Archive for October, 2014

Crossing Between the Shores

October 20, 2014

I’ve spoken before about my love for anime. Likewise, I’ve also mentioned that I got a Netflix account a while back. Thus, it was surprising for me when I realized recently that I’d watched very little anime on said account – just one, to be specific.

Of course, watching that series (which was Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) sort of soured me on the idea of turning to Netflix for anime. This wasn’t because it was a bad show – quite the contrary, I enjoyed it a lot – but because it only had fifty-two of the show’s sixty-five episodes, leaving me hanging just as the plot was moving towards the climax.

I apparently wrote off Netflix’s anime selection after that, since it never occurred to me to look for any other series on there. That changed a few months ago, when I was looking for a new series to watch and stumbled onto Kill La Kill. On a lark, I decided to give it a whirl, and from there the floodgates were open. I’ve since watched a half-dozen anime, and have several more queued up.

Even better, watching so many new series has been very inspirational insofar as coming up with new ideas for what to blog about!

Noragami

Hiyori Iki

She later became the poster child for “just say no to catnip.”

Noragami (“Stray God”) is a manga that was adapted into a very short anime (a dozen episodes, with two additional episodes that haven’t had a domestic release yet). An urban fantasy, it deals with a schoolgirl named Hiyori who awakens to the fact that kami (gods) are real after she accidentally falls in with a perpetually down-on-his-luck god named Yato, getting swept up in his adventures.

More specifically, this happens when Hiyori – who in d20 terms is an ordinary 1st-level human (though the series hints that there’s something special about her, since she can initially see Yato…something a normal human shouldn’t be able to do) – gets into an accident, weakening her soul’s connection to her body, and allowing her unfettered spirit to join Yato on his adventures.

It’s this particular condition – which the show refers to as being “half-phantom” (though I’m choosing to use the native term “ayakashi”) – that we’re going to examine within the context of Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

Half-Ayakashi Template (22 CP/+0 ECL)

Between the Near and Far Shores (21 CP)

  • Immunity to detection (very common/major/great), specialized for one-half cost/only applies to humanoids, giants, and monstrous humanoids, user may still draw attention to themselves via direct interaction with someone (15 CP).
  • Cloaking (6 CP). A half-ayakashi’s physical body will detect as normal to divinations that determine the presence/state of a soul.

In the world of Noragami, the living world is called the Near Shore, whereas the afterlife is called the Far Shore. As a living human whose soul regularly leaves her body, Hiyori is said to be caught between the two.

That denizens of the Far Shore cannot be detected by those of the Near Shore is a fairly major element in the series. This is not due to them being incorporeal, however; rather, it’s described as being akin to how you simply don’t notice people passing you on the street, but to a much stronger degree. In the case of this template’s Immunity, the level of “direct interaction” required is rather high, usually to the point of overt physical contact – Hiyori once stood at the front of her class, yelling her head off while outside of her body, and no one noticed her.

The issue with her having Cloaking regarding the state of her physical body is my own interpretation of how blithely Hiyori leaves it behind. While Japan may be one of the safest countries in the world where mundane threats are concerned, it’s notable that none of the supernatural evils in the show ever go after her vulnerable, comatose body when she’s vacated it.

Astral Existence (12 CP)

  • Returning (6 CP). A half-ayakashi will not die so long as their lifeline remains intact.
  • Innate Enchantment/spell level 1 x caster level 1 x 2,000 gp x 0.7 personal-only modifier (5,000 gp; 6 CP).
    • Hammer (1,400 gp).
    • Jump (1,400 gp).
    • +10 enhancement bonus to Balance (1,400 gp).
    • +2 enhancement bonus to Dexterity (1,400 gp).

When their soul is out of their body, a half-ayakashi will have a cord about five feet-long or so projecting from their back, after which it fades away (in Hiyori’s case, it’s connected to her butt, giving her a cat-tail). This is their lifeline, and much like the astral projection spell, if it’s ever cut, then they lose their link to their body, perishing. Of course, what Noragami never mentions is the idea that so long as this cord survives, a half-ayakashi will not die, regardless of what happens to their spirit-body. Given that that’s the trade-off for having such a major weak-point, I’ve elected to add that benefit back in here.

Slightly more odd is that Hiyori’s physical abilities are enhanced when she’s in her spirit-form, to the point where she can leap between buildings and fight like a mixed-martial arts champion. Perhaps it’s due to not having to lug a fleshy body around?

See the Gods Among Us (12 CP)

  • Occult Sense/may see and converse with “spirits” – usually elementals, fey, outsiders, and incorporeal undead – regardless of any supernatural disguises or glamours that they possess. (6 CP).
  • Improved Occult Sense/may detect creatures by smell up to several hundred feet away, specialized for one-half cost/only works with regard to spirit creatures (6 CP).

In the anime, Hiyori only seems to be able to detect the scent of gods themselves; however, there’s no reason not to make the ability slightly more expansive here, since that provides for greater overall use.

All of these abilities add up to 45 CP. However, the template is specialized for one-half cost/all of the above powers are only active when the character leaves their body, which happens involuntarily at random times (often due to surprise or stress), leaving their body comatose and defenseless (though they can return to their body, regardless of distance, as a standard action), and while outside of their body the character immediately dies if their lifeline is severed. This lowers the cost to 22 CP.

Not coincidentally, applying this template to a human (using the 3.5 rules, rather than Pathfinder) brings them exactly to 31 CP, the limit for a +0 ECL race.

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Theurgy of the Eternal Darkness

October 19, 2014

The 2002 GameCube game Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is one of those games that is unequivocally art. Its story is an epic tale of Lovecraftian horror, its “insanity effects” are an innovation that remains unparalleled to this day, and its magic system is remarkable to the degree to which it’s defined within the context of the narrative.

It’s this last point that we’re going to look at more deeply here, using the rules from Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

Magic of the Ancients

In Eternal Darkness, all magic derives from the power of the Ancients, three primordial beings that were long ago banished from the universe. Each of these three godlike aliens has mastery over a different aspect of reality – Chattur’gha havng dominion over physical matter, Xel’lotath representing the twisting of the mind, and Ulyaoth commanding the magic of the planes. Notwithstanding power drawn from another Ancient, there are no other forms of magic to be found within the universe of Eternal Darkness.

The magic of each Ancient can be called upon to affect things within their area of control. In doing so, one invokes their name, identifies what it wants to be done, and the thing it’s to be done to; in other words, the spellcaster uses a name-verb-noun combination. So casting a spell to protect yourself from physical damage would be “Chattur’gha Bankorok (“protect”) Santak (“self”).”

In essence, this is a customized variant of the theurgy magic found in Eclipse.

Given that this magic is often used throughout the game to oppose them, one has to wonder why the Ancients let their power be used so freely. Perhaps they’re unable to regulate its use, their power “bleeding” out of them due to wounds suffered when they were banished – indeed, this power might be metaphysical “bloodstains” that were left behind when they were cast out.

Alternatively, the Ancients might allow the use of their power because each casting brings them a little closer to returning to the corporeal universe. In that case, even those who use their magic for just ends bring Creation a little closer to the Eternal Darkness.

The list of names (or rather, “essences,” since they describe the aspect of the noun that’s being targeted), verbs, and nouns available in the universe of Eternal Darkness are as follows:

Essence

Chattur’gha (physical)

Xel’lotath (mental)

Ulyaoth (magical)

Verb

Bankorok (protect)

Tier (summon)

Narokath (absorb)

Nethlek (dispel)

Antorbok (project)

Noun

Magormor (item)

Redgormor (area)

Aretak (creature)

Santak (self)

In game terms, the use of an essence aspect to the usual noun-verb nature of theurgy means that you need to take skill ranks in each essence that you want to be able to use, as well as the theurgical nouns and verbs. Likewise, when making a skill check to use this type of theurgy, you add in your skill ranks in the essence used to those of the worst verb skill involved and worst noun skill involved.

Note that while you can still mix multiple nouns and verbs – going beyond the relatively simple level of theurgy found in the game – you can only ever use one essence skill at a time when casting a spell. The opposed nature of the Ancients means that you can never mix their powers.

Moreover, the nature of the Ancients is inimical to not only mortal life, but the entire structure of the cosmos. As a consequence of this, using their power is more difficult than that of the benign spellcasting in other universes – the DC for successfully casting a spell using this form of theurgy is 7 x (spell level +1).

The magic of the Ancients is unsubtle in its application. While it requires no verbal, somatic, or material components, a successful casting causes a glowing glyph of each word to appear in a circle around the caster’s feet (the color of each rune depending on the name used in the casting – red for Chattur’gha, green for Xel’lotath, and blue for Ulyaoth), and a voice speaks aloud each glyph as it appears.

When casting spells of 4th level or above, an instance of Pargon (see below) will appear and be spoken for each spell level above 3rd.

These visual and audial effects manifest only when the spell is cast, whether successfully or not, and vanish once the caster’s turn has ended. They can never be suppressed – doing so causes the spell to automatically fail.

Pargon

The above rules apply to spells of 3rd level or below cast using this form of Theurgy. Beyond that level, the universe actively resists allowing more of the Ancients’ power to enter. Doing so requires having the strength to force more power through.

In game terms, any theurgic spell that would be 4th level or higher requires having ranks in the Pargon (“power”) theurgic skill. Pargon is not an essence, verb, or noun – rather, it simply denotes the level of intensity that one can bring to bear when utilizing the power of the Ancients; spells above 3rd level require having ranks in Pargon equal to (spell level +1) x 2. No additional check is required, and ranks in Pargon are not added to the theurgy skill check made when casting a spell.

Even with ranks in Pargon, however, this form of theurgy cannot cast spells above 7th level. Spells of that much power require special measures in order to bring forth the requisite energy – typically this involves great monuments being constructed, extremely rare planetary conjunctions, and/or large-scale human sacrifices. (Of course, the caster must still have the requisite ranks in Pargon for such a high-level spell as well.)

Mantorok

The fourth great Ancient, Mantorok is the one that banished the other three beyond the bounds of the universe. Dominant over all, it has since been trapped between dimensions, its flesh impaled by massive spikes enchanted with its own magic. Slowly dying – or perhaps already dead, but still active – Mantorok’s power nevertheless remains considerably greater than that of the other Ancients, for Mantorok represents all aspects of existence, rather than merely a part of it.

Casting a spell using Mantorok’s essence (which results in purple glyphs) skill allows for effects that are physical, mental, or magical in nature, as the caster chooses. However, each such spell requires double the number of spell levels that would normally be used; Mantorok’s overwhelming hunger requires a great deal of energy to fuel.