Wednesday, March 10, 2021

SOS: Terror and Humanity

by JMD3

This is a new magic system for my Science Fiction game.  Previously, I wrote a very good post detailing a potential system one could use, but that system was discarded in favor of me using the Insight System from Throne of Salt's Lighthouse.  Or rather, I used my own theory of that system, as it hadn't been fully explained at the time.  However, this dissatisfied me, as I wanted something more like the magic system in The Magnus Archives.  This is my attempt to recreate that, with a little bit of Black Crusade thrown in there for good measure.

Slave of the Divine Fears:

The Powers are super-consciousnesses, collective manifestations and/or sources of all Fears of a specific kind.  They dwell outside of our universe, feeding on our collective terror and working to multiply it as much as possible.  There are 8 known ones, though there might be more.

For example, The Blaze (see above) is fear of failing to live up to your own potential, of being trapped by circumstances of your own weakness, the fear that you are wasting your life, that you are just a doing whatever everyone else tells you to do.

The Blaze is also the fear of chaos, of uncertainty, of random violence, of the breaking of taboos and restrictions.

The Blaze acts, if it can be called that, to instill and grow this fear in all people, but also in its Agents.  Its Agents are those creatures it has deliberately chosen to be its fingers and hands, those who serve it.  The first fear is the one that is primarily used against the Agents, while the latter against their victims.   

Depending on the Power, these Agents might be granted the right to transcend their humanity and gain greater power, in exchange for subservience.  Alternatively, the Power might offer lesser boons instead, or nothing at all.

All Agents of the Powers- whether they consciously know it or not, long to be united to their Master, forever.

Here's how it works:

Agents of the Powers gain two new Statistics to keep track of, Humanity and Terror.

Humanity and Terror:

Humanity is the mark of one's status as Humanity.  Humanity is lost by aligning oneself with those creatures who oppose and seek to dominate or devour mankind.  Regaining lost humanity is extremely hard, but not impossible.  The only way to recover Humanity is to defy the Powers or to perform selfless acts of heroism.

As lose your Humanity, you will find yourself becoming more and more distant from Humanity.  Those who hit 0 Humanity have their character become totally enslaved to their Power.  That character then becomes unplayable.

Whenever a character acts in a selfless or heroic manner, going above and beyond the common moral expectations, especially in regards to opposing the Powers, then the Referee may choose to award 1 to 2 Humanity.  3 Humanity may be granted for incredible selflessness or heroism, but generally restrict yourself to 1 or 2.

Humanity Table:

17-20: No changes.
13-16: Dark Conviction.  The Character gains a Dark Conviction.
9-12: Dark Conviction worsens/You receive another.
5-8: Daily Demands.  The Character now has an X-in-10% chance of receiving a demand from their Power.  They must carry out this demand or suffer punishments.  Character will only have to roll 1d10 once per day.
1-4: Serfdom.  Character is now totally dependent on the Power for survival.  Every day the character receives a new demand. If these demands are refused, the character must save or die. 
0: Slavery.  Character is now unplayable and becomes an NPC under the Referee's control.

Terror is a measure of the Power's favor towards a character.

The more Terror you gain, the more powerful a character can become, gaining superhuman and magical abilities.  Terror is gained by serving the Power you are aligned with and doing what it asks.  Successes stoke fear in your enemies, which leads to your Power growing stronger, which leads to you gaining Terror. 

To start gaining Terror, you must be bonded to a Power through one of their Agents, by performing a ritual of some kind.  Should this ritual be completed, you can start gaining Terror.  Quests assigned to you by Agents of your Power, if successfully completed, can grant 1 or 2 Terror, depending on the amount of fear stoked and overall success.  Note that not all Powers are as generous as the others, with some requiring great sacrifices, while others handing out rewards more generously.

Terror Table:

0: No changes
1-4: Aura of Fear.
5-10: Lesser Boon.
11-16: Greater Boon.
17-20: Penultimate Boon.
21+: Daemonhood.      

1-4, Aura of Terror: As an action, you can project an aura of terror.  Creatures must save or be frightened.  Frightened creatures cannot move closer to you and you have advantage on saving throws against their attacks or abilities.  Frightened creatures take 1d6 COG (or Morale) damage a round.  Should this reduce a creature's COG to 0, that creature flees, hides or begs for mercy if neither are possible.

5-10, Lesser Boon: A lesser Reward granted from on high.  When you reach this Threshold, you automatically gain a Minor Boon.  For each point of Terror you gain past that point you must succeed on a roll to gain another Boon.  At 6 Terror, the chance is 50%.  At 7, 25%.  At 8, 15%.  At 9, 10%.  And at 10, 5%.  Additionally, should you be granted another Boon, you can choose to enhance the strength of one of your pre-existing Boons by selecting the one you initially received.

11-16, Greater Boon: As 'Lesser Boon'.

17-20, Penultimate Boon: When you achieve this level of Terror, you gain 1 Penultimate Boon.

21+, Ascension: You leave Humanity behind and become an Empty-Man, a Principality tied to your Power.  Empty-Men are ageless, and gain a Specific Death Condition based on what Power they serve.  They do not need to eat or drink, feeding exclusively on the Fear that fuels them, though they can still eat or drink if they wish to.  They do not need to sleep either, but can if they wish.

from here

The Blaze:

Lesser Boon(s):


1- Ally to Disaster.  Whenever a danger posed by a man-made disaster occurs, such as smoke inhalation from a fire or shrapnel from an explosion, you may take an action to redirect the worst of the effects away from yourself.  If fire is burning down the hall towards you, you can direct it to start burning the other way instead for up to X minutes, where X is your CHA modifier, minimum 1.  You may select this Boon again to trigger one of these disaster at will, causing the building with multiple fire code violations to finally be engulfed in flames, or the crumbling bridge that hasn't been repaired or maintained in decades to finally collapse.
2- Bloodshot.  By taking 1d4 damage, you can give yourself +1d6 to Attack for all attacks and defense rolls until your next turn.
3- Berserk.  You can fly into a mad rage.  While raging, you get +2 to melee attacks, but not defense rolls, and take half damage from all physical sources of damage, such as batons, swords, bullets, etc (Referee's Discretion).  However, while raging, enemies get +4 to save against your ranged attacks.  Additionally, each round you don't attack while raging, you take 1d4 damage.  You can stop raging on a successful save.
4- Luck of the Draw.  Replace your next 1d20 roll with a coin flip.  Heads yields a critical success, tails yields a critical failure.
5- Detect Tipping Point.  You can sense weaknesses in people and moments of great potential ahead of time.  These are moments of great tension and should bold action be taken, it could stir even an insouciant people to action.  You can detect these moments 1 day in advance, knowing when they will happen.  If you select this Boon again, you know a month in advance when they are going to happen.
6- Searing Hatred.  If you aren't at full HP, you get +1 to your damage rolls, though this damage isn't added until after the hit is confirmed.  If you select this Boon again, if you are below 50% HP, you get +2 to damage.  You can select it again for a third time, giving you a +1d4 to damage as long as you're below 25% HP.

Greater Boon(s):


1- Crimson Claws.  You can replace one of your fingers with a murderous, hooked claw.  This gives you +1 melee damage when attacking with that hand.  You can select this Boon again to change another finger into a claw.  However, each time you pick this Boon, you have a 1d10% chance equal to the number of transformed fingers, (min 1) of 1d4 of the other fingers on that hand transforming.  Should all the fingers on that hand be transformed, the hand is becomes useless for anything other than hurting others or gratifying one's own (preferrably selfish or base) desires.  When used to do anything else, the hand imposes a -2 penalty on the roll.
2- Ashen Armor.  By soaking oneself in oil and setting oneself alight, your skin is burned into a solid mass of scar tissue resembling the surface of the moon sprinkled with ash.  This causes you to lose 1d6 CHA and gives you a pathetic appearance.  Taking this Boon grants a base AR of 2 (reducing all sources of damage by 2) if you aren't wearing any other armor.  This Armor stacks with a shield and helm.  This Boon can also be taken two more times.  The Armor also grants resistance to fire damage.
3- Alcoholic Venom.  You begin to secrete a type of venom that when drunk or injected lowers inhibitions and makes people more suspectible, in the same way that large amounts of alcohol do.  However, this substance is odorless, largely tasteless and will not be picked up by detectors, unless someone has studied those fluids before and is deliberately looking for them.  Additionally, those under the effects of this venom do not lose physical coordination, only their good sense and caution.
4- Hot-Blooded.  Your blood becomes a strange, alchemical mixture.  This makes you immune to poison and disease, as no normal micro-organism could survive in such a hostile environment.  You also gain the ability that as a free action you can willingly increase your blood-pressure to abnormal levels.  Each time you choose to do this, you add +1 to any initiative or DEX rolls, or rolls based on moving quickly or with agility.  However, each time you increase it past +1, you must save or suffer a minor heart attack.
5- Me Gonna Save the World.  You can redirect some of the energy that would ordinarily go to your brain to your muscles.  This temporarily reduces your COG by 1d4, but increases your STR by 1d6 for one hour.  Additionally, while doing this, you may add your STR bonus to damage dealt, but not to attack rolls.  However, each time you do this you must save.  On a failed save, the transfer is permanent and cannot be undone by normal means.
6- Terror Sense.  If someone is frightened of you, you gain the ability to sense their presence as long as they are within 100'.  You also get +2 to your defense rolls and saving throws against their attacks and abilities.  If you select this Boon again, you double your bonuses.

An Agent of the Blaze's Dark Convictions:


1- "I want to break something."  When faced with something that looks like it would be really fun to smash, you must save to resist to doing so.
2- "I hate following rules."  When put in a situation where following rules is essential and necessary, you must save to resist flagrantly violating them.
3- "I want that thing."  You suddenly desire one particular object or item that you can see.  You will find yourself captivated by that item for 1d6+1 days, obsessing over it for that time, until you get over it and move on to something different.  If given the chance to take or buy it, you must save to resist.   
4- "I have no filter."  When in a situation where tact and politeness is necessary, you must save to resist the urge to speak frankly and say what you are really thinking. 
5- "I hate being cautious."  When given the option between acting recklessly or being cautious, you must save to resist the urge to act recklessly.
6- "I hate that guy."  You develop a sudden dislike of one creature within visual range.  Whenever you have the opportunity to mock, chide or slight that creature, you must save to resist doing so.

Penultimate Boon:

1- Dragon Scales.  You become immune to fire and heat damage.  Smoke doesn't harm you either.
2- Furnace Heart.  If you ritualistically sacrifice a human, you can restore Xd6 HP, where X is the creature's HD.  The creature needs to be aware and awake during the ritual for this to work.
3- Exude Hatred.  You can secrete a cloud of pheremones that make people break down into tribes and become violent towards those outside their tribe.  "Tribe" here means whatever social group the person thinks is most important, whether that be religious, political, racial, linguistic, geographic, etc.
4- Prophet of Violence.  You cannot be surprised and can automatically sense when creatures around you are planning to do or use violence or the threat of it against you.

Principality's Specific Death Condition:

A Principality of The Blaze can only truly be killed by being slain by a Principality of The Smiling God;
by being buried alive;
or by being mutilated and having the various body parts sealed in different containers and placed at least 1 mile apart from any other piece. 

Should any of those occur, the Principality of The Blaze dies.  Should any of the following fail to occur, The Principality of The Blaze is returned to life in 1d20 days, their restored body emerging from the midst of a fiery disaster such as a wildfire, a factory explosion, a twenty vehicle pile-up, etc. 

by Chalmer Relatorre

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