Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Classes 4

Fighters: Humanity discovered the Fighter class centuries ago in the Salurina, in the southern reaches of Ainesia, long before the ursyklon invaded.  His name was Thad the Conqueror, and he conquered all of Southern Ainesia in under five years.  His empire crumbled around him, but Thad's legacy wasn't his empire, but in the class he founded.

Versatile, the Fighter class spread quickly.  The second oldest Class to be discovered, Fighters spread their class to the farthest continents, creating thousands of variations as they went.  Brawlers, Samurai, Magi and other classes were spawned from Fighters, who used the basic techniques of the class to create their new classes.  Even the intrepid Gunslinger has its origin with Thad's original class.

In Crux, fighters form the foundation of the City Watch.  Others specialize, using archetypes and prestige kits to fit a dozen different positions as needed.  Fighters always have opportunities, even at the University, where some esoteric and specific techniques are taught alongside other academic ideas.  Perhaps counterintuitively, Fighters are likely members of the Esoterium Machina too, as they seek to preserve and collect combat knowledge of all kinds.  Their talents allow some masters to demonstrate Fighter techniques from thousands of years ago, as well as fostering new, exotic forms of fighting in the University's training yards.

Gunslingers: Dare.  That is the word that all Gunslingers live by, daring and acting without thinking.  Gunslingers trace their origin to only a century ago, when The Stranger took up her twin pistols to defend a small village from raiders.  She had no name, but other fighters would take up her class.  It soon spread throughout Othebea, Bor and Ith.  No one knows what happened to The Stranger- some claim she still wanders the roads, providing justice with gunpowder blasts, too quick to be caught by the Black Rose.

Gunslingers come to Crux to seek out work, often using their acts of daring to get employed in impulsive jobs.  Criminal or heroic, all gunslingers use their talents to get the one up on their foes.  Not a uncommon fixture in any endeavour in the City of Curses, Gunslingers of all kinds are to be found.  Even the Church of the Twins has relaxed its trepidations about firearms, heralding a new age to be dominated by a class of gun-toting swashbucklers.

Sidebar: Enforcers.
Some Gunslingers have a talent for scaring their foes without having to resort to violence.  Called Enforcers, this archetype specializes on leveraging intimidation into generating gold, defending their boss's turf or forcing opponents to stand down.  Born in Crux, Enforcers have carved a particular niche among Gunslingers in Crux.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The World's Labour League

In Ith, Unions have largely been banned.  Less than two decades before, a unsorcerous, unemployed workers rioted throughout the Magocracy.  They destroyed dozens of factories throughout Ith, targeting labor saving machinery and leaving owners and masters of such places frightened.  The Shothar's Act banned unions and collective bargaining, driving a variety of such organizations underground and unofficial, at least in name and action.

The World's Labour League was founded in Crux, out of a drive amongst a variety of secretive unions to work toward reversing parts of Shothar's Act.  Efforts by various Churches have at least made the World's Labour League legal as a club, but any act similar to striking or collective bargaining still remains illegal- anything like the riots of decades before is specified against still.

The variety of unions under the purview of the World's Labour League includes Adventuring Unions.   These adventuring unions have members amongst the poorer or more common-born adventurers.  Due to the WLL's international scale, frequently the easiest place to find adventurers to hire are in WLL meeting halls.  Of course, one doesn't always find the best or most honest of of adventurers there, but those adventurers associated with the WLL are never out of work.

Crux: Being the first branch of the World's Labour League, it is well known amongst all those in working class jobs, from adventurers to textile workers.  The organization, while having many members, has some of the nastier enemies in Crux.  They consider the People's Revolution to be rivals of a sort, as the People's Revolution wants to completely change Ith's government, while the WLL seeks only to obtain the right of collective bargaining again.  Conversely, Ithic Standard & Loan represents the banking powers that fund the masters and owners of the businesses that the WLL's unions work for.  It works constantly to keep the WLL from getting out of hand, fearful of the WLL organizing another series of riots.  Criminal organizations in Crux try to manipulate and draw the unions into their illegal activities, trying to garner the benefits of the WLL's sheer numbers of members.

Adventuring Unions
What follows are Crux's native own Adventuring Unions, the top three Unions.  Each of these operate in different areas of Crux, respecting the territory of the others.  Cruxites recognize these names, and will respect some more than others if it is one they know operates near them.  Other smaller unions exist in Crux.  Adventuring Unions operate much like Adventuring parties, except their scale is larger, coordinating multiple parties at a time.

The Skullmount Skulkers: Born of one of the earliest adventuring parties to go beneath the Skull upon which the University is build, the Skulkers specialize at serving the various needs and requests of the University.  Given their age, one would expect them to be the largest and most secure in their place in Crux.  Not true, the Skulkers have lost face over the last decade or so, their lackluster accomplishments leaving them barely able to keep off competition.  The ursyklon master of the Union, Arana "The Old Shovel" Brightblood has a eye for talent, but is growing more desperate with each loss.  She fears losing the trust and patronage of the University, which might let another Union usurp their place.

The Bleeding Union: The Blood Quarter's own, these Adventurers work for the vampires of Blood Quarter, although they sometimes do work for the City Watch as well. Dhampirs are frequent members of their number.  They aren't biased however.  The Inculti Clan vampire Paul the Heartless runs the Bleeding Unions, using the catchphrase 'Watch Us Bleed For You.'  Membership among the Bleeders is nefarious amongst other adventurers, with teams of both Antipaladins and Assassins working in tandem.

The Sisters' Union: Perhaps the strangest of the big three Union, the Sisters specifically only will perform jobs outside of Crux, employing vessels to carry their parties to their destinations.  The Sisters also operate with the blessing of the Singer of the Song, whose Divas comprise more than a fair number of the Sisters Union.  Also a entertainment union, the Sisters sometimes let both business mix in the teams they organize and put together. But in Crux, they only entertain.  Some say the seven sisters (the Greys) only hire their teams to perform secret jobs, illegal jobs in Crux that'd otherwise splash back on them.  No one has proven that yet.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Classes 3

Cavalier: The Ursyklon were dominant, having brought the Classes of Barbarian, Hunter, Ranger and Druid with them when they first began their conquests of the world.  The Cavalier was a human who learned to be a Ranger, but deviated from the class to create something new that no Ursyklon was quite prepared for at the time.  Known only as The Cavalier, he forged a new Kingdom, one known only to later generations as the Golden Empire.  It fell, leaving ruins of it throughout Ainesia, Othebea and Ith.

All Cavalier Orders appear in Crux.  A fair number of Cavaliers also work in the city watch, for the Esoterium Machina in a protective capacity, the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow or various militia that travel through the city from time to time.  Cavaliers of the Order of the Cockatrice have a long known association with the World Laborers' League, enjoying the idea of being protected in a union without necessarily having to expend that much effort to help them.

The Order of the Seal, however, roams the Undercity of Crux.  These Cavaliers have facial tattoos, glyphs from a empire long forgotten.  They protect a secret under the city, devoted to preventing it from being discovered by adventurers or others.  Some claim they work for the Prince, but the Esoterium Machina insists that they impede progress and knowledge without a higher power or accord.

Cleric:  Othebean Scholars record when the first Cleric became chosen.  An adept worshipping the Twins, Aza of Blackstone came to learn the secrets of her gods.  Through her faith she wielded the power of Domains for the first time, allowing the fledgling Church of the Twins to sweep across all of Othebea.

Clerics in this setting do not have to share the same alignment as their deity.  And Clerics can always select Good, Evil, Law or Chaos as a domain so long as they have the correct alignment that matches, in addition to the domains they would normally select from their deity.  Clerics in Crux worship all deities, from all alignments.  Crux is a melting pot of faiths and ideals, leading to a myriad selection of Clerics who all have their own variety of opinions.  Ithic law prevents the religious violence of prior eras, instead forcing heretics and true believers to hold heated debates, all the way from the University atop the skull down into the darkest corners of the Blood Quarter.

Druid: At first, Druids were the holy priests of Lupa, her chosen nature wardens.  Called the Urzahad by the Ursyklon, Ursyklon remember the first Druid: he was also the first true Ursyklon hero, known only as The Son.  The Son merged with nature, becoming part of the forests that Lupa sent him to protect first.  Druids followed along the Ursyklon, frequently becoming the very first class Humans learned from the Ursyklon.

Druids in Crux tend toward the most ancient, most feral parts of the city.  A few tend to gardens here and there, but there are districts in Crux that have grown wild, with nature overrunning them.  In the sewers, Wererat and Vampire Druids have their own sort of clique, a sewer brotherhood that schemes against the surface walkers.  In the Wolf Quarter, Druids and Clerics of Lupa walk arm in arm, often performing ceremonies reflecting the different aspects of the Wolf Mother's church.  Sea Druids sometimes also walk the docks, looking for work in their own specialized water-based fields.

Then there are the Druids who seek retribution.  Driven mad by Crux's very nature, they can sense the wrongness of Crux.  They feel that this was a place meant only for the animalistic.  They spread lycanthropy.  Or they force captured folk into the form of stray animals.  Or they look at Androids and try their best to eliminate something so offensive, so unnatural.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Humanity

"We are born of the Summer Rose.  We were made from clay.  We came here from a star unheard of.  Science has no explanation for it, and magic just gives us more mysteries than answers."
-Professor of Human Studies, Hayme Taggort

Little survives of the empires and nations that existed prior to the Ursyklon conquest.  Human tribes were scattered throughout the world.  None of them were prepared to defend themselves against the invasion, becoming subservient to the Ursyklon empires.  Savage human tribes fell quickly to the invaders, even though they had a few long city-states scattered around the world.

As the Ursyklon empires fell, new Human dominated empires arose.  They adapted and learned new Classes, using these to create series of civilizations over and over.  Humans founded Crux, and humans were the first to discover the worship of the Twins and the Singer of the Song.  Humans have no explanation for their origin- unlike all the other races, including the Ursyklon, who can point to a definitive origin point for their species.

Adaptable, Human legend tells of nine tribes they all were descended from.  So far, all the tribes have been identified, although some in the Esoterium Machina find the explanation of the legend of the Nine Tribes to be too neat and tidy.  Certain facts don't measure up, but they have yet to devise a compatible rival theory.  In the current age, Human dominated nations rule the world stage.  The Four Great Powers: Othebea, Ith, Ainesia and Maliph, all are descended from prior human empires, especially the monolithic Tomasian Empire.

Crux: Crux is a melting pot of human cultures.  All nine tribes can be found there, perhaps more than others.  Frontier tribes like the Ocridese or Soramese are rare to see, but even some of them can be seen in the streets of Crux.  Ith, being magocratic, favors the old arcane magic cultures of the Salaro and the Tomasi.

The Nine Tribes

Humans count descent from nine tribes, each sharing a variety of languages.  Modern nations include members of all these peoples, but those nations do have preferences for certain tongues over others.

The Jarn: The Ironfolk, native across Ainesia, most concentrated in Bor.  Their native tongues are Borish, Jarnish and Ferrit.
The Salaro: The Saltfolk, native to Ith, Ainesia and mostly concentrated in the South Seas near Maliph.  Their native tongues are Salish, Tomish and Othish.
The Rosac: The Rosefolk, native to Othebea, Ith and southern Ainesia.  Concentrated heaviest in Othebea.  Their native tongues are Rani, Borish, Othish and Rosic.
The Ramelin: The Sandfolk, native to Ith, but concentrated in Maliph.  Their native tongues are Malic and Tomish.
The Jotnar: The Icefolk, native to Bor, northern Ainesia and the like.  Their native tongues are Ferrit and Borish.
The Tomasi: The Seafolk, concentrated in Ith.  Their native tongues are Tomish and Salish.
The Soramese: The Southfolk, native tribes of Soram, concentrated there, but can be found in Ith and Maliph.  They have over a dozen native tongues, but their trade tongue is referred to as Sorami.  Sorami sometimes learn Malic.
The Sabizi: The Greenfolk, concentrated in Rani but can be found in Othebea, Ith and Maliph.  Their native tongues include: Sabi, Rani, and Othish.  Sabizi also are nomadic, and their caravans have spent countless generations wandering roads throughout the known world.
The Ocridese: The Newfolk, native tribes to the New World (not covered here).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Classes 2

More ways Classes fit in Crux!  Enjoy, and as always, glad to hear what people think.

Bards: They say the first Bards were the children of the Singer and the Song, the goddess' chosen favorites.  Bards disagree on which of them was truly the 'First Bard.'  Each of them was a master of their field, excelling so grandly that each of their names were considered inspiration: called the Muses, each of them taught their form of Bardic music, spreading the art throughout the world at their Goddess's behalf.

Bards are all over Crux, earning pay through a variety of services and methods.  Most sing or perform on corners for their supper, but others find cleverer ways to make coin.  A few find work as Fixers for the University, often obtaining things or stories the Esoterium Machina wouldn't find otherwise.  Others open their bars or taverns, while a few Celebrity Bards perform at high-scale theaters throughout Crux.  And of course, a couple write music and stories, selling ideas in books as well as in oration.

Bloodragers: Bloodragers carry a vicious curse, one they didn't choose to take on.  Their arcane fury follows the same as the Jokara the Cursed, a skinwalker magus who first unlocked the path of Bloodrage when she was cursed by a demon thousands of years ago.  Jokara spent her life trying to control her Bloodrage, but she choose to drown herself rather than let the Class be learned by others.

Bloodragers don't seek their path.  Often, it is the result of a curse cast when they were very young or unborn.  Sometimes Dhampr, Skinwalkers or Tieflings grow into the class without realizing it, the lost control over their heritage manifesting as Bloodrage.  A few are tainted by contact with cursed Artifacts or demonic possession- they are in control when the Bloodrager is raging, using them more like host creatures.

Brawlers: Blood-drenched fists were first called upon by a pirate of the Southern Seas, Xemirr Goldbeard.  Goldbeard eschewed the use of any weapons at all, using the talents of Brawling to escape custody a thousand times back when the Tomasian Empire still ruled over Crux.  He spread the practice across the world, training soldiers and wrestlers at each port he stopped upon.

Brawlers in Crux frequent the streets, often looking for any work that requires muscle.  More than a few districts have arenas and fighting pits where Brawlers fight and earn pay, excelling alongside Barbarians and Fighters of all kinds.  Brawlers excel at the prize fighting tournaments of Crux, often seeking to win the Wolf's Championship.  Hosted by priests of Lupa, the Wolf's Championship has become synonymous with World Championship.  Each Brawler in Crux dreams of carrying the title of Champion, and all of them admire those who enter the ring.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Demon's Orphans

The Demon's Orphans
"This city belongs to my true Mother, this I swear.  Every Orphan is my sibling.  I will treat them as though they were the same blood as me.  I will die before I reveal any secret of the Orphans.  I will never betray another Orphan.  I shall help any Orphan, their spouse or children if they need it.  I never steal or committ a wrong against another Orphan.  This I swear and promise.  Should I break this Oath, I swear that I will be killed by a thousand cuts."
-Oath of the Demon's Orphans

Part demon-cult, part secret society and part criminal gang, the Demon's Orphans is one of the oldest criminal organizations in Crux.  They have very few rivals in the realm of criminal activities.  The Demon's Orphans practices racketeering, smuggling, drug trafficking, extortion, counterfeiting, arms trafficking, money laundering and a large variety of different forms of fraud.

Its complicated hierarchy and its series of oaths keep the Demon's Orphans mysterious to outsiders.  Each different tier of membership has its own oaths and secrets members learn.  They organize into byzantine layers of cells throughout the city.  They have only two structural consistencies.  First is their leadership- a council of elder Orphans referred to as the Red Circle, led by someone known only as The Key.  The other is the sheer number of Tieflings are members.

The Demon's Orphans claim that Crux is their city, by right of inheritance.  Their history tells of how they were founded by Tieflings descended from Shraxes herself.  They strive to free her.  Or at least, that is how they justify their crimes.  The Orphans are predisposed to Tieflings of all kinds, seeing them as siblings of a sort.  Although their membership is open to all races, this racial preference is seen amongst all Orphans, a sort of gang-wide fetish for the demonborn.

Goals: The Demon's Orphans long term goal is freeing Shraxes and maintaining their criminal activities.  But that isn't precisely what they work to do.  Their main goal, through action, deceit and talk, is opposition to the Prince.  The Prince and his group are the Orphans main, vehement rival.  In centuries past the two factions clashed violently in riots against one another.

Inventions and the changes in the last few decades have introduced a sort of stalemate between the Orphans and the Prince.  The Demon's Orphans continue to find out ways to strike back at the Prince, who has managed to take political control over Crux's governing bodies.  The peace cannot last much longer, as the Prince will seek out ways to get rid of their threat to his rule.  The Demon's Orphans, on the other hand, will not go quietly.

Not by a long shot.  No, the Demon's Orphans will do anything they can to spite the Prince.  Anything.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Class Roles

I was tired and wanted to write up something shorter-ish.  Here are three of the classes allowed in Crux, and an explanation of how they first were Chosen and came to be.  Remember, in Crux, characters discuss and talk about Classes and Feats as though they held a sort of confirmed metaphyical weight, so each Class as a history, an origin and most importantly, a story about how it came to be.

Alchemists: Alchemy first came from the Jade Lands.  Xiao the Burnt Feather was the first Alchemist.  She and her flock of Tengu broke Tengu insular tradition, trading knowledge of the class for materials and other discoveries in turn.  Alchemy itself is mutation of the name of the class in a intermediary language; in Tengu, most refer to Alchemists as Burnt Feathers.

The University of Crux hosts the most advanced College of Alchemy in the world.  The Alchemists trained there come from all walks of life, but share in common the lessons of the University.  But many in Ith become Alchemists because they lack means of any other magical class.  Desperate to find some form of magical abilities to obtain citizenship with.  Although the class is a calling for a few, many try to pass the strengent Alchemical tests and fail.  In addition, Alchemists in Crux are expected to acquire a Alchemy License, which is needed if any Alchemist is expected to throw bombs or use any mutagens in public without being arrested for arson or gross magical misconduct.

Lastly, there are the Alchemist experimenters.  Ever eager to create the next great wonder, these are the alchemists that produce the variety of alchemical artifice that drives current tech.  Gunpowder and more alchemical inventions have grown to change completely what most Cruxites consider normal, sometimes overnight.

Antipaladins: The Antipaladins originate from all walks of life, almost all devoted to a insane life of tyranny and cruelty.  The first Antipaladin was a Vampire, Rahim of Bor.  He built the class through foul act followed by foul act.  But even the name of the Class wasn't solidly confirmed until only a few decades ago, coined by the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow, comparing the Antipaladin to Paladins, especially in the wake of a fallen Paladin who'd taken up the dark path.

Antipaladins are not favored by Dhampir or Vampires of any kind, if anything, the class is prominent amongst any deranged maniacs, regardless of religion or nation.  All religions refer to Antipaladins who spread their faith as blasphemers- even if they share the same doctrines.  In Crux itself, clever Antipaladins keep their identities secret.  A few are well known for their cruel teams of Adventurers, hired for dark jobs that use more monstrous means.

Arcanists: Arcanists are, mysteriously enough, a deviant branch.  A offshoot of the Wizard Class, Arcanists have no serious contender they can point to as the originator of their class.  Arcanists do know it had to originate with a Wizard who decided to dabble in blood magic and got a interesting result from it.  Because Arcanists tend to 'discover' their Class instead of properly study for it, more than a few originate as training to be Bards or Wizards or Magi.

Arcanists are frequent students of the Esoterium Machina, using that organization to fund their curiosity in various pursuits.  Because of its nature dealing with blood and some related mysticism, Dhampr and Tieflings often become members of that class, sometimes incidentally.  Arcanists also do work for the University of Crux from time to time, providing unorthodox procedures or ideas when a professor feels the necessity of them.

Barbarians: Ursyklons knew the Barbarian Class long before they first conquered this world.  They claim it goes back many generations, to the First Empress, Kra.  A student of Lupa the Wolf Goddess, Kra's fury boiled over after long bouts of meditation and drug use.  Early on in their conquest of the world, the Urskylons used Barbarian shock troops to overwhelm all opposition.  The class was quick to be taught to the other races, and spread among them like a brushfire.

Barbarians of the wild or frontier are hard to find in Crux these days.  Instead, Barbarians whose rage is based on social injustice join the People's Revolution, their fervor against the bourgeoisie hot.  Other barbarians are born of the streets or are sewer thugs with no more focus than mad dogs.  A few Barbarians are the result of experimentation, their rage the result of vivisection at the University.

Surprise!  It was four!  Enjoy that bonus class goodness!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Cult of Shraxes, Imprisoned Demon Princess

Shraxes, Imprisoned Demon Princess

Titles: Lady of Wishes, The Whisperer, The Caged Temptress
Areas of Concern: Wishes, Freedom, Cages, Deception
Favored Animals: Turkeys, Scorpions, Snakes and Spiders
Holy Symbol: A pair of red eyes within a cast iron cage
Worshippers: Prisoners, Slaves, the desperate, Demon Cultists
Domains: Liberation, Magic, Rune, Demons, Trickery
Favored Weapon: Spiked Chain

Long ago, there was a Prince without a Kingdom.  Empires had taken everything away from him.  His war seemingly lost, he found himself exiled to a island at the center of the world.  In truth it was the skull of a long dead god, and that God had become forgotten long before the Prince had even been born.  It was there, at the Sleeping Straits, he decided that he would begin again.  The Prince decided he would build a new Kingdom, at that skull in the Sleeping Straits, there he would found a new City.

So the Prince went to ask the God of Cities, the Singer of the Song, if she would sing for him a city that could rise upon that skull.  The Singer of the Song tried, but found no word right for such a place.  "It is a place that doesn't want a City.  Would that I could, I would will the Song into being- but that place's song has no want for a city.  It needs to be persuaded."

Frustrated, the Prince thanked her and moved along.  He kept going, until he found the Twins- the Summer Rose rising up new life while the Black Rose kept her quiet and brought down those whose time had come.  "I wish to build a city upon the Sleeping Straits.  A City at the center of the World.  But that place wants no City.  It fights me at each direction.  Can you help me?"

"Will a City bring you love?"  The Summer Rose asked.  "Can it make the world a better place?  I can give your heart and life warmth, but cold stone and bone are long dead.  Such things speak not to me."

The Black Rose furrowed her brow.  She remained silent.  When the Prince entreated again, and then again for a third time, only then did she speak.  "Any City there is doomed from the start.  Leave it be."

The Prince shook his head and refused.  "Either I make this happen or I will die."

The Black Rose shook her head.  She said no more, but the Prince remembered her stare.  She looked at him sadly as the Prince moved on.  

The Prince then decided to do what most do not seek to do.  Desperate, he found none of the Gods willing to help him.  The ground he wanted to found a City upon was cursed ground.  Either they could not or would not help him work the miracle he needed.  So the Prince braved the storms of ocean and sea, he strode the aether betwixt worlds and wandered far to find the one being who would help him.  

Her name was Shraxes, a demon princess known for her capacity to give tainted wishes.  The whisperer, master of temptations.  The Prince made a deal with Shraxes.  She granted his wish and founded a city where no one else would dare.  

At the end of the tale, however, is what the Prince did to repay Shraxes.  The tale claims he bound her down.  Instead of giving her back her due, the Prince tricked her.  He trapped her, binding her in a cage she could never escape.  He buried her, trapped in her cage, deep beneath his city.  Shraxes became trapped deep down beneath Crux.  

The Prince walked away from that.  But he had been changed, some say cursed.  And that he still lives, alive because of the broken oath he had taken with a demon.

* * * * *

Those who call to Shraxes do so in desperation.  Even Shraxes when imprisoned still can exert her influence on those who pray to her.  Her followers oppose the use of any punishment or imprisonment.  More than a one slave revolt can find its origin with her cult.  Her followers also include the guilty as well as the innocent.  Grifters and others who offer one-sided deals, often taking advantage of the desperate, also are her creatures.

The Cult of Shraxes was illegal to worship until very recently.  Ith doesn't ban the worship of any religion, so her cult has spread through Ith.  In Ainesia, Shraxes became associated with Kisian Philosophy that drove the revolution.  The Cult enjoys its current legal status, having established a yearly festival in honor of their demonic matron.  Called the Wish Festival, every attempt is made to try and ask Shraxes for a wish or free her of her bonds.  Whether or not either happens, remains unclear.

Shraxes has taken up the symbols of her imprisonment for her cult.  A cage with her red eyes is her holy symbol, while a spiked chain is her holy weapon.  Shraxes is always depicted as busty female humanoid with purple skin and demonic horns, often made of stained glass.  Her eyes glow red, and her left hand is bound by cold iron and silver. She towers over most humans, almost the height of a giant.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Dhampr

Dhampr: The Children of the Cursed

"Sorcerous capacities of Vampires do not bar them from membership among our number.  Magic enlightens, not restricts."
-Ithic Senator Harco Gatesbinder, after the signing of the 25th Accordance

Dhampr are born of the union of a vampire and a human; in such couplings they always breed true, half-breeds established firmly by their Vampiric heritage.  Sometimes Human pairings will give birth to a Dhampr, a result of a vampiric ancestry.  Dhampr have long been a part of the community of Crux, just as long as Vampires have been.

Ithic law recognizes Vampires as citizens.  It sees their magical abilities, and confirms them the same status as Wizards, Clerics or any other with some knowledge of some sorcery.  As citizens, Ithic law also protects them from violence and all the other prerequisites of Ithic citizenship.  Allowing undead to hold the same rights as the living has caused no small amount of angst and trouble from other nations and certain political factions within Ith itself.

Dhampr make two choices about their vampiric heritage.  Some choose to distance themselves from their heritage, hiding it like Skinwalkers or some Tieflings do.  This is especially true of Dhampr born into faiths that frown upon the undead like the Church of the Twins.  Others embrace their heritage fully, benefiting from tying themselves to certain Vampire clans.

Crux: Deep beneath Crux, Vampire Clans have long been part of the city and its history.  Through various Crusades, Witch Hunts and other trials, the Clans have always been there.  The deep undercity of Crux has many layers, and they secret themselves away in their own Quarter near the surface.  Although not the most populous of places within Crux, it is where Vampires move about the most freely.

Since Vampires hold court in the Blood Quarter (most of the time anyway), their Dhampr children frequent the quarter as well.  The Blood Quarter almost has a derived Dhampr culture of its own.  But even with a open region of Crux devoted to Vampires, a great deal of other Dhampr continue to hide their heritage throughout Crux.

Dhampr associate themselves with specific Vampire clans.  These are the five most prominent Vampire clans to be found in Crux:

The Walridr Clan: Dream-Vampires. Associate with Cats, Pigs, and White Butterflies.  They specialize in a sort of Dream Sorcery echoing back eons.  The Walridrs settled in Crux from parts of Ainesia during a Crusade five or six centuries ago.

In addition to their talents in dream manipulation magic, the Walridrs have a strong lust for good entertainment.  They pay good coin for the talents of a superb musician, and often a Walridr will pay for the privilege to witness dreams of such talented entertainers.  More than few Walridr Dhampr own and run luxurious theaters and dance halls in the Blood Quarter.

The Visconti: Gold-Vampires.  Associate with Dogs and Moles.  They specialize in Earth school magic, although some claim they just have a preference for the tint of gold itself.  The Visconti are investors, using their talents in Earth magic and wealth to obtain sway over Banks in Crux.

Visconti also aren't beyond using their Dhampr to start new ventures.  They consider it a fine test of their Dhampr.  Of course, they aren't above finding ways to put anything new found by such Dhampr to good use.

The Patrizo: Fish-Vampires.  Associate with all kinds of fish and bats.  They specialize in magic of the Water school.  The Patrizo prefer the sea and the bottom of the river to mingling with other Vampires.  They manage a series of darkened coves deep beneath Crux.  They deal with ships and a smattering of all kinds of trade, if only to buy more privacy for themselves.

Patrizo Dhampr run ships for their Vampire parents.  More than a few Patrizo Dhampr turn to piracy, using the hidden coves deep under Crux to move all forms of smuggling without worry of being caught.

The Medama: Spire-Vampires.  Associate with Ravens and Rats.  The Medama specialize in Air School magic, and spend the least amount of time underneath Crux itself.  Perhaps the most willing to mingle with humans and other races, the Medama often are the public face of the rest of their kind.  They are curious vampires, and more than a few of them visit Crux University and spend time amongst the Esoterium Machina.

Medama Dhampr often stray away from the Blood Quarter.  Medama vampires place no real requests on their half-breed children, only demanding that they spend as much time as possible learning about the world.  These Dhampr strive to impress their scholarly and aerial vampire parents with their knowledge.

The Inculti: Fire-Vampires.  Associate with Bats, Rats and Wolves.  The Inculti focus on mastering Fire school magic, preferring to learn how protect themselves from one of the banes all vampires share.  Inculti know secrets, some including how to protect themselves from Sun's glare.  The Inculti know many more such dark secrets and mysteries, but they refuse to even sell the knowledge to those outside their clan.

Inculti Dhampr often join the City Watch.  A few find ways to join the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow.  They join, a few, as Eagles, despite any misgiving the order has toward Vampires.  If anything, the Inculti Clan seems only impressed with those Dhampr who prove themselves in any field outside their half-breed nature.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Singer of the Song

Singer of the Song
Titles: The City Mother, Queen Trickster, the Storyteller, The Lady of Song
Areas of Concern: Cities, Songs, Entertainment, Luck
Favored Animals: Songbirds, Mice, Cats
Holy Symbol: Three Quarter Notes
Worshippers: Common people, Entertainers, Travelers
Domains: Charm, Trickery, Travel, Community, Void
Favored Weapon: Whip

Cities are at the heart of civilization.  But that does not mean that Cities are a creation of lawmakers, politicians or bureaucrats.  A law did not create the first city.  No, the First Cities were born of a Song.

The City Mother is the one who sang that Song.  Her priests tell her story, of how she made the first cities by crafting a song about them.  She tricked other Gods and Monsters of all types, often to better the lives of mortals.  She was the one to first let Shraxes come to the World, and she was the first to trick the Black Rose into letting a soul come back from the dead.

Most give her a prayer when seeking a blessing while traveling through or doing anything within a City.  Her voice has influence over money, traffic and all the other myriad things that come with cities.  Her devoted followers are entertainers, Bards, Illusionists and Alchemists.  Those who seek song, seek out her Priests and Temples- her Temples are always also Taverns, Inns or Theaters.

Perhaps, though, is who chooses to honor the City Mother with praise.  Never truly a god of nobles or royalty, commoners and the middle-class of all races honor her.  It isn't uncommon for a small statuette of her to find her place in house shrines along with larger edifices honoring other deities.  Ursyklon, Tengu, even some of the fabled Aether-blooded have been known to carry a symbol of her along with their other gods.

The City Mother is often depicted as a young human woman carrying a fiddle with very short hair.  Her hair color and other characteristics often change based who is asked.  More than a few Tengu claim she has black hair with raven's feathers.  Northern Ironfolk from Ainesia give her blond hair and blue eyes, while Saltfolk from the southern seas call her hair green, and say she is blind.  It varies, but no one seems to care if they differ, often believing that her myriad of appearances are just another part of her stories.

Sidebar: The Sisters Heresy

More than four hundred years ago, the Church of the Twins ordered a Inquisition against the City Mother.  A sect of the City Mother forwarded the claim that she was the Third Sister, and the Mother of the Twins.  Their Blasphemy combined all three goddesses into a theology of Birth, Song, and Death.  The Church would claim that the heretics had taken to performing wicked forms of sacrifice, and needed to be put down before calling forth horrors from their actions.

The Sisters Heresy was destroyed completely, a crusade that spread through most lands in and around Crux.  But it grew beyond just that heresy, some of the Crusaders became fervent, hunting down all priests of the City Mother and other gods.  It would take the Church of the Twins sixty years to repair the damage caused.  By then, the damage was done.  Often the Sisters Heresy is used by governments when they ban or outlaw practices of groups like the Eternal Order of the Eagle and the Crow.

Othebea, still devout loyalists to the Church, continue to fund the Order of the Crusade.  This order of Inquisitors and other warriors hunt down enemies of the Church, including Heretics that Othebea regards as enemies to the state.  These days, that has come to include foreign Gods and new philosophies, like the Kisian philosophy that overtook Ainesia not long ago.

The Divas

The Singer's chosen few, her champions, most think of the Divas as a group comprised entirely of women and singers.  That, is not true.  The Divas consider themselves to be her elite favored priests, and they devote themselves to all forms of entertainment, regardless of type.

But because they are considered performers by most, does not mean that the Divas can't defend themselves.  If anything, most seem to forget that they are Paladins after a fashion.  Just because they can act or perform, doesn't make them weak women that anyone can roll over.

Also, they do not limit their membership to women only.  Divas do require all their members to look feminine.  Maintaining the illusion that they are all lovely women performers is a cornerstone of how the Divas work.  They firmly believe that good entertainment, excellent stories and beautiful music are needed by everyone.  Divas fight evil ideas and thoughts through such things.

After all, a heart filled with music isn't a heart bound to do evil.  And evil things flee from their songs.  All good things have a song in their hearts, or so the Divas claim.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Kazism, the Tengu Gods

Kazism, The Wisdom of Winds
The predominant philosophies of the far-flung parts of the world differ greatly than those in Crux.  Tengu migrants brought their favored schools of thought.  These faiths hold the Five Winds in the highest esteem, taking wisdom and lessons from them.  For each wind there is a name.  Each wind has its own lessons about the world, and each Tengu honors each wind in turn.

For the Tengu, each of these winds are ever present.  They know the paths we've walked and the paths we will walk.  They are the winds.  You follow them because they are the path.  Those who dare go against them do so at their own peril.


Areas of Concern: Tengu, Winds, Paths
Holy Symbol: Four Spirals bound in a circle
Worshippers: Tengu, Mystics, Travelers, Wanderers
Domains: Air, Travel, Tengu, Creation
Favored Weapon: Light Crossbow

Kazism itself can be followed much like any of the winds alone.  It embraces all five lessons of the winds, using them to guide one to the True Path throughout the world.  Kazists teach respect for all life, abhor violence and distant themselves from very petty, very mortal needs.  Ascetism is not uncommon for Tengu Priests who revere all the Winds- their monasteries and sacred places often are protected by all Tengu and kept secret from those who'd dare pollute them.

Kazi-Raijin, The North Wind

Titles: The Storm of Swords, Lord of the Four Winds
Areas of Concern: Storms, Wealth, Tengu Society
Holy Symbol: A spiral overlade with a lightning bolt
Worshippers: Tengu, Leaders, Lawmakers
Domains: Air, Weather, Travel, Strength
Favored Weapon: Shortsword

Strongest of the Four Winds, Kazi-Raijin teaches the Lesson of Strength: Respect.  He is the strong North Wind, and he brings the storms of Winter.  Strength can be a power of its own, and Tengu pray for Kazi-Raijin to give them strength when it is needed most.  Leaders among the Tengu also pay him close heed, taking his lessons on the necessity of respect and strength to heart.

Kazi-Fujin, The South Wind

Titles: Rain-Thief, The Storm of Fire
Areas of Concern: Wind, Fire, Thievery
Holy Symbol: A Spiral with Fire at its Center
Worshippers: Tengu, Tricksters, Thieves
Domains: Fire, Travel, Trickery, Weather
Favored Weapon: Sai

The cleverest wind, Kazi-Fujin steals the rain, brings the hot wind and tricks the storms of summer.  Kazi-Fujin teaches the Lesson of Cunning: Silence.  That which cannot be seen or heard can work wonders.  Tengu pray to Kazi-Fujin to show them the invisible path that silence demands when they need it.  All Tengu pay him close heed, sometimes as a jokester deity whose tales carry humor and lessons that all Tengu learn as children.

Kazi-Maya, The West Wind

Titles: The Gentle Wind, The Rainbow Lady
Areas of Concern: Family, Love, Beauty
Holy Symbol: A Spiral comprised of a Rainbow of Colors
Worshippers: Tengu, Families, Mothers
Domains: Earth, Community, Charm, Weather
Favored Weapon: Kukri

The gentlest wind, Kazi-Maya makes the rainbow and fills the world with beauty.  Kazi-Maya is Kazi-Raijin's consort, and only she can calm him when he rages.  Kazi-Maya teaches the Lesson of Beauty: Charity.  To make an act truly beautiful, it requires an act of sacrifice, an act of charity or so says Kazi-Maya.  All Tengu revere Kazi-Maya whenever they do anything as a community.  She is the force that helps bind them altogether.

Kazi-Paja, The East Wind

Titles: The Witching Wind, The Warning Wind
Areas of Concern: Magic, Curses, Rivers
Holy Symbol: A Black Spiral with a Coin at its center
Worshippers: Tengu, Witches, Ninja
Domains: Water, Knowledge, Magic, Weather
Favored Weapon: Shuriken

The unlucky wind, Kazi-Paja carries curses and foul magic when its needed.  Kazi-Paja teaches the Lesson of Justice: Balance.  She balances the scales; for her, one bad act must be balanced by bad luck on the other side.  All Tengu fear Kazi-Paja, but they pray to her for good luck and to curse those that have wronged them.  She also is a patron to Tengu Ninjas, who often enact her will as a extension of the balance she seeks to create.

Kazi-Oni, The Demon Wind

Titles: The Last Storm, Destroyer of Worlds
Areas of Concern: Doom, Apocalypse, Suffering
Holy Symbol: A Grinning Red Oni Mask
Worshippers: Lunatics, Doomseekers, Suicides
Domains: Darkness, Destruction, Madness, Weather
Favored Weapon: Greatclub

The Tengu do not speak of the Demon Wind.  It is still there, bidding its time.  A few sometimes will invoke it, but they all know what it is.  It is the doom wind.  The apocalypse that brings the Last Storm.  The Destroyer of Worlds.

The Tengu do not speak of It.  They keep silent on the matter.  Only those Tengu who seek destruction seek out the Demon Wind.  The less spoken about it, the better.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: The Esoterium Machina

The Esoterium Machina
"You Cannot Slay An Idea."

The Esoterium Machina is the only path to enlightenment.  Founded by the Wise, it focuses on protecting and preserving all knowledge.  The Esoterium is Knowledge.  And they always had a home in Crux.  They built the University.  Their Veiled Masters hoard a great deal of secrets about the City of Curses.

The deeper mysteries of Crux drew people of knowledge and intelligence to it long ago.  The questions of the City of Curses let to the formation of a formal organization.  This organization would create the University of Crux.  Over their thousands of years, the Veiled Masters of the Esoterium have sought out all forms of knowledge, to protect it from destruction.  The Esoterium has never explained what destruction it fears is coming for such knowledge, but hoards its finds whenever it can.

As such, the Esoterium Machina has always been quick to hire independent agents to recover such knowledge or aid them in their various projects to further such knowledge.  Membership only goes to those who've spent decades devoting themselves to such knowledge, creating a gerontocracy among its membership.  Its membership isn't for just the arcane, anyone steeped in knowledge is deemed worthy enough to join their ranks.

The Sundered Star: Perhaps the darkest corner for the Esoterium Machina is an ancient cult associated with some of its membership.  Never admitting to ever truly accept anyone of the Cult of the Sundered Star to be true members of the Esoterium, the Veiled Masters still permitted no knowledge of the Sundered Star to fade away.  The Sundered Star is dark goal that all members of the Esoterium feel the pull of from time to time.

Most continue on, not influenced by the cthonic pulsation of such knowledge.  But the Sundered Star seeks to bring back to life beings long dead, long forgotten.  Gods of Beauty long dead.  Secret monsters whose names once spoken will release them from their prisons.  Alien things that dwell only in the very idea of them.

The Sundered Star, albeit a dark part of the Esoterium Machina, remains a dark blemish.  Its cultists appear from time to time, and the Esoterium does its best to stop them.  But other times, some see the Esoterium allow them to open a door that shouldn't be opened.  Just to see what they can on the other side.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rika's Delivery Service Revised 1

This is a part one of a revision of an earlier story. Rika is a young demon girl with a rat's tail- she's gotten into a bit of trouble with some angels, can she deliver her package or will she get herself killed in the process? Read it and enjoy. Hopefully this cleans things up a bit. :D
Chapter One

Rika Reich's felt sore.  She felt puffy, frustrated and wanted to scream.  She could feel the vortex of emotions twisting around in her gut.  Rika didn't want to be working today.

But she did anyway.

Rika drove her silver and red hover bike down Stark avenue.  She tried to ignore the tears streaking in her eyes, wishing she had the concentration to make her tear ducts shift away with her biokinesis.  But Rika knew she wasn't in the right frame of mind to use her inborn demon ability to alter her flesh.  Not now.  Concentrating on driving her hover bike over the Weaveway, on Stark Avenue, that seemed to be keeping her from going crazy.  She clutched the small package to her chest tightly.  Behind her, the immense, tall cube of Ezekiel Square shrank away.

The thick asphalt of Stark Avenue flowed over the top of the Weaveway.  The Weaveway was ancient tunnels, built originally when all of the city of Noah had been completely submerged in water.  That was long before they had discovered force fields and created open spaces.  Stark Avenue was one of many highways, constructed atop the Weaveway to service the tiny communities that lived atop the Weaveway tunnels.  

Rika wasn't too bizarre, as Demon standard went.  Even though Demon was just slang in Noah for anyone with biokinesis and physical deformities.  Demon meant ugly mutant, but she had chosen to forget that for the moment.  That wasn't what had set her off.

Rika's demonic appearance had always caused people to underestimate her.  Her deformities made her look more akin to a rodent. A long naked, wormy rat's tail.  Her long pointed ears and smaller size.  Rika's left hand held six fingers.  But even with those, most of her deformities didn't carry major cosmetic problems.  She didn't have extra heads or ooze for skin.  Nothing as bad as those demons down in Imptown.

"Yabai bastard," Rika muttered to herself.  She'd put a razor edge to each word.

She had spent the previous night crying her eyes out.  She only balled her eyes out whenever she got angry.  Very angry.  Which sometimes made Rika feel even more angry with herself.  That always made things even worse.  Then she'd cry some more.

"Yabai bastard," Rika repeated.  She also had drank way too much the night before, more than she knew she could handle.  Especially for a work night.  Even if Rika worked for herself, she should've known better.  Rika wished she had girlfriends or at least somebody to talk to about it.

But no, all of her friends were also friends with Arn.  Arn.  Her yabai jackass of a boyfriend.  
Rika's bike cut close to the sidewalk.  Over the side, she could see the blur of green from the wilds of the blue dome around the Weaveway.  A twenty yard drop.

She tried to focus on the sky and road in front of her.  Tears still stung at her.  In the distance, the ever dim twilight of the dark ocean above.  No clouds, but a fog from trapped water vapor swirled far off.  Rika imagined she could see the shimmering energy of the forcefields and shields keeping the water from flooding in.

Rika couldn't focus on that though.  Instead, she tried not to cry.  Her rage at Arn bellowed up.  he had crossed a line with her.  What made it worse, though, was that he refused to admit he was wrong.  She hated it when others insisted that she needed to apologize.  That she was the one with the problem.  That she needed to get over it.  "Yabai fuckers."

Rika knew that she would be stuck, all day, doing her delivery job while nursing the low hot rage at Arn.  It embarrassed her.  But she couldn't make that fire go away.  Not instantly.  She grunted at her metaphysical cage.

She came to a intersection, where the Weaveway split into different routes.  Stark avenue followed suit.  It was one of the places where the Weaveway crisscrossed with itself.  Rika's hover bike stopped in midair, floating as it waited for the traffic light to switch from red to green.

Rika looked around, trying to find an available lane.  Some route that might let her get around without having to wait.  The demon girl checked her mirrors, frowning.  Another set of tears streaked down her face.   She didn't like what she saw at all.

"You have got to be kidding me."  Rika fought back the urge to hit the throttle.  She could just ignore the light, drive past and leave.  Instead, against her better judgement, Rika stopped.  With deft skill, she parked her hover bike on the side of the road.  Her hover bike drifted and dropped gently to the ground, almost like a feather.

"You yabai moron, I'm working!"  Rika shouted.  She put all the bile she could into her words.  Rika thought she still could feel some sobs leak through.


Rika got off her bike.  She walked down the sidewalk in Arn's direction.  Rika confronted the panting figure that had been following her.  She clenched her hands in fists.  "I don't have the fucking time to deal with your shit today, Arn!  Don't fucking follow me around when I'm working!"

Arn paused.  A stock demon, Arn had an extra set of silvery eyes on his forehead.  He tried to smile at her approach.  It was a nervous smile, and worry lines seemed to keep him from getting all the way to true smile.  Arn's body was covered in reddish fur.  His arms were full of various glowing and black flowers.

"You think flowers is going to fix this?!"  Rika accused him.  She jabbed a finger at him.

"Rika, are you ok?  Your makeup is-"  Before Arn could finish, Rika slapped him.  

Tears streamed down Rika's face, blurring her vision.  Rika raged at him, she wanted to rip his throat out.  She could feel her demonic biokinesis shifting her teeth and claws subconsciously.  Some animal instinct wanted her to punish Arn.  Annoyed, crying heavily, Rika shook her head and tried to fight the urges raging through her.

But it felt like a yabai brilliant way to make a point, at least to her it did.

"Fuck off Arn!  I don't want to hear it."

"Rika, please, you got to listen to me."  Arn pleaded, dropping flowers as he did.  He sounded urgent, his eyes filled with worry.

"Listen to what excuse now?"  Rika growled.  She had one fist on her hip, the other arm still clinging tight to the package.  

Dozens of hoversleds whizzed by them on the two lanes they were standing next to.  Rike still had a job to do.  She didn't want to listen to Arn.  Rika was going to go back to work.  Let Arn try apologizing to me later, She thought.

"Rika, please-"

"No.  I'm working.  Talk to me later, when I'm not delivering a package, Arn."  Rika spun away.  She resisted an ugre to apologize.  To hug him and beg him to forgive her.  To let Arn hold her and let the fire die away.  Let him win the argument.

But Rika didn't have the time for it.  Tears streamed down her face.  Rika's heart pounded hard in her chest.  It pumped in her seething rage.  Rika couldn't let that rage go now.  She didn't want to admit defeat yet.  Not yet.

"Rika this is important."  Arn sounded desperate. Frustration crept into his voice, frustrated at her for not listening to him right away. "You need to listen!  Something-"

"No, Arn!  You don't get to have the last word this time, ok?  You need to back off and be a little more yabai patient!  Some of us can't turn our emotions off or forget somethings!  Maybe if you-"

Rika never got to finish her tirade.  A brilliant flash of light interrupted her in mid sentence.  She felt force  wham right into her.  Rika turned around, catching the sight of her hover bike exploding.  Blue energy cascaded toward her.  Thunder deafened her.  Something had caught hold of Rika, throwing her off the top of the weaveway.  Shrapnel and fire flew in the air around her.

Rika tumbled down, over the side rail of the Weaveway into the wild trees and shrubs of the Blue Dome below.  Crack!  Thump!  Crash!

The demon girl lost sight of the weaveway, her vision becoming blurs of smoke, trees and branches.  She felt herself bounce as she fell down over the curvature of the Weaveway.  The trees and plants had been planted originally to be decorative.  They took advantage of the space of the blue dome and grew feral.  Rika knew she was falling straight down into a forest canopy.

Thorns scratched at her.  Vines and branches clawed.  Rika felt nausea as she spun around in midair.  Each bump and root she scraped past bruised and ripped at her.  She felt gashes and cuts rip her flesh open.

Rika closed her eyes.  She tried to ignore the pain as she fell down.  She to ignore her tears.  She kept rolling, falling, until her body slammed into something soft.  She stopped.

"Ouch."  Rika told herself.  "Ow."

Sore, she coughed and opened her eyes.  She spat out a chunk of a tooth, blood spittle going along with it.  Her arms flopped as she tried to move around.  The wind had been knocked out of her.  Rika tried to look around, trying to get a bearing of her location.

Something smelled like cooked meat.  Like cooked pork.  Rika blinked at the smell.  The greasy bit of scent made her tired, injured body hungry.

Rika's gaze fell upon the soft thing she'd landed on.  It had broken her fall.  And it was the source of the cooked meat smell.  Arn.  She'd landed on his cooked remains.  He'd died to soften her fall.

She felt bile boil up into her mouth.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Androids


"Behold, the industrial miracle.  A fusion of the apex of magical construction and technological wonder.  They shall change all our lives for the better." 
- Nikolai Ripley, Android Inventor

Nikolai Ripley crafted the first Androids through a fusion of various techniques, ultimately relying on a series of ancient magical constructs and text she had found underneath Crux.  She combined the best aspects of clockwork automatons, wax golems and animated dead.  Nikolai's first creations were mindless, but over time she perfected a set of necromantic spells that granted Androids sapience.

Whether or not they also gained souls in the process, is still greatly debated.  Ithic law considers Androids property.  Most Androids work and live as slaves, owned as property.  Some do operate or live as free individuals, but the majority work in factories or as servants for the wealthy.

Androids are created in the image of a adult humans.  At a distance one can't quite see the difference between Android or Human.  But at closer inspection, one sees their glowing blue eyes.  The glowing runes that cover parts of their bodies.  The odd seams between parts of wax flesh.  Most are created with hair and wax flesh.  They look close enough that a few Androids know how to disguise themselves almost fully as human.

First created only a decade or two ago, the Artificeries that produce Androids have taken to using serialized numbers for each Android they craft.  Those with four digit numbers are almost ten years old- while much younger Androids have serial numbers six or seven digits long.  Most often owners use these for names instead of proper names.  Androids in turn act as the property they are treated as- only a few manage to realize that they can refuse an order or even work toward freedom, often taking proper names to reflect this epiphany.

Crux: Androids were first crafted in Crux, as Nikolai Ripley's first series of Androids were a project headed by the University of Crux.  Nikolai Ripley holds a contrarian view on her creations, donating all her profits to charities and efforts to grant them some measure of legal recognition.  Called the Mother of Iron, Nikolai remains disgusted at the widespread adoption and creation of Androids as Slave labor.

Androids can be found performing any job for anyone that can afford them.  They haven't completely replaced middle-class jobs, but most upper-class and servant jobs are performed by them.  Android cleaning crews can be found in the richer districts of Crux, while destitute Free Androids or the disheveled Androids owned by those just barely rich enough to afford them, can be found throughout other places in the city.

Riots against Androids do happen from time to time, as many of those in the lower-classes see them as direct competition for their jobs.  Others fear them, seeing Androids as violent machines biding their time.  A few don't think of them as anything more than walking dolls.  Androids have yet to really claim or mold a piece of Crux for themselves.  As newcomers, they still have yet to decide how they will leave their mark.

Sidebar: Free or Owned

This setting makes it an option for a player to choose to be owned as property.  NPC masters need to be used carefully.  They should help enable adventuring, not be a barrier to preventing a PC from being able to do what they want.  Pardoning any sort of historical context, first be certain that everyone is okay with the situation and how it'll be dealt before the game starts.

A pivotal moment might be when a Android is freed by their owner, inspired by the Android Adventurer's career.  Or perhaps when an Owner is murdered, it sparks a murder mystery for the Party.  Or maybe the Android being freed starts their career as an adventurer.  Whatever the choice, it is a chance to create story moments.  Use it to make the game interesting!

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The Center Cannot Hold: Skinwalkers

"Her Curse isn't forgiven easily, but some of us have found our own little mercy." From Ways of the Cursefolk, by Aarin Bloodskin.

Skinwalkers are one of the Cursefolk, descended from people cursed long ago.  Skinwalkers know their own story, and how they came to be.  Those who displease the Wolf Mother Lupa, especially those who spurn her gifts or lack any self-control, are cursed as Lycanthropes.

Skinswalkers are descended from clans of Lycanthropes who found a cure to their condition, of sorts.  Each clan has its own tale of how or why it found mercy, but none found it at the hands of Lupa herself.  The first skinwalker was a Witchwolf Paladin of the Summer Rose.  It was the Summer Rose, or so some say, whose tears rent back the curse.  It didn't take the stain completely away, but borne something new from it.

However they came to be, Skinwalkers tend to breed true amongst their own kind.  Sometimes they pass their condition on to human or other kinds of mates, but the gods are merciful to a few and spare them of it.  Skinwalkers, much like Dhampir or Tieflings, try to hide their condition if they can.  Pretending to be human instead of some beast-folk keeps them from facing persecution in areas that Lycanthropes ravage.

Its important to note that each Skinwalker's opinion on Lupa and Lycanthropes varies.  Sometimes a known Lycanthrope becomes a Skinwalker, other times a Skinwalker is revealed to have been a Lycanthrope in secret all the while.  Skinwalkers have become paranoid by nature, preferring to hide their natures out of practicality instead of risking any trouble it might otherwise bring.

Crux: Lycanthropes have long dwelled on the outskirts and underneath the streets of Crux.  Gangs of Wererats and Werebats feud in the sewers, while a pack of known Halfling Werewolves secretly protect the Wolf Quarter.  Skinwalkers fall into all walks of life, most often coming from smaller communities to work within Crux, from Ainesia or the rest of Ith.

There are three Clans of Skinwalkers that have made their home in Crux.  One of them is fused tightly with the Church of the Summer Rose, nicknamed the Summer Wolves by those who've heard of them.  All three of these Clans have a large families, both human and skinwalker.

Within Crux itself, Lycanthropy itself is outlawed.  Skinwalkers are lumped into this category, with most Cruxite Courts regarding no difference between the two.  As such, Skinwalkers keep quiet on their bestial natures and try to hide it.  A few find exceptions to this rule, becoming "Licensed Lycanthropes", but this License is based on a byzantine, loose connection of ancient and modern laws.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Lupa, the Wolf Mother

Lupa, The Wolf Mother

Titles: The Huntress, Imperial Wolf, Urlupanae
Areas of Concern: Animals, Nature, Ursyklon Society, Warfare
Favored Animals: Wolves, Any Animal
Holy Symbol: Crescent Moon
Worshippers: the Ursyklon, Druids, Barbarians, Rangers, Tacticians, Lycanthropes
Domains: Animal, Wolf, War, Earth, Nobility

The Sacred Imperial Wolf taught the Ursyklon the secrets of Nature, mastery over the paths and classes of Druid, Ranger, Barbarian and Bloodrager.  Hers is the lesson of Nature's savagery in Warfare.  Practicality.  Fury.  Foresight.  Hers is also the rage and fury for the wild places, protecting against the spread of city and progress with bared teeth.

Ursyklon claim that the first two members of their race scuttled at Lupa's teat.  She raised them in the ways of the Pack.  In this, she forged a covenant with their race.  The Ursyklon have continued to remain loyal to Lupa, adapting her ways even in the least wild or natural of settings.  Each Ursyklon remembers the debt they owe her, and they pray to Lupa to forgive them for their weaknesses.

Often Lupa is often portrayed as a gigantic she-wolf, her fur silver and eyes glowing red.  Her symbol is that of the crescent moon.  Many Ursyklon claim that Werewolves and other lycanthropes are her wayward children, cursed by the Wolf-Goddess for forsaking her and committing the worst sin (to them) possible: weak self control.  Most lycanthropes do pay her homage, however, convinced that they learn more self-control in her name than without it.

Druids and Clerics of Lupa reflect different sides of their church, not necessarily different aspects of their goddess.  Druids are central of a ancient Lupanite tradition, the Urzahad.  The Urzahad can perform the Urzahadi, a sacred rite through which followers of Lupa can take on the form of a Wolf and experience directly the noble fury of their goddess directly.

The Children

Lupa is the core of her church, but she isn't the only figure worshipped.  There exist a number of her Children, half-Wolves and beasts of a many kinds.  Her many vassals, these lesser figures all are worshipped in their own unique ways.  They still cling tightly to the core tenets of Lupa, although creating their own unique cliques within the greater faith.

Many Lupanites consider other faiths to be outgrowths of the same cliques, only that they've forgotten their mother faith.  The Twins and others are seen as being false in the sense that they fail to recognize Lupa as the mother of all Gods.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Tengu

The Bird-men know how to keep secrets.  And no one ever finds the bodies, no matter how hard they look.

Tengu hail from the far side of the world, in the Jade Lands of Lhen, Mu and Rwengri-La.  Tengu tribes are ancient societies, for the black-feathered bird folk have held their lands for as long as Crux has been a city.  Their lands have long been insular, forbidding access of any outsider powers into their lands.  Tengu migrants have long poured out of the Jade Lands, growing every steady in the last few years.  As global travel as become more and more accessible, more and more Tengu come to Crux and Ith seeking to make their fortunes.

A very private people, the Tengu have at least five different languages amongst themselves.  Many Tengu choose not to assimilate, preferring to create their own insular, very private communities.  Even their faith in the Five Winds is something they are never really open with outsiders about.  The Tengu have many taboos about what they choose to share with outsiders too.

The greatest rumor about the Tengu is that each Tengu is reborn into the next generation, that each Tengu is reincarnated from past Tengu who've died.  Tengu refuse to speak about this, explaining the hows or whys of it to outsiders being one of their biggest taboos.  Tengu value the privacy of their past lives, and have elaborate rules of clan, tribe and caste relations based on what past lives they remember.

Crux: Throughout Crux, Tengu have taken most of the menial labor and service jobs that can't been accomplished expensively by others.  They accomplish tasks for those who can't afford to purchase Androids for, very low-end, dirty jobs.  They've long established their own sort of ghettoes atop the rooftops of various quarters throughout Crux, but especially around the outside the various towers and abandoned sections of Crux.

These Aerie-Towns are home to the thousands of Tengu migrants who've journeyed to Crux to make lives for themselves.  They also are home to darker services, provided by Ninja Clans who protect the Aerie Towns from outsider aggression.  These clans provide a variety of services, including assassination.  They aren't the only outfit in Crux to provide such services- but Tengu Ninjas pride themselves on their professionalism, and their reputation for never revealing information about a job to outsiders.

Sidebar: Tengu Crow
For every rule, there are exceptions.  Tengu aren't so insular that they don't have those who break off from their clans.  Aggression conversion work by the Church of the Twins has draw a number of Tengu into the fold of the Black Rose.  Outcasts before converting, these Tengu adopt their new faith as their new Clan.  They still refuse to share details that are taboo to share with outsiders.  Some times.

When pressed to choose, some of these Tengu will break their ancient Taboos if the need is big enough.  These Tengu know they've committed the worst possible crime, however, aware that no Tengu will knowingly speak with them again if they know about them breaking it.

Tengu Stats can be found Here.

Common Tengu Phrases
Here's how you too can sound like a Tengu!

May you be in a pleasant mood. (This is both a greeting and farewell.)
To Cast a brick to attract jade.  ("Just tossing an idea out there.")
A sharp blade points out.  ("To fully expose one's talent.")
And the Winds Still Blow.  ("We will continue to stand our ground.")
Nine storms, one breath. ("A drop in the ocean."  Or "A insignificant number in midst of a enormous quantity.")

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