Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Towards Bounded AC

Secret rule: You can play one of these in any Vain the Sword game you're invited to.
art by Daniel Romanovsky
“Every new order requires enemies, and must preserve its enemies until it has attained perfect command of its power. Those it cannot control nor antagonize it must destroy right away.” -the Elder Adversary Passage, variation 12b

Orbseeker

At every level, get +1 MD.
Starting Equipment: no orbs ;( , a bronze mirror, rough robes, and a hunting sword
  • A: Orb Quest, Spells
  • B: Domain
  • C: Imprison Horror
  • D: One With Two
Orb Quest: You cannot have more MD than you have orbs. If you're brandishing a magical item, sword or no, deal +1d6 damage when attacking with something in your other hand.

Domain: Every orb has a domain. Take 1 HP damage to commune with an orb, seeing either clear visions of the present related to the orb's domain or cryptic visions of the past related to its domain. Magical orbs have domains like "doom" or "valor," mundane orbs have domains like "the forest I came from" or "men with beards and glasses."

Imprison Horror: When you defeat a foe, you may test your LORE. If you win, you may place them inside an orb, trapping them until conditions you set are satisfied.

One With Two: While wielding two orbs, you may cast two spells per turn. If the occasion corresponds to one of the orb's domains, MD return to your pool on a roll of 1-4.

Spells: Orbseekers start with knowledge of certain spells. Roll a d10 three times to see which this one knows. If you get doubles or triples have the DM improve the spell in a way that makes it generate interesting problems. When in doubt, have the spell confer a temporary beneficial mutation.

d10 Spells Learned by Orbseekers
1. Dispel magic (negate up to [dice] magical effects for [sum] minutes) This ritual was invented by the orbseeker Kiros of Ancién.
2. Sapphire Snake Bolt (fire a beam 150 ft., bouncing up to [dice] times. Targets save or take [sum] damage.) This was the signature spell of orbseeker Mega during the Spellburners’ War.
3. Blade Atomic Blazing (empower a weapon. It casts colorful light [sum] feet, damages ghosts, and inflicts [dice] fatigue on a successful hit for [sum] minutes.) The spell is powered by a great fiery furnace deep underground, tended by the remnants of the Reservoir Project so that it does not fail from this earth.
4. Talisman of Balance (cannot be knocked prone and jump up to 30 feet for [sum] minutes.) This spell was used as bait by the Tiger Lord of Lyt to entrap the orbseekers Horem and Ispus.
5. Remote Viewing (see any space up to [sum]x10 feet away.) Orbseeker Hytham learned this spell from a colony of intelligent clams.
6. Speak with Magic (lasts [sum]x[sum] minutes.) This is a primordial spell. All herons know it, and orbseekers learned it from them.
7. Pain Sink (heal everyone present [sum]. Get [dice] fatigue.) Orbseeker Zaldo uncovered this spell while bearing the curséd orb Jseno.
8. Metal to Glass (turn nonmagical metal into glass. [dice] equipment slot’s worth.) This spell was used to shatter the Black Gates of Gog and Magog, for which the orbseeking order Cyroman was blamed. None of that ancient order now remain.
9. Craft Masterfully (forge arcane metal and a chemical catalyst into a magic weapon with up to [dice] negotiated effects.) This technique was granted by a spirit to the False Witch of Dis Mons and later taught to the orbseeker Oluwakanyinsola.
10. Vantablade (summon a light-eating one-handed khopesh into your hand. For each die invested, choose one effect: 1. Foes attacking you treat light levels as dimmer than they otherwise are. 2. You get advantage on your attacks with the vantablade. 3. deal +1d4 damage with the first wound inflicted by the vantablade each round. 4. the blade shrieks and drinks blood, causing a morale test for worldly foes when it is summoned and when it slays a significant enemy.) This is the sword of Cyril, though the summoning is of unknown origin.
Most folk do not think often of orbseekers, but there are signs of their wonders and follies throughout the world. Hepton, the great city that used to be a crater that used to be a great city. Fobos Fon Di, the lighthouse leaning farther and farther into the ocean. Ustija’s wastes, where the gilded battle garb of a generation lies untouched under the hateful vigil of a great tower. The Cloven Hill, the Shattered Gate, the Fort Solitarie— all remnants of a latter-age titanomachy. The Trench of Zaldo, where the decontrace of several fateful noble lines loiter in anticipation of destiny. The chapterhouse in the last safe place, where all the world’s impality is spoken of in a mirror.

d13 Items in the possession of Orbseekers
1. A +1 leather attila jacket, its back covered in a tapestry showing the messiah Mega’s adoption by a Principality.
2. Triptych fan of white ink on dark blue paper, showing 1: vast destruction radiating out from a sphere, 2: five figures entrapping a sphere, and 3: one figure inside a sphere, destruction radiating out from them.
3. Narcomanta, a drug banner of heavy purple fabric interlaced with white-metal links. The charge is that of a bull with its horns torn off. When mounted on a pole coming from a harness, the wearer may share the effects of any drugs, visions, potions, and delusions with those nearby. Warriors of Solitarium test their courage upon seeing this banner. On a failure they flee, on a success they are enraged.
4. Ash-black tattoo of a city’s towers, situated so the tallest of them ends at one of the orbseeker’s extremities— their throat, their palm, their heel. When ambushed or deeply disturbed, a blast of fire emerges from this extremity. This allows them to strike first against their foes, but they must save or torch those who shock them but must not be destroyed.
5. The Elder Adversary Passage, variation 3a “Saberly Saints and Angels Contend”. A book written during a bloody and tyrannous time that explains the mortal need for an enemy and the role of mortal conflict in the plans of gods. The cover is decorated with gold leaf, and has an adamant lock.
6. Peach brandy, three-score winters old now, held in an amber flask. Three sips missing— this is taken as evidence that a small amount of the orbseeker Syroul’s saliva is held within. Possibly, allegedly, turns undead as a saint’s relic.
7. Worn linen map of the continent, with several points marked, the chapterhouses of ordseeking orders now thought extinct. Each is marked with a number from 20 to 600.
8. A bargeman’s hat, the official cap of river boat authorities. From a distance, resembles the official cap of most other authorities.
9. The Elder Adversary Passage, variation 6e, “Wherefore Dark Words”. A vellum codex written during a bloody and tyrannous time that explains the mortal need for an enemy and the basis of origin of intelligence in rhetoric. This copy has strange passages underlined and numbers written in the margins.
10. The Elder Adversary Passage, variation 15a, “Someone’s always starting a jiz”. A pamphlet written during a bloody and tyrannous time that explains the mortal need for an enemy in a conversational, vulgar tone. One fold of the pamphlet has been torn out, leaving only half of the printer’s address.
11. 1d4+1 doses of Gigre of of Glistering Batons, a pink-powder drug. When on it, you can fire a laser from one eye at a time— left, right, and inner. This blinds the eye until the next sunrise. While on the drug, you cannot perceive animals and touching the dead is unclean to you.
12. The ornate hickory wheelchair of the orbseeker Syroul. Antique but of a prescient, comfortable design. Turns undead as a saint's relic.
13. GOOD WILL PLAGUE. He is a reflective, rosy estoc with a trilobite fossil in his stone hilt and a smalling fitting in the pommel to accommodate an orb. As long as an orb has been fitted into him, each missed strike against a foe gives you insight about the way they think, conferring +1 to hit, damage, and psychologize about them. This is cumulative by DM’s discretion. He is fatalistic and conservative.

The original write-up for orbseekers did not spend any time trying to explain why orbs are being sought. It took it as self-evident, and to the wise it is. An orb is a primordial shape, something fundamental and most-true to the three-dimensional world we live in. The only shape more powerful than a sphere is a hypersphere, which we cannot seek because we already live in a hypersphere, i.e. the cosmos.

The orbseekers as a group are not well-described, because they are difficult to describe fully. Lore of the orders state that the original orbquest was undertaken by a group called Kyrogalt, the Globe of Cyrus as it is rendered in the modern tongue, but the loudest orders to claim this also claim to be the original Globe of Cyrus. They served as advisors to kings and sealed away great evils. But in time petty differences formed cracks in the Globe, and when the orbseeker Cyril proposed that it was time to deploy sealed evils in service to greater ends, the first schism rent the order that was never made whole. Some say Cyrus himself is still in hiding, waiting to guide an heir in reuniting the orbseekers, but in truth his bones are on display in Saint Ustija’s Basilica. 


The intended mechanical experience of the orbseeker is one of vulnerability. You need to strive to acquire orbs and magical items if you want to have any abilities at all, and even if you luck into finding some early you’re going to have to tend them and protect them for as long as you shall live.

Ouroboros of the Orb Oracle

(The bottom and top connect.)

The location of the Cave of the Orb Oracle is commonly known among the folk of the nearby city-state, but typically only kings and heroes are fool enough to consult him on questions of the future. He offers true prophecy at no charge, but some whisper his pronouncements cause rather than warn of doom. Player characters may enter the “cave” on accident, to consult the oracle, to assassinate the oracle, or simply to loot his home of treasures. The walls are made of interlocking oddly-shapped bricks. The floors are worn lime-concrete, with long scrape marks down each hallway (from Níde). Unless otherwise stated, any given area is unlit. Any coinage is crudely re-minted into the visage of the orb oracle. Whenever time passes, roll a d6:

1. Níde the turtle, making a scraping sound as it goes. Key glued to its underside

2. 2d4 wheelers. Try to be scary because they have no real means of hurting anyone.

3. 1d4+1 orbseekers (-1 reaction) in an adventuring party. Hostile to perceived allies of the orb oracle.

4. 1d6 bottle gnomes. One will carry a candelabrum. May seek to convince passers-by to save Ainsley at point 8.

5. Blind fateman, who can make fey bargains and grant wishes. Not overtly malicious but has a harsh sense of irony

6. Pilgrim (+1 reaction) walking the dungeon path in meditation. Carries a candelabrum. Ignored by dungeon hazards.

1. Tarjani, who seeks the unity of god. Her nose in a book of comparative theology. Wears many clinking charms.

2. Aadhan, who is feeling intense personal turmoil. Wears the armor and plume of a brave carnumban, but with an empty scabbard. Sometimes leaves a trail of petals as he plucks roses nervously.

3. Pratik, who wants to reconcile the good and cruel nature of mortals. Will push up his pince nez as he readies his brace of pistols, opining it may be best to end conscious life in the world.

4. Philia, who wants to be one with her love, now departed. The depths of her sorrow drain health from those around her. Accompanied by a thigh-height grotesque.

5. Karda, who seeks to reconcile her family with her own desires. Will hire the party to assassinate her prescribed fiance, or offer a dowry of up to 150 gold coins and a silk-white mare to a particularly beautiful and available member of the party.

6. The Wolf Woman, who seeks the end of endless roads. Clear death wish, assuming deeper oblivions are not possible. Wears the swords of her enemies.

When it feels like there should be an interesting item in a spot not mentioned, roll a d6 for random loot

1. The Certain Globe

2. The Brazen Eye

3. A glob of life

4. Eye of granite

5. The Inhuman sphere

6. A Sphere of Wrecking


Points of Interest

  1. Entrance. Dozens of technicolor signs, Diagram (circle with a dot labelled “you are here”)

    1. Reading the signs: WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE, THE EMPIRE IS DOOMED, NOTHING IS SO BAD AS ALL THAT, THE WORLD IS ENDING, IT WILL PASS, THINGS ARE TENDING BACK TOWARDS NORMAL, YOU WILL LEAVE THIS PLACE, THIS TOO WILL PASS. etc.

    2. Listening: around either corner, the same murmurs of conversation (point 2)

  2. Turtle door. Conspicuous door (circular, picture of a turtle, large keyhole). Two guards (either bottle gnomes or wheelers) More signs (like point 1).

  3. Pit. 20’ deep. Ledges (4’, worn, to each side of the pit), Shattered brass and glass at the bottom (two bottle gnomes that fell) Glittering rocks in a muddy puddle (fool’s gold)

  4. Wheelers’ den. Lit by three wall sconces. Wheelers sleeping (1d4+4) Central nest (3d4 platinum wheeler eggs worth 10 gold coins each, half-price if broken), pile of fine clothes (heaped against eastern wall)

    1. Searching the clothing pile: 55 gold coins, potion labelled with a skull (when opened, disgorge a hostile soft-boned skeleton), and an ornate knife (glass steel blade, tiger’s eye in the hilt).

  5. Illusory hallway. Optical illusion (seems to go on forever)

    1. Entering the hallway: everything is less colorful to sight. Characters loose all sense of temperature (to cover up magma heat)

    2. Proceeding down the hallway: after 70’, drops into a pit of magma.

    3. Examining nearby doors: light and laughter coming from point 6. Snoring coming from point 4.

  6. Oracle’s family. Cozy furnishings. Four of the Orb Oracle’s family members (matching sweaters, Felicitas the spouse, Kayina the adult daughter, Archem the teen son, Eklaka the mother and spokeswoman

    1. If party is friendly: family will offer a drink and a place to rest for an hour

    2. If party is hostile: Felicitas will reach for a hidden crossbow as Eklaka calls for guards who arrive in 1d4 rounds.

    3. If the room is searched: PCs find several rations (tea, raisin bread, jarred fruits), a dozen candles, a plumed helmet with rusted edges (lets you see and interact with Death) a bridle with black-silver bells (summons a faithful yet somehow evil horse), and a box with a terrified face embossed above the latch (contains a black hole)

  7. Rotary Room. Seeming semi-hemispherical shaped room (actually a sphere bisected by the floor and a central wall, 30’ radius) Door in the far wall (loop of worn rope for a handle, portal actually extends below the floor) Shattered clay lying strewn around the room (shards of urns and the like)

    1. If the door is opened, the floor rotates 180 degrees, likely dropping anyone in the room 30 feet.

  8. Big clumsy beholder. When approaching, the sound of soft weeping. Giant floating scaly orb (central eye, several eyes on tendrils, a circular bottom-mouth), comely youth chained to a pillar (Ainsley, a magic user, weeping, chains are corroded), viscera and half-digested bodies (adventurers)

    1. Freeing Ainsley: The beholder will try to stop you. If given water and time to recover, Ainsley knows flouridate water, geas blasphemous, and make feral. In disposition, evil by most standards. Ainsley will seek revenge on the Orb Oracle, who was fine with the magician’s imprisonment because he knows that they are destined to fall in love with their savior. [Here is where I acknowledge that’s pretty fucked up.]

  9. Trove. Ingots of silver (worth 300 gold), fine cloths (samite, silk, ciclatoun), fine art (large painting, clay statue of a winking pig, model of a nude model (Felicitas). Small sword stuck between some ingots (pommel with a purple stone inlaid), Ancient velum scroll (Calling Song for Comets), strange artifacts (motorcycle, eCigs, pokemon cards, jammed gatling gun, theremin, tobacco pipe that helps you do cool vape tricks)

    1. Inspecting the sword: They are named SINGLE CAUSAL CONNECTION, a light seax inky, with a knuckle-duster guard. In the hilt, a small purple stone (domain: pacifism) that contains the war-drake Ulur-Cantoom. Crackles with inky electricity. Farsighted.

    2. Inspecting the painting: portrait of one orbseeker slaying another in a wizardly duel. Titled Cyril contends with his student.

    3. Inspecting the pig statue: has a hole in one ear. Shattering the statue reveals dozens of shiny, flawless gems and precious stones.

    4. Keeping watch: a pair of reflective eyes watch from the darkness 60’ away (tiger from point 11).

    5. If the party has attacked the oracle’s family (point 6): the oracle (point 12) will be in this room with 1d4+2 bottle gnomes and attack on sight.

  10. Sitting room. Chairs, firepit, armoires, carpets, sealskin bag on a coffee table 

    1. Inspecting bag: contains a curséd ring with a quartz crystal eye. If the ring is put on, it cannot be removed until the bearer gives up everything that doesn’t belong to them. Every 1d4 days, they are attacked by a dreadful hellhound.

      1. Keeping watch: a pair of reflective eyes watch from the darkness 30’ away (tiger from point 11). Dim light from point 12.

  11. Tiger room. Tiger lounges on a pile of warm glassy orbs.

    1. Speaking to the tiger: it has human-intelligence but seldom speaks. Utterly loyal to the orb oracle.

    2. Touching an orb: the character is given a vision of some portentous event.

  12. Living quarters. Single candle (by a desk). The Orb Oracle, unsurprised to see the party. Sofa. hard candy. Small library (liberal arts, supernatural bestiaries, X-files). scroll of non-euclidean in a beautifully carved acacia scroll case.

    1. If asked for prophecy on a particular question: will quickly oblige with suspiciously specific wording.

    2. If characters have stolen from his trove: may allow them to keep certain gifts, but will insist the bulk remain with him.

    3. Otherwise: play by ear


Bestiary

Beholder (solitary)

4 DEF, 20 MOR, 14 THEWS, speaks Lizardese and Stygian.

Bite/Bite: 1d8/1d8

Eyestalks: Three of the beholder’s eyes possess a magic. Each has 8 MOR and 3 MD with which it can cast one spell each: Agony Beam, Telekinesis, and Dispel Magic. If all three stalks are severed, the beholder dies.

Clumsy: announce the beholder’s actions before other characters act in the round, then allow other characters to act before the beholder’s turn.

Monstrous Strength: has a 5-in-6 chance to perform feats of strength

Veteran: doesn’t lose morale for witnessing or perpetrating violence

Smells like stomach acid, mildew, and afterbirth

Sounds reptilian chitters. Hovers silently.

Instincts to look at beautiful things and defend its territory

Desires art objects, to prevent interlopers from freeing its prisoner


art by Ben Thompson

Bottle Gnome (1d4+1 appearing)

4 DEF, 1 MOR, 12 THEWS, speaks Antediluvian and a few words of Common

Lucerne Hammer: 1d10 damage

Sunder: weapon maneuver that dents armor. Target tests their GRACE or the armor’s value is halved.

Potion Belly: Lapping up the fluid from a shattered bottle gnome heals 3 MOR, which can be distributed among multiple drinkers. Alternatively, a DM can roll on a random potion effect table.

Smells like candles, soil, and sugar

Sounds like scintillating glass, hollow clacking. Voice high and officious.

Instincts to keep the ouroboros in order

Desires to be useful, to convince someone to save the magic user at point 8.


Fateman (solitary)

2 DEF, 8 MOR, 9 THEWS, speaks all languages

Kung Fu: 1d4+4 damage

Magician: 4 MD and the spells make invisible, glammer, read thoughts, and plane shift.

Fey Bargain: can promise almost anything, if the price is commensurate. Promises made to and by him are binding.

Smells like cornhusks

Sounds like cornfields rustling in the wind

Instincts to gather interesting objects, to avoid fighting

Desires to scare away strangers, to avoid the orb oracle’s ire


Family Member (4 appearing)

2 DEF, 6 MOR, 10 THEWS, speaks Common

Unarmed: 1d4 damage

Magician: doesn’t know any spells, but has 1 MD and can psychically duel magicians who meet their eyes

Smells like butter and cotton

Sounds like a malfunctioning bicycle. Bossy calls and high shrieks, 

Instincts to gather interesting objects, to avoid fighting

Desires to live comfortably, to encourage pilgrims walking the ouroboros


Orb Oracle (solitary)

2 DEF, 4 MOR, 7 THEWS, speaks all languages

Staff: 1d6 damage

Seer: Cannot be surprised, knows all that will happen except the event of his own death

Magician: 4 MD and the spells hatch pain, presage doom, and eyes scarlet blazing.

Smells like hard candy and mango vape juice

Sounds studious, precise and unconcerned of speech

Instincts to gather interesting objects, to avoid fighting

Desires to scare away strangers, to avoid the orb oracle’s ire


Pilgrim (solitary)

2 DEF, 6 MOR, 10 THEWS, speaks Common

Unarmed: 1d4 damage

Armored (Aadhan only): Defense is 6.

Sorrow (Philia only): Every minute spent moping, all nearby take 1 damage.

Armed (Wolf Woman only): Carries, among others, a notched bastard sword, 1d8 damage.

Smells like candlewax and dust

Sounds soft and resigned to waiting

Instincts to aid and avoid

Desires enlightenment, the end of anxiety


Tiger (solitary)

4 DEF, 10 MOR, 14 THEWS, speaks Common and Thief’s Cant

Rake/Bite: 1d6/1d8

Ambush: double damage against those not paying full attention to you.

Feline Dexterity: has a 4-in-6 chance to sneak, squeeze, or climb

Veteran: doesn’t lose morale for witnessing or perpetrating violence

Canny Familiar: three times before midnight, add a d4 to a roll. If the oracle is within grasp, you can replace a MD he rolls with the result of one of these d4 rolls.

Smells of musk

Sounds like nothing at all, or like a world-filling roar

Instincts to stay warm and lounge around

Desires to protect the orb oracle


Wheeler (2d4 appearing)

2 DEF, 4 MOR, 7 THEWS, speaks Common

Headbutt: 1d3 damage

Roll Out: move at double speed and jump 30 feet with a rolling start

Smells like grease, grime, and old leather

Sounds like a malfunctioning bicycle. Bossy calls and high shrieks, 

Instincts to gather interesting objects, to avoid fighting

Desires to scare away strangers, to avoid the orb oracle’s ire


Spellbook:

Agony Beam (inflict [sum] damage to up to [dice] targets, but if there's cover nearby they can save to dodge. Only hurts, does not damage anything.)
Eyes Scarlet Blazing (bright red smoke rolls from your eyes. For each die invested, choose one effect: 1. shoot ropey smoketrails to attack for 1d6 damage at anything within 100 feet. 2. see warm bodies through [highest] inches of material. 3. your eyes glow like spotlights, but don't spoil nightsight. 4. Those you start at must save vs. minor radiation sickness [highest]-6 days from now.)
Hatch Pain (destroy an orb to summon red-brown dust that is platonic pain. [dice] inventory slots.)
Presage Doom (Inflict an ill omen on a foe. If 1 die, a bog eye. If 2 dice, a banshee. If 3 dice, a grim. If 4 dice, a Helvid.)


Secret rule: You can play one of these in any Vain the Sword game you're invited to.
art by Daniel Romanovsky
“Every new order requires enemies, and must preserve its enemies until it has attained perfect command of its power. Those it cannot control nor antagonize it must destroy right away.” -the Elder Adversary Passage, variation 12b

Orbseeker

At every level, get +1 MD.
Starting Equipment: no orbs ;( , a bronze mirror, rough robes, and a hunting sword
  • A: Orb Quest, Spells
  • B: Domain
  • C: Imprison Horror
  • D: One With Two
Orb Quest: You cannot have more MD than you have orbs. If you're brandishing a magical item, sword or no, deal +1d6 damage when attacking with something in your other hand.

Domain: Every orb has a domain. Take 1 HP damage to commune with an orb, seeing either clear visions of the present related to the orb's domain or cryptic visions of the past related to its domain. Magical orbs have domains like "doom" or "valor," mundane orbs have domains like "the forest I came from" or "men with beards and glasses."

Imprison Horror: When you defeat a foe, you may test your LORE. If you win, you may place them inside an orb, trapping them until conditions you set are satisfied.

One With Two: While wielding two orbs, you may cast two spells per turn. If the occasion corresponds to one of the orb's domains, MD return to your pool on a roll of 1-4.

Spells: Orbseekers start with knowledge of certain spells. Roll a d10 three times to see which this one knows. If you get doubles or triples have the DM improve the spell in a way that makes it generate interesting problems. When in doubt, have the spell confer a temporary beneficial mutation.

d10 Spells Learned by Orbseekers
1. Dispel magic (negate up to [dice] magical effects for [sum] minutes) This ritual was invented by the orbseeker Kiros of Ancién.

3 comments:

  1. Naturally, the rival orbseekers should be of the party's level.

    ReplyDelete
  2. the start is at the bottom too up until dispel magic

    ReplyDelete