spirits, arrange passage to the underworld, sending gifts to spirits and arranging marriages for ghosts. (Ghosts can get married.) They may also tell fortunes and make good luck charms. Many spirits become lost on the way to the underworld, and if they remain bound to the earth too long, they become hungry ghosts, feeding off the living. Mediums can help them along by writing a special document which they then burn, helping the spirits find the way to the underworld. Mediums are servants, though, not mas ters, and cannot force the ghosts to leave. They also arrange for gifts of spirits - usually clay replicas of objects, or paper ones which are burned. These provide the spirit with a copy of the real object. Rice and joss sticks are also used.

It's the marriages that are the weirdest duty, though. Mediums oversee the weddings of the dead - typically the ghosts of infants and children. See, after growing up in the underworld, these ghosts want to get married. Both spirits will visit their parents' dreams and tell the parents they want to marry, giving the name of their future spouse's family. The families come to the medium, who performs the ceremony. Sometimes, spirits want a marriage not because they have a partner but because tradition says they must marry before a younger, still-living sibling can. In these cases, the medium also finds the appropriate spouse. If the spirit can't enter its parents' dreams, the medium also sends along the message. We get an example medium, Mo Tsou, who is notable for having a unique schtick: Protected by Ancestor Spirits . She doesn't have Blast, but can use Sorcery to dodge anyway, and even gets a +2 bonus to doing so.

Healers, fu kay masters and fortune stick readers are all specialized types of medium. Healers specialize in curing illnesses, particularly those made by spirits. They know lots about medicine and also use their medium abilities to break evil influences and fight possessions. Healers treat both mundane and supernatural symptoms, and are the most commonly-visited mystics of all. Fu kay is a form of fortune-telling based on automatic writing. The medium balances a stylus on their index fingers and enters a trance, allowing the stick to rock back and forth while lowing it into a box of sand. An assistant transcribes what is written and the artist then deciphers it with help from a large dictionary. The fuy kay artist thus receives answers to specific questions, though the answers are often filled with riddle and symbolism. Part of the fu kay master's skill is in filtering this for relevant information. Most believe that fu kay comes directly from Lao Tzu, which is why the replies are often rather sardonic. Fortune stick readers are temple mediums who shake a bundle of fortune sticks until one falls out, then interprets that one. Each stick has a specific definition at the temple, but the definition is never enough on its own - it needs to be interpreted. Hence the fortune stick reader.

Other mediums interpret the cracks in burnt tortoise shells, or draw yarrow sticks to read the I Ching. Both methods are popular with the wealthy, and mediums tend to be best at using them. Others also use palmistry and study of the face to determine inner character. This doesn't require being a medium, as it is a science that can be done by anyone. Bone reading is similar, in which you feel the arm bones of a person. Typically, bone readers are blind, so they are more mystical than palmists, as the blind are often mediums. There are also astrologers, who can predict auspicious occasions by the position of the stars. They are very important and very powerful, and their information makes magic easier to work. Magic is also easier on the first and fifteenth days of the month, and at four in the morning or dusk. Chi is weakest at three in the morning, which is a time of death. Numbers are very significant in general. 1 is lonely and unlucky, 2 is good, 3 represents birth, 4 is death, 5 is bad luck, 6 is longevity, 7 is death, 8 is prosperity and 9 is mystical influence. When combned, they can have a whole lot of meanings. 108 is a very, very spiritual number, for example.

Writing is magic, too. The written word is not merely a representation - it literally connects to the object it describes. Thus, there is power in writing. WRitten spells can do anything - control spirits, tame gods, influence weather. They can repel tigers, drive off bandits and cure headaches. Stylized calligraphy allows mediums and sorcerers to write out spells on black or yellow paper. The magic remains inert until affixed to a target, placed under a pillow or burned. The most common activation for a healing spell is to burn it and then mix the ashes with water and drink it. Written spells and charms are used by both sorcerers and normal people. Common spells typically don't do much, and many feel they can only help others, not the user. True sorcerers disagree, and their written magic has real power. Gamewise, written spells must be used within five minutes or they go inert if you're in an area with a negative Sorcery modifier. Anyone can activate a writteen spell, and its power is based on the writer, not the user. A bit more on this later.

A common form of magic is the Little People Hitter. Typically practiced by old women on the outskirts of towns, these are minor spells to punish the cruel ,greedy and hurtful - that is, the little people. To hire such a woman, you need to bring her the birth date and time of the target. If the target deserves to be hit, the spirits will cause a streak of bad luck. There's no guarantees, though. Lots of people are immune to the Little Hitters. They can't affect anyone with a positive Chi score, but anyone else comes under the effects of being attuned to a negative feng shui site until they redeem themselves to whoever hired the Little People Hitter.

Food is also magical. A basic, healthy diet will increase your energy, alertness and fitness, but more exotic diets can grant power. Eating the dust of a thousand-year-old bate will give forty thousand years of life. Some people dissolve jade dust in rice wine, then crystallize it into pills. If you eat such pills for a year, you cannot get wet by water or burnt by fire. After seven years, you can walk on water and will eventually gain immortality. These mystic deits can be anything from exotic items to mundane foods - though mundane foods require constant and exclusive consumption. For example, the hermit Si Tso ate only asparagus for five years before he was able to fly, and another five before his body began to regenerate. If he ever eats anything but asparagus, he will lose his powers. On the other hand, a single bite of thousand-year ginseng will instantly bring you to perfect health. This path has great power, but many drawbacks. If you ever break your diet, you will lose all your power and must start over. Many prefer to starve rather than risk that.

Alchemy, like written magic, uses physical objects as a focus. Alchemists make magical potions, which must be drunk or spread over the target to activate. Unlike written spells, though, alchemy is little-known and highly suspect. In the quest for immortality, alchemists handle doses of poison, rob graves, experiment on the dead and even kidnap people to test their potions. All alchemists are a little crazy due to the fumes they work with. Well - okay, that's not true, but it's what most people think. Many alchemists fit the stereotype, but some actually do try to help people with healing potions and protective oils. They even know how to extend life a few decades! Such wise herbalists are still burdened by the evil reputation of their brothers.

Last are the Taoist wizards, strange masters of illusion. They appear only when seeking a new student, when they want to teach someone a lesson or when they are bored and feel like pranking the greedy and self-centered. Taoist wizards often take on the appearance of drunks or beggars. They create entire ullusionary worlds for their targets, where everything obeys the wizard's wishes. He can throw monsters and disasters at his target - or allow them to live entire lifetimes of wealth and power...or poverty and misfortune. It all depends on the wizard's goals, but it never takes more than a few moments of real time. Taoist wizards are presumably able to use other kinds of magic, too, they just prefer illusions.

We return one last time to Hoi Mao Qian, who has come to deliver an ultimatum to his own father: Pay your taxes or be destroyed. His father begs for leniency, and Mao says that he will do what he can. However, when he returns to the demon Two Ox, Mao reveals his true intentions: he has no love for his father, the man who sold him into slavery at the palace. He uses his magic to set fire to the house and field, and also to burn his father to death. He then orders TWo Ox to kill any survivors and destroy anything larger than a small stone. What a nice kid!

We now learn the four rules of the Lotus. There are only four to achieve success over all things. They are the secrets of the Lotus, more potent than sorcery and more deadly then demons. The first rule is simple: Trust no one . Filial piety is a lie. Your ancestors want to sap your strength. Do not let them. Use them if you can. Cut them off if you cannot. This applies even to the Lotus - those under you will want to advance at your expense, and those above you fear you and want to keep you down. No one looks out for you. The second rule: Strike first . ACt, do not react. Betray, do not be betrayed. Do not be so foolish as to believe it will not happen. It will. You must choose: victim or victor.

Third: Retain control over every situation . It is not easy. There will be those stronger, smarter and faster than you. You must establish your power and slap down any who oppose you. When your foes are better, find their weakness and push. Hard. Attack decisively and destroy them. The final and greatest secret: Learn the ways of subtlety . This is the most influential ability. Subtlety will win every battle, no matter the odds. Never reveal your true goals, knowledge or abilities. Feed on the strong, exploit the weak, steal the credit of others and leave blame on their doorsteps. Turn your foes against each other and destroy them without any effort. These are the secrets of the Lotus.

Next time: Playing a Lotus.

No. I have waited years for this moment.

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Feng Shui: No. I have waited years for this moment.

There's basically two types of Lotus campaign. The book names these 'enlightenment' and 'justified.' In the enlightenment campaign, you learn you've been backing the bad guys over the course of the game, discover the Lotus's immorality and eventually rebel, taking up arms against your former masters. Possibly you join the Dragons or Guiding Hand. In this sort of campaign, you only slowly introduce the horrific side of the Lotus, with rmors and hints, upping the ante each session but mixing it with reasons to stay - for example, via offers of power or revenge. In the justified campaign, the characters remain loyal to the Lotus, even after learning its true nature, because something justifies that true nature. Maybe the PCs want to change the futre and the Lotus is a better choice than the alternatives.

Whatever the reason, justified campaigns should downplay the bad side of the Lotus and emphasize what good they do. (They...do some good. Really.) Focus on the evils committed by other factions and local groups, and make sure the PCs feel they're making a difference for the better. Hand out power and honors, and while you can feel free to create moral dilemmas, make the Lotus's methods seem justified - at least to the characters. In very rare cases, you might have a mixed campaign, where some party members rebel and others remain loyal. This can be interesting for a session or two, but will eventually destroy the group - so best to have the PCs pick one side or the other and retire any PCs on the wrong side, turning them into NPCs. Perhaps they will be the party's greatest foes.

Well, I'm sold.

So, why would someone really want to join the Lotus? Four main reasons: power, expansion, defense and personal enemies. Power 's the easy one. For some people it's just better to be the kneebreaker than the one with broken knees. You know which way the wind blows and you're upwind of the smell. Sorcerers and monsters often seek out the Lotus in hopes of gaining some power. Expansion is pretty simple: you're a Han loyalist. You want to see the Han dynasty's power spread across the globe. A simple look is all you need tok now that all other lands are barbarians...but while you hate to admit it, foreign merchants have useful goods. Surely the Empire can only grow more glorious when you civilize these people. Or maybe you've seen or heard about the future. You know the Han are the greatest rulers since the Sage Emperors, and you know the future will bring only decline and decadence, then foreign occupation. You want to prevent that future, and hope that by expanding both now nad into the future, you can build a true Golden Age, an age that will last ten thousand generations.

Defense is pretty similar. You want to protect the Empire from threats - both local in the form of bandits, rebels and barbarians and foreign. If these forces are left unchecked, they will destroy the Han. You can't let that happen. And Personal Enemies ? You just hate someone else more. Typically one of the other factions. Maybe you're a monster who escaped the Architects, or a sorcerer trying to save magic from the Ascended. Maybe the Jammers blew up most of your home village, or you're tired of living under the stifling Hand. Working for the Lotus lets you fight them on a regular basis, and that's all you wanted.

A Lotus campaign doesn't hgave to be all eunuch sorcerers. Sure, some players will want that, but there's other parts - the private armies, for example, hire many folks. Such people usually don't know about the true Lotus, they just got orders from their direct boss. This could be a mysterious stranger, a magistrate or a rich merchant. The PCs may work for the good of the Empire or to line their own pockets. Those inside the Lotus should be Thorns, allowing them to operate with some degree of autonomy. Probably Fire or Wood, as those are most flexible and independent. For a really unusual game, you could play Pillars of Heaven or Silent Eyes. The book does suggest that Lotuses should have to deal with uncomfortable moral decisions, though - this is the Lotus, and demons are a matter of course, as are evil sorcerers. Anyway. The Lotus tend not to trust their underlings, and they're famous for setting up spells to, say, explode the heads of the disloyal. PCs may choose to have this done to them, in which case it is important to define how the spell triggers and what it does. This gives the PCs a harder time of rebelling, and they'll have to find a way to undo the spell or exploit a loophole in it. Of course, this can also be ignored - maybe the PCs lucked out and didn't get a brain bomb spell put in.

Now, let's talk mechanics. The book starts by listing magical artifacts. You can't start with one, and the GM is within his rights to not let you have some of these, as they can be very, very potent. Artifacts will not work anywhere that has a Sorcery modifier of -2 or worse; in these junctures, they behave exactly as normal, nonmagical items of their type, and have no special powers to use.

The Amulet of the Turtle is a plain wooden amulet, which comes to life when worn by someone with the Sorcery skill. It absorbs wound points equal to the bearer's Sorcery action value. Any further wound points will shatter the amulet forever. However, it heals 5 absorbed wound points at sunrise every day. The Bow of the Tiger Hunt is a Hsiung-nu weapon, carried by the legendary hero Baun of the Cunaan clan. LEgend says it was given to Baun's parents by a mysterious stranger, instructing them to give it to the youth on his first hunt. That hunt coincided with the retirement of the chief, Gural. Gural was old and wanted to see the Cunaan strong, but knew he could not lead. Instead, he said he would give his seat to whoever could kill a tiger on the next hunt. For five days, the hunters rode, catching many quail and deer, but no tigers. At last, halfway through the sixth day, they spotted a tiger - but it attacked.

Baun watched as the hunters fell to the tiger, ignoring their arrows. At last, it turned upon him, and as those around him fled, he stood his ground. Baun nocked an arrow and let fly. He fired twice more before the arrow struck. The first landed in the tiger's neck. The second hit next to it, and the third hit the shoulder. With a bloody roar, it leapt at Baun - but when it landed at his feet, it was dead. Baun returned to the camp, carryin the tiger. For twenty-five years, he led the Cunaan clan to glory. The Bow of the Tiger HGunt is ivory-carved with gold inlay, and it is easy to fire on foot or horseback. When using it, each attack takes only two shots instead of three, which can be further reduced by Lightning Reload. The wielder gets +1 to Guns rolls when attacking, and +2 if the target is an animal or transformed animal. (More on Guns rolls with bows later.)

The Flying Guillotine is a one-meter-diameter metal ring with sphinctering blades spiraling inwards. It was invented by the Lotus Metal division as a frontlines weapon of intimidation. It makes continued attacks when thrown until it drops over the target's neck and snips off the head. Some come with mesh bags to hold the severed heads, but most Lotus are not quite that dramtic. All Flying Guillotines make a high-pitched howling whistle when in use. It takes 3 shots to throw a Guillotine and 1 to reset it after it hits. It has a Ref of 2 and attacks every three shots with an AV of 8 and a damage of 15. If the attack kills the target, it slices off the head. The Guillotine then becomes inert until reset and thrown again. If the target dies before it hits, it will choose a random enemy to target. Defensively, it is an unnamed character with a defensive AV of 10. If "killed", it drops to the ground and becomes inert until reset and rethrown. Most Flying Guillotines are keyed to a specific user and cannot be reset by anyone else. Anyone with the Sorcery skill can roll it at diff 10 to spend an hour re-keying the Guillotine to someone else.

Jade Armor is...armor made of jade, originally designed as burial armor for the founder of the Tse household in Heaven. However, the Tse ancestors blessed it and returned it to their descendants, to protect them. It appeared when bandits threatened the home of Tse Tsing Jinluan, materializing by the fire. Tsing put on the armor and took up his sword, defending his home singlehandedly against a dozen raiders. Since then, it has been passed among servants and members of the Tse family. No one knows if it will work for someone not tied to them. Future historians know that the Tse will be important in the destruction of the Eunuchs, and the Lotus are very interested in acquiring the armor as a result. The armor itself feels stiff and heavy, but when worn, it flows like water. It gives Armor 4 and only subtracts 1 from Agility. The wearer does not need food, water or sleep and is immune to all disease, sickness and Impairment. They also heal 1 wound point at the start of each sequence. Unfortunately, wearing it for long periods as dangerous. If you wear it for more than two days straight, it takes a diff 10 Will roll to remove, which goes up by 1 every additional day. You then begin transforming into a supernatural creature, gaining Creature Powers but becoming a cold, calculating and singleminded defender of the Tse household. Previous friendships and goals cease to matter, and after a month, you become a ghostly warder and the armor returns to the household. This transformation cannot be reversed. You first gain Immunity: Bullets and Creature Powers +1. The, each week you get another schtick, starting with Damage Immunity: Melee Weapons and heading through Insubstantial, Flight and finally Armor +6. Once you have ARmor, the transformation is complete. The only way to stop it is to remove the armor and never see it again. As long as you can see it, you'll do anything to get it back. Over the centuries, five have become ghostly warders, and they continue to watch the Tse household.

The Jade Javelin is a spear with a jade tip on a wooden shaft set with carved jade rings. Most of the time, it is a normal spear that deals Strength+4 damage. Once its power is invoked, though, it can be thrown with a +10 to the roll. Each owner may only use this power once, ever . Once the javelin's power is invoked, it no longer properly responds in your hand and you get -2 to all attacks with it. The owner can pass the javelin on by simply giving it away willingly. Taking it from a dead body or by theft does not grant ownership, and a new link must be forged with a diff 10 Sorcery roll. The Jade Javelin is impossible to break by normal means, and legend says it will only shatter under the heel of an imperial dragon.

The Living Staff is a simple wooden staff created by the alchemist Chin Dauning. However, when activated, it writhes and grows in the wielder's hands, taking on a life of its own. The wielder must feed it 4 chi points per sequence (at no shot cost, but it must be done on your first shot in the sequence). This allows the staff to make an additional attack at the same time the wielder attacks, with both attacks hitting the same target. The staff has a Martial Arts action value of 14. During sequences in which it is fed chi, the staff's damage is (User's Strength+4) as it sends sharp tendrils or spines into the target. However, the Living Staff must feed continuously on chi to survive. Each morning, it will drain 1 point from someone's Chi score. This is temporary, returning after 8 hours of sleep, and need not be from its wielder. If the staff does not feed, it becomes dormant. After five days dormant, it will die. Additionally, the saff is instantly destroyed if it ever enters anywhere with a negative Sorcery modifier. Most people who've sene the staff claim it is intelligent, and sometimes it seems to warn its master of danger by vibrating slightly. More rarely, it will self-activate by stealing chi from its wielder (causing 5 wound points) in a desperate attempt to save its master. However, it once drained enough Chi to kill its master. No one knows why. No one knows how smart the staff is or what it wants. Perhaps it secretly controls its wielders, or perhaps it is like a puppy, eager to please.

The Pocket Demon is a portable monster, folded like a piece of paper for easy transport. At its smallest, it will fit in a wallet, pocket or belt pouch. While folded, it can do nothing. It looks like a piece of red paper. When unfolded, it will obey the commands of anyone who unfolds it, folding back up after it completes its task. It must sleep while folded for at least eight hours a day, or else it will automatically fold itself up. It takes three shots to unfold the demon, which has no stats provided.

The Sword of the Dragon King was forged from the scales and blood of the Dragon King Anchen Hanoun. He spent ten years crafting this green metal blade, reworking it over and over until it shimmered like moonlight on still waters. When Anchen Hanoun's daughter fell in love with the human Chuang Ko, Anchen agreed to marry the two and the sword was part of the dowry, a guarantee that his son-in-law would rise above all other mortals. For twenty years, Chuang Ko wielded the blade with honor, clearing out all kinds of monsters from the land around Anchen's lake. He fought a dozen great battles, creating and destroying kingdoms. Finally, after a life of heroism, he died an old man and Anchen reclaimed the weapon. He knew other heroes would wield the sword, but he did not want them to overshadow his son-in-law's legend, so he buried the blade deep at the bottom of a mountain cave. Here, stories grow vague. Some say that 500 years later, new heroes uncovered the blade. Some say it is still buried. Whatever the case, the Sword of the Dragon King allows its wielder to breathe water and move about freely underwater, swimming as fast as they can run and even walking on the water's surface if it is still. Further, when they emerge from the water, they will be bone-dry. The sword can also summon rain. The wielder makes a Fortune roll with a difficulty based on the climate (2 for humid areas or rainy season, 10 for a desert or drought). Success brings rain. A fortune roll (at diff 10 on a floodplain or 20 in a desert) will summon a minor flood, damaging simple buildings and washing out roads. It becomes a major flood for +3-5 difficulty. When used in combat, the sword gives +1 to Martial Arts rolls, or +2 underwater. Damage is as normal for a sword.

Now, new sorcery rules! The big one is Ritual Magic . The basic rules of magic handle most situations, most of the time, but sometimes you want to stretch your power. Through study, planning and organization, a sorcerer can perform unimaginable feats. These rules allow a sorcerer to do that by gaining temporary additional Magic points with which to fuel more powerful spells. The first step in a ritual is Research . You have to spend at least one hour going through scrolls or books, speaking with spirits, meditating or otherwise performing an appropriate action. If you don't do this, you can't get any extra magic points. After researching, you roll Sorcery with a difficulty based on the maximum number of extra magic points you want. You must spend all those points on your spell or they are lost. Diff 5 for 1 extra magic point, 10 for 3, 20 for 10, 30 for 30. It's a weird scale.

After you determine your maximum, the GM decides what you have to do to earn them. This may include lengthy, interruptable casting times, unusual spell components or whatever the GM wants. The GM doesn't have to offer you your full plate of points, but should give at least half of the maximum. The more requirements you meet, the more points you get. If you don't like the GM's ritual, you can try again, but any additional research gets a cumulative +5 to the difficulty of the research roll. Research is only good for one casting, too. If you want to do the spell again, you have to research again, and the GM may limit how long you can wait before casting. Alignment of auspicious stars and all that. The GM is told that if the player wants to use a ritual to derail the plot, do something boring or do something too subtle, either choose automatic failure or give them ridiculous conditions to meet. If they are trying to use a ritual to by pass obstacles, make sure the conditions they have to meet are equally difficult and entertaining.

You can also bring in other sorcerers to help with rituals! The more you have, the more magic points you get. Everyone in the group must be have the appropriate Sorcery schtick, though not necessarily the appropriate special effect for it. One of the casters is the leader and makes all rolls. 1 extra magician gives +1 magic point, 10 gives +2, 20 gives +3, and so on for every additional 10 casters. Also, both the main caster and any assistants may spend their own personal Magic points on the spell. The leader's are spent as normal, while assistants must collectively spend 10 points to give the spell 1 point. Round to the nearest 10.

If you really, really, really need power fast and are an asshole , you can also perform a human sacrifice. You get a number of magic points equal to the victim's Magic plus 1, which can only be used for the ritual spell and for no other purpose. If not used, they're lost. You can sacrifice anyo