A Jenna Moran Production

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide

The Ethereal Player's Guide is about playing...well, ethereals. Creatures born of human dream and imagination, though must refuse to acknowledge the debt of creation owed to humanity. Some are predators or parasites, others slaves, others symbiotes, while others try to ignore humanity as much as they can. It is also primarily written by Jenna Moran (when she was going by Rebecca Borgstrom) and David Edelstein. They have a sidebar. It should give you some sense of what you're dealing with.

Ethereals, while less potent than celestials, are plentiful, with their own societies. Despite the Purity Crusade, occasional demonic predation and other hazards, they remain the most plentiful beings of the Far Marches, and they are far more likely to be harmed by each other than celestials. However, those who seek Earthly power do run into celestials. They may be pawns of sorcerers or masterminds, or even on the run from other ethereals. We get an origin myth for them, based on a Nigerian folktale and told to us via the framing device of a giant frog named Mainu, the size of a bear, who is about to eat a dreamer when the dreamer says that the frog must first introduce himself and his nature before they can be eaten.

So, in the beginning of time, the Marches contained only chaos and mist. The mist was raw potential, the substance of unmade dreams. Some patches of mist were tiny, others vaster than the world. Seas of chaos raged between the clouds of mist, without boundary, infinite. Chaos has retreated now, but it remains infinite. A number of spirits descended upon the Marches from somewhere else and began to give it shape. They brought mist together to form a place for future spirits to grow, surrounding it with the Utgard stones, that keep chaos at bay. They swept impurities into small piles. Thse were both the first life and terrain of the Marches. The great chiefs of these spirits were Dream, Imagination, Myth and Hypothesis. Each had a dozen lieutenants. And when they finished, they left as quickly as they came.

The mists drew back, revealing a great chair and table, upon which sat a great knife. Lightning and thunder cut the mist, and the mother of dreams, Woyengi, appeared. She sat in the chair and took the knife. With one hand, she fished Dosha from chaos. Imagination had made Dosha by sweeping together impurities. Dosha was a serpent with whiskers as large as his body, and he was pure badness. He could hold a mountain in his mouth, but Woyengi held him as a man could hold a worm. She lifted the knife, but Dosha begged to live. Woyengi explained that she needed Dosha's stomach, and that it was a great honor that came only once a lifetime. Dosha declined this, and instead bit Woyengi, who dropped him, and he fled. Woyengi resigned herself to this, and used the knife to cut her wound off. She pulled forth from chaos the creature Atavus, whom she cut the stomach from, sealed it, and filled it with her breath. Then she squeezed it gently, and spirits flew forth from the open end. At first, as all were born of one breath, they were all exactly alike.

Woyengi did not want this, so she called the four chiefs to her aid. She told Dream of the animals on Earth. When they sleep, she ordered him to create small worlds for them, based on the patterns of their minds. And so Dream made the first dreamscapes. She ordered Myth to distill color from dreams, that the spirits might be flavored with them. Myth set to work. He took the dreams of water, and from them he fished out one long string of waterness from each. He braided these threads together into a rope of Water-dream. He did the same with Anger, Thunder, Mountains and Moon. Soon, he had linked all animal dreams with strands of rope, and he brought the free ends to Woyengi. She told each spirit to choose what they wanted to be, and each chose one strand. Myth untangled a thread from that strand and ran it through the spirit's heart, filling them with the nature of the strand. Thus were the primal spirits created.

Much later, humans began to dream. Their dreams were far more complex than those of animals. Myth came to Woyengi and told her that they were too complicated to make rope from, that it would drive him to madness to try. Woyengi finished her work for the day and showed him a dream of a mad sheep who kills the greatest god and so dooms the world. It was the only dream that featured a sheep that killed gods. Woyengi told Myth not to make a rope for god-killing sheep, but isntead to draw out the thread of Beasts, of Anger and of Greatness, and that if a spirit wanted to be the God-Killing Sheep idea, it could have parts of all three ropes. Myth thought, however, that spirits of more than one strand would be terribly confused.

Woyengi considered, then turned to Imagination. She told him: when a spirit chooses to be made from human dreams or stories, he was to make a clay maks for the spirit. The mask would show their role in the dream, so if the spirit became confused about what they were due to the number of strands, they could put on the mask and pretend it was what they truly were. Imagination began to make masks - all kinds of masks. And he gave one to each spirit.

In these early days, Dosha would emrge from the chaos at the edges of the world to eat primal spirits, as would others of his kind, built from the original impurities. The primal spirits could not defeat them, and they cried to Woyengi for aid. She was very busy, so she set Hypothesis to answer them. They begged him for homes to hide in, able to be defended. Hypothesis asked them what they wanted, and they told him they desired impregnable fortresses with every conceivable amenity. Hypothesis nodded, then headed out into chaos, where he found the creature Kshetrashuddhi and killed it in battle, dragged it back the Marches and scattering its scales. Where a scale landed, it made a world. These worlds, or Domains, were like dreamscapes without dreamers. They did not, he told the spirits, have every conceivable amenity, and were not impregnable, but they were fine and worthy, and the spirits could learn to build them. The spirits decided not to complain. Then, Hypothesis asked what power they wanted. They asked for absolute power over all in the Marches. Hypothesis laughed at this, for even Woyengi did not have that, but he turned to work. He pulled the heart from the corpse of Kshetrashuddhi and let its blood flow over the spirits as he crushed it. This blood, he told them, would activate the power within them. Stormy spirits gained power over Storms, while oceanic gained power over Sea. In this manner, all spirits would get some power. The spirits chose not to complain. Hypothesis returned to Woyengi, and the monsters of chaos invaded less frequently, fearing the defenses of Domains and the power of spirits. Still, they did not end their wickedness.

Smash cut back to Mainu, who tells the dreamer that this is what he is - a spirit of hunger, wearing the mask of a frog. The dreamer objects to being eaten again, because a person should know why they're going to die. Mainu sighs, but explains.

One day, Woyengi created a spirit who chose threads from Anger and Sun, and who was given the mask of Lady Serena, Savior of France. Lady Serena became a hero in the Domain of Shunyata, pushed to greatness by the Anger in her. She soon became famous, but over the years, she grew discontent. Nothing quieted her inner rage, and she was running out of great deeds. She went back to Woyengi, that she might choose new elements. She headed through the Marches, reaching a large forest, home to the god-king Isembi. In the distance, she heard the rage of chaos against the Utgard stones, but she was unafraid. Isembi confronted her, demanding to know if she was Lady Serena of Shunyata, which of course she was. He demanded she visit him for a meal, and told him of her quest. Isembi told her it was madness, that no one saw Woyengi after their birth, and that he would make her turn back. Serena basked in his anger, but also felt her own rise. She demanded he face her. He was enraged, but could not refuse. The two began their duel, and Isembi allowed Serena the first attack, but she refused it, and gave it back. He struck at her, making the threes grab her and tear her apart. However, Serena began to sing, and her body parts pulled back together. That was all of Isembi's power, so now it was her turn. She sang again, and danced, and all of Isembi's magic flew into her. He died, and she moved on.

At the edge of the forst, she found the Utgard stones at the edge of Chaos. This puzzled her, for Woyengi lived in the Marches, but then she saw a great bridge - so long it crossed infinity and joined back to the Marches. Woyengi set across the bridge, and halfway across, she met Akosmia, who rules chaos, who had come from the sea to confront her. He demanded to know if she was in fact Lady Serena, which of course she was, and then he demanded she eat dinner with him. As a creature of the Sun, she believed in courtesy, so she joined him and explained her quest. Akosmia told her it was out of the quesiton as well, so she challenged him. They two fought, and Serena allowed Akosmia the first blow. He set chaos against her, shifting time and space, making the world even stranger. However, Serena called up her clay mask and proclaimed to chaos that she was Lady Serena of the dream of Aicelina, and so great was her identification that chaos could not shake her. And so, she was allowed her own blow. She took out her sword, drawing a pattern of order around Akosmia and so weakening him until he died, and all of his magic went into her. She moved on.

Serena had almost reached the bridge's end when Dosha emerged from the chaos, and asked if she was Lady Serna. He insisted she join him for dinner, but she told him that she had already eaten twice, when spirits need not eat at all. Perhaps on the way back. Dosha asked her quest, and she told him. Dosha said he could not let her cross, for fear that she might tell Woyengi of his location, so he would eat her. Serena protested that she only knew because he spoke to her, and he refused challenge, for he was too large to fit in a dueling circle. Serena considered, then fled down the length of the bridge. Dosha chased her, but before he could eat her, the bridge ended, and they had reached Woyengi! She reached to grab Dosha, and he fled - fled to the only hiding place he could find: inside a spirit's eyes. In his hurry, he scraped off many scales on the Utgard stones and much of his flesh in the Marches. By the time he hid, there was nothing left of him but Sahajaklesha, the essence of fear and caution, which even now haunts the spirits of the Marches. Woyengi wisely refused Serena a second chance at her threads - instead, she took Serena's mask and made her Raga, the essence of desire and ambition, which now shouts in the heart of every spirit. Still, while Raga tries its best, Sahajaklesha holds most spirits back from the excesses of glory, and so few heroes have ever been so great as Serena of Shunyata.

Cut to Mainu, who explains that he will eat the dreamer because the Raga in him demands power and the Sahajaklesha fears weakness. The dreamer asks if the story is true, and Mainu shrugs, then eats them. The dreamer awakens screaming.

Ethereals have the same caps as celestials and must have at least 1 Force in each realm if possible. If not, they need at least one Ethereal Force to survive. Most ethereal gain Forces later either via assumption or devouring other ethereals. More on that later. Where celestials are defined by resonance and Word, ethereals are primarily defined by the elements (or strands) of which they are composed and the concepts for which they have affinity. Elements are not paid for, but selected as part of concept. More on them later. Affinities are based on elemental composition. They are concepts embedded in the ethereal soul, often responsible for a spirit's birth, when a concept features strongly in a potent dreamscape or domain. Celestials often see affinities as attunements and elements as Words. EThereals have a certain amount of power over the concepts they have affinity for, especially on the ethereal plane. Most spirits have at leasto ne affinity, especially if initiated, more on which later. Multiple affinities are common, but there is a limit. No ethereal can have more than (total Forces) affinities, and stronger affinities take more power. They can be slight, moderate, strong or primal.

Ethereals can have skills, much like any celestial or human, though most skills are difficult to learn in the Marches outside appropriate dreamscapes or domains. They can also learn Songs, and all Songs in the core are assumed to be common in the Marches. Most of those from the Liber Canticorum are not. Ethereals can have Roles, but lack the support network that celestials have to help create and maintain them, so generally speaking they only get them by spending time on Earth, living out a Role, and they must be very cautious. As a result, few have strong or high-status Roles. They can have Servants, primarily other ethereals or dream-shades, and it's rare for any but pagan gods to have mortal Servants. Celestial Servants are exceptionally unlikely. Ethereals can have or even make artifacts, though mostly only talismans, relics or reliquaries - purely corporeal artifacts can't enter the Marches. They can have Discord - it is an alien element imposed on a spirit's nature, typically by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Discord can also be accepted to reduce the Essence cost of a vessel, which does not give any CP if so. Most ethereals also have one or more inherent Dreads, stemming from their strands. These function like Ethereal Discord, save where noted in the future. You get CP for Dreads when you start play, but new or enhanced Dreads are only given benefits if acquired as part of an initiation. Celestial Discord prevents Essence regeneration just as for celestials. Ethereals cannot shed Discord easily, though it is possible that means of refashioning your Image, more on which later, might be able to remove or alter it. Ethereals can have vessels, but cannot manipulate one too large for their Forces. They can 'cache' Essence to create vessels for themselves, however.

Ethereals regain Essence at midnight on Earth, or once a day in the Marches, as determined by the universe. Apparently going into faster-time Domains for several days and coming back to where you were after a few local minutes never seems to work. It just doesn't. No one knows why. Ethereals can gain perform Rites from Wordbound celestials, but few ever do. However, they can also gain Rites of their own based on their affinities. Some pagan gods can grant Rites, but none do so casually, as they have little Essence to spare. Some etherals have worship rites, which channel Essence from worshippers to them. Anyone who knows a worship rite can use it once a day to send 1 Essence to the god invovled, and the user of a worship rite must be willing and aware of what they're doing, if not necessarily cognizant of Essence or how it works. Nearly any ethereal can benefit from worship rites...but to do so, they must have a unique Image and a worship rite must be indelibly associated with that Image. Thus, an Image of 'faerie' or 'lightning spirit' isn't enough - if a worship rite is performed and more than one spirit has the Image, the Essence is sent to one of the eligible spirits randomly. There's just too many faeries around to reliably gain much Essence that way. An individual name might work, but usually won't be sufficient - you need to be unique. Thus, the best way is to eliminate or replace every spirit whose Image infringes on yours. That's how the gods became so potent originally, and why they're so fast to destroy other spirits hwo mimic them. Apollo has been Apollo for millenia, and while there's copycats, the real Apollo always eventually notices someone's stealing his Essence and hunts them down.

Next time: Spiritual Power

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Not all Essence is drawn from worship, however. Some famous and popular Images receive Essence via the collective dreams of humanity, despite the lack of worship. Elvis, Santa, Darth Vader. Essence from ambient belief is divided randomly among all spirits with the appropriate Image. This is why Santa's not a modern god - there's so many Santas that no one of them has ever managed a solid singular power base. If one Santa could kill enough of the rest to become the 'true' Santa, they might become vastly potent...but murdering other Santas is very un-Santa. Because belief in Santa or love of Elvis is not the same as a deliberate attempt to send Essence by worship, the Essence it generates is very diffuses, thousands of times weaker than worship. It rarely generates more than a few points of Essence per night, sent randomly to spirits that share the Image. During peak periods, it might be multiplied many times over, however, like Christmas for Santa. Ethereal PCs that personify, say, the Easter Bunny or a specific Playboy centerfold might occasionally benefit from a stray point of Essence, possibly on a favorable Intervention...but it'd be more lucrative to go eliminate all the competitors.

Ethereal Tethers are rare, but some do exist. Most are consecrated to a single god, but some are to an entire pantheon that shares in the Essence flow. A Tether, even a tiny one, can supply a lot of Essence - the weakest provide several points each day, and the strongest celestial Tethers might generate thousands of Essence per day. No ethereal Tethers of that magnitude exist, and may never have existed, but even the weakest are worth defending. Sadly, only a god can possess a Tether, so PCs will rarely have one.

Ethereals have a reputation for predation, in large part due to the practice of dream-eating. This is actually several different things. The most common is use of the Celestial Song of Draining on a mortal dreamscape, mostly done by malevolent spirits in Beleth's service, to cause nightmares and scare the victim into spending all their Essence in the dream, thus feeding it to the spirit. However, a more literal form of dream-eating is the cannibalistic power of ethereales to devour each other and steal power. When ethereals face other ethereals in celestial combat, they receive 1 Essence for each Force the strip from the victim. If they completely destroy the victim, they also gain any Essence the deceased had left, and may even gain a Force. Ethereals cannot devour humans or celestials in this way, and no other being gets this benefit from destroying ethereals. (Assumption also transfers Essence to the victor.) There are rumors, also, have ethereals who have other ways to drain other spirits, dreamscapes, mortals or even celestials.

Ethereals suffer Trauma more heavily than celestials, when their vessels die. They lack a Heart, and really only exist in the form of intellect animating elemental strands. Thus, when they tenter Trauma, they do not 'go' anywhere - they disperse into the Marches until they gather enough of themselves to reform. They get a Will roll at -2 after (Corporeal Forces) weeks, minimum 1. If they succeed, they regain awareness and reform at their anchor. If they fail, they lose a random Force and can try again after (Corporeal Forces+CD) weeks. Each failure costs a Force, until you either awaken or die.

Ethereals can fight celestially in the Marches, so sometimes they lose Forces. Loss of Forces, beyond all other normal effects, can strip away elemental stands. If your Forces can't sustain all your affinities, you will lose some, too. Even a single Force loss can have drastic consequences, so ethereals are very wary of celestial combat. On top of the normal effects of hitting 0 Forces in a realm, there are some additional effects on Ethereals. An Ethereal with no Corporeal Forces cannot take physical form and will enter Trauma if this somehow happens on Earth. They also cannot put Essence in their Essence cache or form a new vessel until they regain at least 1 Corporeal Force. An Ethereal who loses all Ethereal Forces also loses their Image. They will get a new Image if they get an Ethereal Force, but not always the same one as before. An Ethereal with no Celestial Forces either fades out of existence or becomes a soulless figment attached to a Domain or dreamscape, acting as any other background dream animation.

Ethereals fear Trauma and celestial combat, but they fear even more the slow death of fading. It is the downside of worship and belief - an ethereal sustained by mortal dream and prayer that loses its following also loses itself. Usually, this happens to gods, but it can also happen tocultural icons. When the icon is forgotten, the spirit weakens and fades. For example, the Biblical king Nimrod was once renowned and feared, and spawned many ethereal spirits. Now, his name and accomplishments are all but forgotten, and his spirits are long gone. The Red Rider, Davy Crockett, Buddy Holly and other similar ethereals are struggling to survive now. Their Images are born of pop icons that are now remembered by fewer and fewer mortals. This is most likely to affect dream spirits and least likely to affect elementals, but it is possible to diminish any ethereal sustained in large part by popular belief. So long as the absolute degree of belief is decreasing, the GM can call for a roll each year, with TN of total Forces. On a failure, the spirit loses a Force, or 1d6 on a bad Internvetion. Gods often have more than 12 Forces, so they can take a while to weaken, but after centuries, even they will eventually suffer poor Interventions. Pagan gods must also roll against fading if they lose a Tether or otherwise suffer drastic reduction in belief.

Heaven has forbidden ethereals to manifest on Earth. Since the Purity Crusade, Laurence has maintained that with the exception of a few rogues, ethereals are driven from the Earth and have no presence there. This is doubtless an overstatement, but those spirits that do go to Earth try to be very quiet about it. However, they do go there more than either Heaven or Hell would like - to find Essence, to fulfill their nature, to recruit followers, to pursue plans, to just have fun. Ethreeals can manifest only if they have a vessel, as they have no celestial form. They must spend 1 Essence and make a Will orll to manifest in their vessel, but they may manifest anywhere they've ever been before, at the lower locus of an ethereal Tether, next to any human they have a Soul Link to or anywhere they can follow another ethereal to. With an Intelligence roll they may even be able to manifest somewhere seen in an accurate and vivid dreamscape. Returning to the Marches costs 1 Essence and a similar Will roll.

Much like celestials, ethereals cause Disturbance on Earth. Any expenditure of Essence will do so, as will damage to corporeal things. Those who manifest, return to the Marches or switch vessels also cause Disturbance, just as celestials do, and can mask it by roles in the same way. Use of affinities does not cause Disturbance, but Essence spent on them does, as do some of the effects they can cause.

Celestials see themselves as instruments or musicians, notes in a symphony. Ethereals do not. They see themselves as a collection of elemental strands, and often refer to the Symphony as the Tapestry. The elements that form an ethereal affect its personality. An initiated ethereal has gotten in touch with one or more elements, both empowering it to learn Songs and skills without a teacher, but also weakening it with a Dread. Even a non-initiated spirit does have elements that guide its personality and affinities, though they are not influenced by them quite so strongly.

The elements of animal dreams are immediate - the Forest, the Sun, the Fear, the Hunt. These jumble together and make new forms, and it was these forms that created the first, most simple and often quite potent dreamscapes. They changed a bit over the years - each spirit that used an element had a tiny, tiny feedback effect on the element itself. However, when humans came, their own visions also altered the elements. For the most part, however, the old and primal elements remain as they begin, before humans ever existed. Not even the newest elements, born entirely by human dreams, are tame. Elements aren't dreams, but the root of dreams, the substance from which myth becomes life. Strands of thousands of elements knit together to make the Marches. It is impossible to list them all. However, most elements can be grouped into categories that share themes and Dreads. They result in similar affinities and Songs. Thus, an ethereal that awakens the element of Light in themselves via initiation shares much with those who awaken elements like Color or Darkness, and even non-initiates will harmonize briefly with the strongest elements within themselves. The worldviews of thematically similar elements don't always match, but they do reflect each other through distorted lenses.

The game is now going to go into detail on one element each from a set of thematic groups of elements, describing what they seem like and act like. It also gives brief descriptions of other major elements in the group, particularly as they differ from the example element. It then suggests Dreads and possible common resources that apply to all elements in the group. We're told to use the depicted element as a baseline, but to alter that in appropriate ways for the other elements in the group - so a Darkness spirit is also concerned with superficial appearances, much as Light spirits are, but are motivated to conceal flaws rather than to attract attention to virtues. Spirits do vary widely, of course - these are descriptions of the average spirit of the element, not all of them, and spirits can focus on different aspects. There's always exceptions.

Next time: Elementals

Enter Sandman

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Enter Sandman

The world turns, far below.
The Astronomical Concepts are an elemental family commonly seen to include elements such as Sun, Moon and Stars. They give light, warmth and beauty, and have since the earliest dreams. They reign over seasons, tides and harvest. They are majestic, abstract concepts, and ethereals with these elements often consider themselves royalty. Sun in particular is the ruler of all and King of the sky. He is majestic and golden, driving out fear and darkness. Warmth is his specialty, but he also understands light and beauty. Many potent spirits are Sun-spirits. They appear radiant, larger than life. They seek to be grand, not elegant, and are as happy in gleaming armor as a lion skin and loincloth. Most prefer darker skinned vessels to pale ones, and some prefer golden hair. They are often very healthy and vigorous, though some of the nastier ones may have blemishes suggesting skin cancer. When traveling in the Marches, they favor shapes of noble animals - stags, hawks, unicorns, dolphins, great cats, bears. They fight deviously but are not treacherous, and see betrayal as beneath them. Their homes often resemble Hellenic or Japanese temples or shrines.

Sun Ethereals consider their nature a burden of responsibility as well as a gift. They are fueled by the fire of the life-father Sun, and must set an example for others. Whatever angels may say, they know they have a shining destiny. Sun-spirits are arrogant, vain, honest, valorous and honorable, and they seek to be remembered. The Sun is high above Earth in the sky, and events on Earth rarely impact it. Similarly, the events of the Marches rarely change a Sun-strange spirit's plans or opinions. Their thoughts are speculative, abstract, glorious. Reality rarely matters. In human society, their intensity and warmth can make humans feel special, and they have an excellent track record with humans. They often take the forms of salesmen, social workers, psychologists, HR managers, hostage negotiators and others that benefit from their charm, or leadership positions like executive, politician or union leader to reflect their superiority.

The Moon resembles the Sun, but is the sage and wise woman, the mother to the Sun's father. She unravels mysteries in the name of both the Sun's causes and her own, but she keeps her own secrets impenetrable and inviolate. The Stars, meanwhile, are the subject of a quest, the realization of hope. Othersm ust prove themselves worthy to claim the Stars or to get their help, but once earned, they do not fail. Common Dreads for the Astronomical Concepts include significant failure, losing control of an important situation, darkness, becoming lost in darkness, discovering one's own unimportance, acting dishonorably, acting cowardly, acting unjustly, undignified situations, cold or severe cold, abandoning a project, any failure, moonless nights, the full light of day, mist, or revelation of one's secrets. Sun-spirits often Dread the undead, Moon-spirits Balseraphic lies and Stars-spirits the work of Fate on Earth.

Astronomical-strand spirits often have Knowledges related to astronomy, astrology or great deeds, Lying, Savoir-Faire or Seduction. From their strand, they can learn the Ethereal Song of Attraction, the Corporeal Song of Entropy, the Songs of Healing and Light, the Corporeal Song of Motion, the Corporeal and Ethereal Songs of Projection, the Celestial Song of Spirit Speech, the Ethereal Song of Nightmares, the Ethereal Song of Nimbus or the Songs of Truth. Their Affinities arte commonly Divination, Glamour, Light, Luck, Obscurement or, for Moon-spirits, Deception.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Angels came, terrible and fearful things, to steal our place in the sky. What merit is there in their love if their love does not recognize our merit?
Demons : That treacherous and unseemly rabble! A time will come when we shall sweep them from our Marches and claim Beleth's Tower as our own.

Simple principles, in combination, create the world.
The Classical Elements include primarily Winds, Water, Flame and Rock. They use furious energy and passive strength to shape the world, fighting each other for supremacy, but they are united in the belief that their conflict gives rise to every event, everywhere. Wood and Metal are also classical elements, but seen primarily in Domains where Asian myths hold sway. The elements are rivals, not enemies, and they struggle in order to create reailty, their principles carving out history even in the absence of physical elements. Water , in particular, represernts change via flexibility, dedication and endless strength. Water-strand ethereals have a primal tie to flooding, rainstorms, rivers and oases. Some have long, clean bodies, while pthers have massive girth, like a lake or river. All are smooth and lithely graceful, instinctively taking the path of least resistance. Most are pale, but some are murkier. They travel in aquatic shapes, animals or rivers. They do not fight fairly and have many contingency plans. Their homes resemble lake or river beds, giant bowls, or clouds.

Spirits of the Classical Elements tend to take credit for creating the world they live in, and they are certainly good at making things or people useful or beautiful. Water spirits do so by cutting away the obstacles and detritus to reveal the purity within. They tend to be amoral, and will use whatever tool is needed to do the cutting. Their motivations vary wildly, but most look on their life in the big picture, focusing on setting goals and achieving them. Water-spirits are tricky, capable and creative. They find it hard to commit to a single plan, however, and usually hold their strength in reserve for emergencies that may never happen. Many Classical Element-strand spirits cultivate anonymity, hiding their true names and origins in favor of descriptive nicknames, thus allowing them to imagine themselves as local incarnations of the elements rather than weak spirits with a touch of an element inside them. In human society, humans instinctively recognize their primal nature, treating these spirits with respect but distance. Water-spirits seek Roles that allow their creativity - engineers, scientists, tacticians (both civilian and military), troubleshooters, marketers, painters and so on. They also often find themselves in atypical careers such as dogcatcher, model, translator or prostitute in pursuit of their agendas.

Flame-spirits are more destructive, aggressive and fierce. They do not cut their way to the hiden utility and beauty within, but burn it into shape. Winds are less fearsome. If their tools do not work, they scour the world for those that will...and God help anyone that gets in the way. Rock, meanwhile, shapes the world by infusing it with its own strength. Water would reform an addict by killing the local supplies. Flame would cause him pain until he reformed. Winds would search for someone else to work with. Rock would counsel the victim and try to resolve the problems that put them on drugs. Classical Element common Dreads include burning, immersion, suffocation, incarceration, powerlessness, stillness, exposure of one's true name, witnessing the physical destruction of one's element in quantity, failing to shape the world using their element's approach, having someone manipulate them into using the approach of an opposing element, losing ground on their current plans, running out of ideas, chaos or the void.

As pieces of a larger process, spirits with a Classical strand can access powers tied to any Classical element, though those from 'opposed' elements make them uncomfortable. They can leanr appropriate Knowledges from their strands, as well as the Corporeal and Celestial Songs of Form, the Songs of Healing, the Corporeal Song of Light, the Corporeal and Ethereal Songs of Motion, the Corporeal Song of Shields, the Song of Thunder, the Songs of Fire and Ice, or the Fins- or Plates-Numinous Corpus. Their affinities commonly include Air, Cold, Drowning, Fire, Minersals or Water.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : In a place far from this world, fire, water, earth, and air met. By their meeting, they formed a God. So vain was He that He sent His children to kill the four who fathered Him. He shall learn better when they succeed, and He winks out like a dreamscape on a dreamer's waking.
Demons : They have no truth in them, no primal glory. The world does not welcome them. Still, they make good allies. Strong enemies. Unpleasant masters.

The world is a thin cloth of substance over a masonry of passion.
Emotion is a large family of elements, such as Fear, Hunger, Love, Lust and Pain. They drive bestial dreams and stir beneath the ornamentation of human ones. They are alive, primitive, ferocious. Fear commands respecti n the Marches, overpowering such other emotions as Fury, Lust, Love, Torment, Pride and even more. Fear inspires glory and infamy. Humans can spend their whole lives driven by one Fear. Beleth likes Fear-spirits. They are surrounded by an invisible but notable patina of terror. Even much stronger ethereals feel nervous in their presence. They must carefully monitor their emotions to keep this fear from influencing them. However, other than this, Fear-spirits can look like anything. They usually wear their natural shape when traveling, but also travel as clouds of ill intent, spinning mirrors or as Malakim - symbols of ethereal terror. In battle, they fight to inflict the maximum of pain and suffering. Their homes tend to resemble ordinary Earthly scenes or scenes average to a Domain.

Fear-strand spirits are intensely involved in their activities. They are built from emotion, and know passion that few others can match. It magnifies their ambitions and their Deads. They love to cause fear, of course, coming alive in its presence. However, they also seek to control others, to dominate them, as they are creatures of motivation. They seek power and rule, and if love works better than fear, they will use love with a fearful determination. Emotion spirits have notoriously poor impulse control - their passion gives them strength and fuels their intellects, but sometimes it overpowers them and derails even their most careful plans. In human society, Fear spirits make humans uncomfortable. Humans can control that fear rationally, but it remains there. The daring spirits take Roles where this is an advantage - athletes, lawyers, scientists, PIs, corporate raiders. More conservative spirits try to avoid attention by choosing Roles that make the fear natural - IRS agents, cops, military, gangsters, serial killers.

Traditional ethereal taxonomy identifies 33 major elemental emotions: Abhorrence, Adoration, Ambition, Amusement, Bewilderment, Bliss, Cheer, Despair, Devotion, Disgust, Dispassion, Exultation, Fear, Fervor, Fury, Gloom, Grief, Hope, Hunger, Jealousy, Loneliness, Love, Lust, Mindfulness, Mortification, Pain, Pride, Resentment, Selfishness, Selflessness, Sorrow, Stress and Torment. There are also more minor, rarer emotional elements. The varios strands radiate their natural emotion rather than fear, and bask in the presence of that emotion rather than fear. They adopt roles that justify or take advantage of their own particular nature. Otherwise, they resemble Fear-spirits. Common Dreads include watching an attempt to inspire an emotion backfire, extinguishing that emotion making its opposite, others escaping their control, suppressing their own emotional reaction in an important situation, working with computers, zombies, actuaries or other emotionless automata, allowing a dreamer to go to the 'wrong' side of the Marches for their emotion, or being without someone to inspire an emotion in. Some Emotion spirits have apparently unrelated Dreads, magnifying the worst fears they had pre-initiation, such as failing their godly superior, being shown by a rivel or confronting celestials.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Beasts! Monsters! Abominations! They stole from us. The Earth is our right! The Marches are our right! I spit on them. MAy their God reject them. May corruptin grow in their oh-so-pure souls. May Heaven fall and may the Earth be damned . Nothing else would punish them enough.
Demons : They have done us one favor. They have saved us from the wrath of Heaven. For this we must pay the Danegeld forever after. Or so they would have us believe.

Next time: Information's an element.

Someday We'll Find It, That Rainbow Connection

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Someday We'll Find It, That Rainbow Connection

The world is all and only those things that we believe to exist.
Mosdt elements are life's concepts of the world, but Information elements are life's concepts of life's concepts of the world. A human dream about a grandmother's dying invokes the element Death despite the fact that it's all mental...but a dream of knowing about your frandmother's dying involves the element of Knowledge. Information elements focus on those things unseen - the understanding of the world, the awareness of truths beyond the senses. Knowledge and Wisdom collect truth, Faith and Imagination collect false or unprovable ideas. Perspective and Perception embody half-truth. News stands out, however. It is information in motion, fact cut free of mind, traveling the world on its own. News-strand ethereals are Marches-heralds, spreading story and truth in the name of information's need to propagate itself. Most Domains welcome a News-spirit.

As with many Information ethereals, News-spirits seem only semi-visible in the Marches - not quite present, a bit more abstract. They like to wear 'traveling costume' - symbols of speed. Winged boots, trumpets, cheetah fur, hawks, sports cars, jet engines. They often travel as lengths of fiber-optic cable, ravens, wind or on horseback. They avoid battle, though many understand tactics deeply. They prefer mobile micro-Domains as homes, but will occasionally settle down in a home resembling abstract art or a public service building.

News-spirits tend to have a sort of friendly disdain for other ethereals. Spirits, to them, are uppity bits of information that don't get carried around like mail. True, they listen to the news, and some even generate news worth telling. For this, the News-spirits will forgive them their arrogance and folly. Still, it is presumptious for them to consider themselves equals to News. Ethereals with a strong element of News like to keep moving. They tend to assume a 'clean' world, where the unknown and unknowable play only a small role. Information spirits in general do this, and those that understand logistics and strategy make excellent military leaders...but those who know only strategy would never even think to ask if their plans are possible to implement. Humans fascinate News-spirits - they are walking piles of meat that can store a hundred million bits of information. They are worthy of long study, at least until the need to move on kicks in. News-spirits tend to appeal to humans, as well, given their tendency to gossip, tell stories and report on things. They prefer Roles as reporters, writers, librarians, teachers, hairdressers, scientists, policy analysts, mailmen, travelin salesmen, gurus or talent scouts.

Most other Information spirits are less full of wanderlust. Knowledge spirits instead collect things - both information and valuables. Wisdom spirits seek understanding, and Perception spirits crave experience. Faith spirits spread faith and hold deep capacity for it, searching for sacred mysteries to behold. They love questions without answers, like the Topasz Gates in the Far Marches, which sing the Theme of Time for no clear reason. Imagination spirits create, and while they can tell the truth, they love to create story, inspiration and lies. They love nothing more than a lie that teaches the victim more than the truth would. Perspective spirits tend more distinctly both towards empathy and selfishness, as they understand the internal worlds of others but are obsessed with their own. Most Information spirits are of these elements, but other, rarer types do exist. Common Dreads include forgetting something important, misunderstanding something important, yielding to a natural inferior, giving up on a mystery, failing a test of knowledge, failing a meaningful test of knowledge, losing a compendium of knowledge, silence, refusing to share non-confidential information, refusing to share any information, witnessing inexplicable events, permitting preventable destruction of information, discovering that a lie has taken one in or admitting a lack of knowledge. Some News-spirits dread personal involvement in the events they witness and report. Many Information spirits of the more abstract sort dread performing certain corporeal activities - perhaps dealing with excrement, perhaps violence.

Information strands can teach any non-secret Knowledge or Language, Artistry, Detect Lies or Lying. They can teach the Song of Celestial Attraction, the Song of Ethereal Light, the Song of Possession, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Projection, the Songs of Tongues, the Songs of Direction, the Ethereal Song of Fire, the Ethereal Song of Memory or the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Truth. Common affinities include Books, Divination, Obscurement, Deception for Imagination or Faith spirits, or Speed for News spirits.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Creatures truly beyond our hegemony. The celestial is not, whatever they say, a "higher" realm than ours. The soul is not supreme over the mind. Yet the existence of peers so different from ourselves is fascinating. We do not understand them. Can we understand them? Can the mind comprehend the soul? Can the soul...do soul things to the mind?
Demons : Demons wish to be our friends, because demons hope to exploit us. History shows, many times over, that friends like the demons do more damage in the end than the vilest of enemies. This speaks only of demons as a group, of course; individuals vary.

The world is a test of our skill at survival.
The Life elements include Beasts and Plants. These feral elements do not accept the lies and pretenses of society, seeing only the savage garden. They lurk beneath the surface of the civilized, a mess of animal motives that drive apparent sophistication and elegance. In the Marches, they cast off the mask of culture and shine in all their glory. The only law is endure - no matter what. Human imagination has corrupted the Life elements. Beasts is the purer of the pair, but knowledge of domestication has tainted it, and some Beasts are even pleasant. Plants, however, has it far worse - under the weight of herbalism and medicine, it has warped into connotations of healing and utility. Life elements can manifest without actual plant or animal iconography, however - humans graphically displaying their bestial heritage and primitive behavior are Life as well. However, no Beasts-spirit ever looks tame. Even at their most charming, they have a touch of the wild about them. Some are predators, some prey, but in their manner, dress and habits, they all display a bestial focus on basic needs. Most identify with a specific type of animal and wear its shape when traveling. They approach battle with ferocity, not subtlety, and their homes tend to resemble dens, warrens, nests or hives. A few resemble modern buildings with nature creeping in - weeds among floor tiles, vines around water coolers and so on.

Beasts-spirits have no patience for superficiality or deception in others, though they're perfectly capable of cunning themselves. Their nature impels them to consider the underlying truths of any situation, as surface appearances conceal danger and opportunity. Perceiving the physical aspects as preeminent, they prefer treasure to currency, athletics to theatre and strength to cleverness. They live in the now. In human society, they prefer to take vessels at the peak of the food chain - bears, tigers, sharks and humans. As humans, they try to play by the rules in the interests of survival, but have no intuition for rules that make no sense to animals. Most can understand laws against murder, and many can grasp property law. Drug and traffic laws, however, often elude them. Few understand the logic behind politeness to inferiors, and none grasp fashion beyond simple displays to impress mates.

Plants-spirits tend to focus on growth and competition, locked in an endless race with all foes to claim resources. The tallest plants seize the sun, and their nearest rivals die. As roots seek water, so do Plants-spirits seek allies and treasures to support their endless competition and growth. As leaves absorb the sun, so they take without question or worry. Their ambition, ruthlessness and greed vary, of course. Many just want to survive or gain personal power. However, as plants were the firsth uman medicine, many Plants-spirits seek ultimately to build or heal. Many of these are even pacifists. They gather powers and crush foes socially, though some Plants-spirits are quite violent instead. This power makes them feel safe and effective in pursuit of benevolence. Common Dreads for Life spirits include risking one's life, riskine one's life for anything but a loved one, ending life, wasting time on the superficial, sacrificing present pleasure for future gain, spending 24 hours in an urban area, going without food or water though spirits normally need not bother with them, showing mercy, showing weakness, failing to repel invasions of territory, pointless cruelty, pointless self-sacrifice, failing to advance the interests of the animal species one identifies with, being trapped or being hunted. Some plants Dread physical violence or causing physical violence personally.

The Life strands share one essence, and both Plants and Beasts get access to healing and combat power. Commonly, they learn appropraite Knowledges, Climbing, Dodge, Escape, Fighting, Move Silently, Running, Survival, Swimming and Tracking. They can learn the Songs of Healing, Thunder or Numinous Corpus (Claws, Fangs, Feet, Horns, Tails, Wings, Eyes, Fins, Legs, Plates, Spines or Tentacles), the Ethereal Song of Cacophony, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Nemesis or the Corporeal Song of Sight. Common affinities include Animals, Fertility, Hunger, Obscurement, Plants or Speed.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : They killed without cause and without reason. That is not wildness. That is sickness. They are not sane and should be culled.
Demons : They resemble human developers. They haven o interest in destroying the wilds. In damaging the Marches. In killing spirits. Not even in bending spirits to their will. They do these things merely as a byproduct of their blind concerns - marking their Prince's territory.

The world is what you see.
Senses is a large elemental family. The Sight elements include Light, Color and Darkness. Hearing includes Sound, Silence and Euphony. The other senses have their own, all relatively common. They concern themselves primarily with the visible, superficial properties of things. They witness, not understand. They love instinctive reactions and things that cause them - beautiful faces, hideous bodies and terrifying images. These affect reactions directly, without thought. Light , in particular, illuminates. It is the ability to see. It casts beauty and horror in stark relief. Light hates the hidden. It judges truth on appearances alone, but it hates not knowing the truth, and will do anything to find it. Looking at Light-spirits, it is hard to imagine that they do not have any virtue they desire. If they are proud of a skill, they look like masters, even when bungling. However, it's all looks - it doesn't extend to knowledge or speech. They often travel the MArches as will-o'-wisps or beams of light. They fight with flash but little skill most of the time, but most avoid violence. Their homes are fully illuminated.

Light-strand spirits are very ambitious, in many ways. Many dream of greatness, eithers of villainy, wealth, power, honor or even coolness. They are exceptionally vain and try to be attractive and attention-drawing in their chosen path. For most, the opinions others have of them matters more than their success. Those who want to be heroes are showy about it, villains cultivate dark reputations, the wealth-seekers want to appear wealthy rather than be it. Deceiving them tends to be easy and manipulating them trivial. Senses ethereals just tend not to be very clever...but capable of great reserves of insight and creativity in preventing humiliation. Light-spirits tend to choose Roles that let them make an environment match their expectations. They love having sycophants. Many take Roles in vairous arts, while the rest treat their lives and careers as arts, building them to match a dreamed-of design.

Colors-spirits resemble Light, but rather than trying to illuminate, they want to leave their mark. Life without influence terrifies them. Often they identify with a single color that features heavily in their style and symbolic associations. Darkness-spirits seek mystery and obscurity, concealing their flaws...and often their virtues, as well. The other Senses have equivalent natures. The Touch elements, Sharp, Prickle and Soft, enjoy touching, even if they leave no obvious mark. Hearing must be heard - Music, Cacophony, Middle-C. Taste - Salty, Bitter, Sweet and Sour - tend to be chefs or food critics, or haunt the dreams of such humans. Common Sense Dreads include social invisibility, public exposure of flaws or failings, humiliation, failing to uncover a truth, failing to leave one's mark, failing to produce a reaction, blindness, sight, violation of one's projected persona, looking too far past appearances, absolute darkness, absolute silence, being shown up, research, witnessing the destruction of beauty, witnessing the destruction of hideousness, displaying emotional or intellectual depth, using physical force or not reacting as a living thing would to a strong visual stimulus. Light-spirits sometimes Dread things that traditionally oppose the persona they portray themsevles as, while Colors-spirits sometimes Dread things conceptually opposed to the symbolism of their favored color.

Senses strands can teach appropriate Knowledges, Artistry, Emote, Move Silently, Singing or Tracking. They teach the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Form, the Songs of Light, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Projection, the Celestial Song of Shields, the Song of Thunder, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Cacophony, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Darkness, the Celestial Song of Fire, the Ethereal Song of Shattering, the Songs of Sight, or the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Silence. Common affinities include Deception, Entrancement, Glamour, Light, Luck or Obscurement.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Glorious creatures! Naturally they kill only evil spirits. Well, and other spirits they mistakenly think are evil. Angels make an awful lot of mistakes. Best to be careful.
Demons : Magnificent villains! At least, many are. The remainder seem somewhat sordid. Soiled. Their unimportant, petty malignity is an embarrassment to Hell.

Next time: Society, Structures and Struggle

Money For Nothing

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Money For Nothing

Your world is nothing more than the people who matter to you.
Society elements include Culture, Nations, the Family, the Pack and the Tribe. All are invisible nets of social pressure, punishment and reward, surrounding all living minds, even animals. The Society spirits wield this invisible network, masters of interpersonal relations, charismatic and manipulative. Family operates on a small, local scale, but its bonds are powerful and enduring. Family-spirits work in small groups bound to a common cause. The Family connects people on a level deeper than most conflicts, and Family=spirits, while more limited, try to smooth over conflict and eliminate it. Some help the group reach consensus, while others enforce the will of the leader or become leaders. They have a pleasant demeanor. Young Family-spirits favor neutral shapes - bland, featureless, almost blobby. As they age, they assume shapes closer to composites of those they care about, or may adopt shapes to reflect their company. They quickly establish rapport with others and mutual kinship. When traveling, they often adopt the shapes of pack animals. They do not fight fair, and every blow they make is underhanded and below the belt. They prefer comfortable homes, often full of captured pet figments.

Family-spirits seek to form family groups. Their nature as ethereal spirits means they have no blood ties, however, and they must adopt a family, and convince that family to adopt each other. Spirtis capble of forming this familial bond are somewhat unusual, so it's not easy. Family=spirits themselves are intensely able to bond with their family grfoups, however. Outsiders will face only the sharp edge of their charm and social skill. Society-spirits in general tend to put social needs first, and most will risk death to protect their social position. Most Family-spirits will also risk their family's deaths to protect their family members' social position, too. Their natural charm can rub certain humans the wrong way - those hurt by family members, most often - but most humans respond positively to them by instinct. They rarely adopt living humans as family, however - they're too short-lived, though dream-shades are possible. As a result, on Earth they tend to advance the interests of their ethereal kin, though some adopt a lineage as 'ancestor spirits' - these tend to get hunted down by angels.

Pack- and Tribe-spirits identify with larger groups than Family-spirits. They do not focus so much on the survival and advancement of each member of the group, but rather on the important members, values and goals of the group. Culture- and Nations-spirits take this even further. They deducate themselves to entire Domains, pantheons or causes, caring about individuals only when they are immediately relevant. Common Society Dreads include harm to an important member of one's society, rejection by an important member of one's society, isolation, being cast out, losing status, failure with CD 6 on an important social roll, failure to settle an important conflict in one's society, placing other needs short of immediate survival above social needs, disobeying one's societal leader, violation the principles of one's society, succumbing to the charms of an outsider, witnessing the breakup of a family, falling behind in trends, or the failure of a project that one's society supports as a whole.

Society strands can teach appropriate Knowledges, Detect Lies, Emote, Fast-Talk, Lying Savoir-Faire and Seduction. They can teach the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Attraction, the Songs of Charm, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Harmony, the Song of Possession, the Songs of Tongues, the Ethereal Song of Affinity, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Opening, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Solace or the Ethereal Song of Unity. Common affinities include Deception, Entrancement, Glamour, Motherhood and, for Pack or Tribe spirits, Animals.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Their social pattern - uniting around a single individual, God - provides great protection against disorder and disloyalty. One might question its efficiency, however, given Hell's spreading influence on Earth.
Demons : Anarchy and disloyalty poisons their society. NAturally, this produces treacherous, deceitful, and thoroughly unpleasant demons.

The world sheathes the living, providing a setting for their lives.
Structures elements include Homes and Buildings. Before humans, they represented hives, lairs, territories. Now, however, the dominant Structures are offices, service establishments and houses. Artificial, created things that are precursors to Tech and cousins to Terrain, the Structures elements represent control over the environment. Some are warmly reassuring, while others are oppressive. Homes represent the quality in a structure that allows the heart to reside within. A sense of comfort surrounds them, the knowledge that you are in your own territory. Even when no physical structure exists, an effort invested to claim a place makes it a home. On the other hand, the most elaborate dream-house will not be a home if you know no one lives there. On the surface level, most Structures spirits look made. Some are wooden golems, others robots, a few resemble living three-ring binders. On average, they tend to be quite large. Homes-spirits are similar to most, but add an aura of conviviality and comfort - gentle giants, rather than immense monsters. Most of these shapes are well-suited to travel. In battle, sometimes 'frills' such as cannons or spikes are added, though this doesn't actually improve the strength of attacks. Homes-spirits typically build micro-Domains or residences that match their Image. Some favor a giant version of themselves or some other favored shape - a walking colossus or a hollow statue, often.

Homes-strand spirits nurture and shelter others, but they are not altruists. They identify deeply with possessions and associates, much as objects and residents become part of a home. The darkest are domineering and overprotective, going to any length to control the lives of those that associate with them. Brighter ones are prudent and restrained in their meddling and can be loving friends, who radiate genuine warmth rather than mere comfort. Even so, they are meddlers. It is rare for a Homes-spirit to lack a passion for order, and rarer yet to find one that does not consider itself the 'owner' of its people. Homes-spirits are legendarily stubborn, both as friends and enemies. Once they befriend someone, it takes a grand or ongoing treachery to lose them. Once lost, however, their confidence is never regained. They divide the worldi nto outside and inside - and one who is outside can never go home again. Humans instinctively relax around Homes-spirits, and many of them exploit this, seeking Roles as diplomats, salesmen, interrogators or police. Their favored business, however, is construction. They find building new structures to be very uplifting, followed by real esate and construction lobbying.

Buildings-spirits are harsher than Homes, due to the impressions animals have of the structures humans build. In addition to utility, progress and wealth, the Buildings strand is about human conquest, environmental havoc and death. Buildings-spirits do not bond - they dominate. Other strands include the Nest or the Hive. They resemble Homes in many ways, but their shapes more often reflect animals. Humans feel less comfortable around them, and animals more. Common Structures Dreads include losing one's home, losing any fixture of one's life, spending an hour out of sight of a developed Domain or area, inability to control or influence one's environment, failing to crush rebellion by one's people, entering a chaotic environment, not trying to force order upon a chaotic environment, immolation, witnessing demolition, witnessing a demonstrate of nature's superiority over human creation, suffering entropic effects, making last-minute changes to plans, choosing not to protect of one of one's people or possessions, turning one's back on a friend, or making peace with an enemy.

The Structures strands can teach any Knowledge related to construction, buildings or architecture. They teach the Celestial Song of Attraction, the Corporeal Song of Form, the Songs of Harmony, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Motion, the Song of Possession, the Songs of Shields, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Affinity, the Corporeal Song of Forbidding, the Corporeal Song of Opening or the Songs of Seals. Common affinities include Artifice, Drowning, Glamour, Minerals or Motherhood. (Drowning represents suffocation/smothering.)

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Once, they came down into the Marches like a fiery wind, a murderous primal force that swept away everything in its path. We must build a wall, metaphorically and literally, against that wind. Otherwise, it will come again.
Demons : Water seeping into our foundations. They erode that which makes us who we are.

The world is whatever joy you can rip out of it in bloody chunks.
Struggle elements include Battle, Duels, the Hunt and Warfare. They represent raw, bloody conflict between beings. Even formal war and honorable duels are Struggle, unless so ceremonial that there is no blood. The Hunt , particularly, ties together hunger and fear of death - both common in animal dreams. Uriel's purge attracted the primal spirits of the Hunt like heroin for an addict, and many of them died. before then, the Hunt had a strong primal representation in the Marches. MNow, however, most have other elements that mitigate their violent natures. Most Hunt-spirits are hunters, not prey, as predators are the more active part of the Hunt. They tend to be lean and rugged, whether human-like, animalistic or alien. They are always fierce and hungry, and appear dangerous. They are fast when they must be, and patient when required. They do not blink. When traveling, they favor shapes like wolves, sharks, great cats, ferrets, hawks or water moccasins, the sleeker the better. When they fight, they are aggressive and usually unarmed. They make their homes in places that resemble burrows, hives or caves, but often just stake a claim on an undeveloped area in the Marches or a Domain and wander it freely.

Hunt-strand spirits tend to classify others as either companions, rivals, or prey. They are polite to rivals, if they do not cross boundaries, but they are still rivals. They know how to pursue prey subtly and stalk them without breaking Domain laws, but the target is still prey. Few predators are more relentless. Few defend their territory more carefully. Few companions care more about their fellows than Hunt-spirits, as well. They find each possession and victory more precious if it is first pursued. They don't enjoy easy triumph and will usually focus on goals just barely within their reach. Humans automatically identify them as dangerous and brutal. Their body language, unless very well-hidden, is a constant warning signal. Even in vessels that appear weak or pretty, they receive more attention from cops and authorities. They often take Roles as gangsters, enforcers, corporate sharks or vigilantes. None are vegetarians save as a disguise to get closer to the prey, and most enjoy leather or fur clothing.

Battle-spirits exceed even the Hunt in aggression. They use violence for nearly any purpose - dominance, taking what they want, destroying threats. Battle-strand ethereals often struggle to contain this violence rather than indulging it all the time, however. Duels- and Warfare-spritis seek more purposeful fights. Duels-spirits like to use combat to measure themselves, either against foes or some personal standard. Warfare-spirits understand the uses and purposes of violence, and tend to use it for all problems, but they do so out of calculation, not emotion. If peaceful approaches seem smarter, they will use them, leaving the threat of violence as a mere background element. Common Struggle Dreads include encountering 'prey' that will neither flee nor back down, fighting a foe that won't fight back, failing to 'measure up' as a hunter, duelist or warrior, failing an ally, failing an ally out of military weakness, abandoning a hunt or military action unfinished, limiting one's ambition, the triumph of their foes or rivals, or the more non-cowardly Dreads of Life strands.

Struggle strands can teach Dodge, Fighting, Move Silently, Tactics, Tracking or Weapons. They teach the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Entropy, the Song of Thunder, Numinous Corpus (Acid, Claws, Fangs, Feet, Horns, Tail, Tongue, Barbs or Spines), the Celestial Song of Forbidding, the Songs of Might, Nemesis or Nightmares, or the Corporeal Song of Sight. Common Affinities include Destruction, Filth, Hunger, Puissance or Speed.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Why exactly did they come to the Marches? Don't they have their own world? If they wanted to live among us, that would be different - but they've tried to push us aorund since the moment they arrived. I refuse to accept their rule, and I do not acknowledge their right to hunt in this territory.
Demons : Angels with a different name, really. The only difference is that the angels want human souls in Heaven and the demons want those souls in Hell. Look! This is me not caring.

Next time: Tech, Terrain, Wealth, Weather

Because The Night

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Because The Night

Make the world what you want it to be.
Tech is a newcomer among the elemental families. Only one spirit openly claims to be a primal Tech spirit - any others are keeping it secret. Their history is also quite small, but technology's had a huge impact on the waking world, and in time it will probably dominate the Marches as well. Right now, however, it does not. Most dreams of renegade machines are Fear, most dreams of starships are Winds and Battle, most dreams of computer dystopias are Nations. Only dreams in which the technology itself is as important as the things the technology does produce Tech elements. The most prominent of these are Vehicles, Computers and Machines, but none are common and there's plenty of others. Vehicles focuses on the that, by building physical hulks of steel, humans have stolen the power of the wind, gaining the power to cross countries as easily as a wolf crosses a forest. The power of Vehicles is not strength or form, but the combination of these. With mind, hands and will, humans have tamed distance and enslaved travel. Motion and freedom stir within Vehicles-spirits. They move with power and inevitability, not grace, and the never stop. They are immense, cold and inhuman. They are geometric, symmetrical, like machines. Vehicles-spirits naturally choose the shapes of human vehicles of all kinds when traveling. In combat, they are direct and brutal. Many are expert tacticians of maneuvering. Some build homes resembling airports or garages, while others create microplanet miniature Domains, to better travel great distances and crush tiny buildings.

Vehicles-spirits tend to think in terms of power, not subtlety. They love freedom and speed, and hate confinement, of themselves or others. They are tools for travel as much as travelers, after all. Humans do not necessarily like them, but they uplift humans. Their very presence reminds the humans emotionally that nothing is beyond the reach of human ambition. Knowing this, they can achieve more. As their luck turns, they vaguely understand why, and think of these spirits as lucky charms. Tech spirits in general naturally drift to the center of human groups, becoming the vital force powering these groups. They often have a very strong attachment to human society and a desire to serve it, at least indirectly. Thus, they validate their worth as tools of human advancement.

Computers-spirits are still changing and discovering their natures. They represent human control of information and education, turning ordinary people into scholars and allowing many to understand text and math in a way that was once limited to only a few. On the other hand, many fear computers as animate, wicked and hostile, and that becomes real in the Marches. Some Computers-spirits are rigorous, intellectual and rational, friendly to humans, while others are chaotic, sneaky and hostile. It's too early to tell which way that divide will go - or if it might split into two opposed strands. Machines-spirits tend to be generalists, as long as tools are involved. They aspire to control everything around them and master every skill. Common Tech Dreads include witnessing a human's disempowerment, blackouts, harming human society, harming humans, failing to perform one's function, showing emotion, demonstrating unreliability, running out of Essence, certain Structures Dreads, or loss of mobility, for Vehicles, loss of data, for Computers or loss of effectiveness, for Machines.

Tech strands can teach any modern scientific or technical Knowledge, Chemistry, Computer Operation, Driving, Electronics, Engineering and any weapons-based skill. They can teach the Songs of Artifacts and Machines. Common affinities include Artifice, Divination, Lightning, Puissance or Speed.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : They lack up-to-dateness. In the modern world, faith is obsolete.
Demons : Similarly, evil is passe. When the world actualizes the promise of technology and scarcity no longer drives the economy, society's interests and the interests of each person will align. Evil will become foolish rather than profitable.

We are the substance of the world.
Terrain elements include Mountains, Beaches, Forests, Plains, Tundra and Sea. These elements create the solid world, surrounding and supporting everything. They watch over the affairs of the land, making it possible for life to exist, but they are neither kind nor gentle. They don't exist for life, and don't care about life. They make it possible for lesser things to live only as a side effect of their own nature. They are majestic, fulfilling their purpose by mere existence. Mountains contains within itself snow, rock, forest and wind. The strand radiates starkness, majesty, height and power. Mountains are the gates to the world, the peaks between that which is seen and that which is not. Mountains-spirits are grizzeled, tall, white-capped and thick. They have great presence and seem indestructible. Even when beaten and bloody, they look ready to fight and win. They are implacable, determined and strong. When traveling, Terrain spirits prefer forms such as bears, whales, tanks or mecha, but anything large will do. A few, despite the incongruity, assume the form of house-sized mountains and just glide along. Mountains-spirits fight with cunning,m ferocity and pride. Many do not have homes, preferring to keep nothing they cannot carry. Those that live in Domainds tend to take whatever is offered and make no modifications.

Mountains-spirits tie their mass to their power. Heavy, potent forms and vessels connect them to the vastness of true mountains. Their immutability depends on that physical greatness, and so their spiritual mass increases their will to endure. They value raw might, in fists, minds or reputation. They tend to develop unevenly, focusing on their strengths and ignoring any areas of weakness entirely. They also have a bit of climber in them. Faced with unopposable might such as they seek to develop, they try to conquer it, to find some way to overcome it and wind up on top. They are both Edmund Hillary and Everest. They transcend humanity, as the Mountains strand has existed since the earliest animal dreams. Humans do not impress them, and most humans don't like them. Common Roles for them allow them to spend time bonding with nature - forest rangers, hermits, mountaineers and anyone who might live among mountain ranges.

Terrain spirits manifest the characteristics of their terrain type and those humans who love it. Sea-spirits tend to be cruel, passionate and mysterious, and also adventurous in the manner of sailors. They are strong because they cover so much - they try to ensure there is nowhere they cannot reach. Desert-spirits are arid, stark and stoci, while Woods-spirits are mysterious and cool, and Islands-spirits tend to be remote and either forbidding or alluring. Common Terrain Dreads include defeat, defeat at the hands of a human or animal, adopting a shape that does not evoke the power of one's terrain, spending six hours indoors, lacking a key trait associated with one's terrain type, putting customs or manners ahead of immediate needs, shrinking from a challenge, shrinking from a terrain-appropriate challenge, failing to work against a preventable ecological disaster, failing to prevent an ecological disaster, or showing remorse.

Terrain strands can teach appropriate Knowledges, Survival and Tracking. They teach the Corporeal or Celestial Songs of Form, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Motion, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Projection, the Songs of Shields, the Song of Thunder, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Direction, the Ethereal Song of Location, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Might or the Ethereal Song of Sight. Common affinities include Drowning, Filth, Minerals, Plants or Terrain.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : If they had hammered out the mountains, I would see the dust of mountains on their brow. If they had poured out the sea, I would smell the salt on their skin. They claim arrogantly to have shaped the world, but their claim doesn ot withstand the testing.
Demons : The Archangel of Light stood before his host and said, "I loathe God for his lies, and his uncaring heart, and his destructive ways, and his cruelty, for his temptations to vice, the corruption in his soul, and the way he uses us for his pleasure." So moving was his speech that all his armies became those things he hated most. Thus were the demons born.

Who cares about the world, baby? You have me.
Wealth elements include Gold, Silver, Jewels and Money. A single piece of gold contains the essence of all it can by, but more than that, it is everything that can be bought - possessions, labor, virtue, vice. A gold coin can buy almost anything. Most Wealth spirits are venal and shallow, but they can be admirable. Everything high and noble is within Wealth, if someone cares for it and money can buy it. Of course, so is everything ignoble. Jewels spirits extend the concept of Wealth with echoes of the tangible form of gems and jewelry. They are sparkling and resplendent, able to bear the greatest steady stress, but sharp shocks shatter their composure. They catch everyone's eye, but they think small. They rarely build great nets of influence. They are usually small and brightly colored. In humanoid forms or vessels, they prefer bright colors like canary, crimson, emerald or silver. Most are under five feet. They ahve perfect teeth, hair and skin. Common nonhuman shapes include golems 'powered' by glowing gems, crystal statues borne by translucent tentacles or spinning and flying sapphires. Their favored form for travel is a human merchant and peddler with a figment-drawn cart, selling small miracles. They avoid fighting, and aren't good at it. They design their homes to display their possessions, including themselves.

In their natural state, most Jewels-spirits are entirely amoral. Their knowledge of their own value corrupts their judgment. On Earth, they live superficially, in dissipated lifestyles. In the Marches, many die. Fortunately, few remain in their natural state. As creatures of Wealth, they refelct the things those around them tend to value. If they spend a long time serving an evil overlord, they become loyal and competent lieutenants. If they spend a year among angels, they might become virtuous. Some are exceptions, however, seeking to justify their natural appeal rather than reveling in it. Others draw on the lore of hidden gems, concealing their worth behind a facade of laziness. In human society, Jewels-spirits have a good sense for bargains and finance. They appraise property, trade and speculate, manage accounts or work in fields like art restoration or diamond cutting - anything to add value to merchandise.

Gold-spirits tend to be glowing, effulgent and quietly glorious, adding value to all they touch. They tend to feel a bond to Sun-spirits, and many traits mirror the Sun. Silver-spirits, pale and lambent, are closer to Moon and Stars. Money-spirits are classless and vulgar by the standards of other Wealth strands. They lack beauty and grace, but they consider themselves superior, as they are intimately and deeply acquainted with the idea of value. Other Wealth strands do play prominent roles, but none as great as Gold, Silver, Money or Jewels. Still, Food and Toys are quite important in some dreams. Common Dreads include becoming less valuable, losing a significant portion of one's net worth, losing any portion of one's net worth, discovering that something is definitely not for sale, failing to cause desire, failing to convince someone to value what one values, making a financial error, undignified situations, appearing in public not at one's best, spending long periods of time with someone without expressing the traits they value, having someone outshine one, admitting one's own value, or not admitting one's own value.

Wealth strands can teach appropriate Knowledges, Emote, Savoir-Faire or Seduction. They teach the Ethereal or Celestial songs of Attraction, the Songs of Charm, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Light, the Song of Possession, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Tongues, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Empathy, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Opening or the Ethereal Song of Solace. Common affinities include Entrancement, Filth, Glamour, Minerals or Wealth.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Rumor has it that certain powerful spirits survived the Purity Crusade by paying angels for "protection." How comforting, if true!
Demons : Every demon has a price. This makes demons our slaves, though they know it not.

Make the world tremble with your footsteps. Break it with your rage.
All forms of Weather have a presence in the Marches - Rain, Snow, Storms, Clear Skies and more. They express the sky's moods, pouring forth emotion. Snow represents dispassion and pure intent. Sheltered by inner quiet and cold heart, Snow-spirits move through life with a calm rivaling Elohim. They don't feel pain or anger. Legend says that if they love, they die, melted by its fire. They tend to be pale, diffuse and light, with gray or piebald color left to the rarer Slush-spirits. Snow-spirits tend to havel ong reach, even for their often great height, and some prefer transparent forms full of falling snow. Their most common travel forms include arctic animals, puffs of snow or ice monsters. In battle, they keep a cool head and work to shape things to their advantage. MAny live in mobile clouds or ice palaces, while others live in snow-covered Earth settings.

Weather spirits tend to understand chaos. They enjoy travel and spreading disorder, forcing their will on the world. They actively dislike stability and order, and can throw a curve into even the best plan. Even Snow, distant by nature, feels these drives. Weather spirits are like Emotion spirits in the scope of their passions, and Snow is not an exception. The cold they feel is not an absence of emotion, but a passion of its own - a chilly depression, a bleak refusal to care that is as potent as any flame. A wall of ice separates them from the world and brings peace. They seek to snuff out the cares of others by the sheer weight of callousness. Snow-spirits often take jobs as mercenaries, serving the goals of other spirits on Earth. They are neither compassionate nor cruel and work for anyone with equal efficiency. When pursuing their own goal of ending passions, they take any Role that seems useful. They don't care about being good at it - inspiring others with great deeds does not serve their purpose.

Weather spirits all feel a potent drive, as strong as Snow's reserve and usually more blatant. They can withstand anything, make any sacrifice, do any atrocity or compassionate act in the name of their passions. Storms-spirits, driven, by anger, will do anything to get revenge. Sunny Days-spirits will endure any torture just to prove that hope exists. Common Weather Dreads include losing one's freedom, failure to undermine order, falling into routine, showing too much respect for tradition, allowing circumstances to keep one from following one's heart, failing to impose one's emotional perspective when attempting to, failing to impose one's emotional perspective on others regularly, hiding one's passion, spending an hour outside on Earth in the wrong kind of weather, staying in one area for too long, frustration or having someone successfully predict one's actions.

Weather strands can teach appropriate Knowledges, Artistry, Emote or Fast-Talk. They teach the Ethereal Song of Attraction, the Ethereal or Celestial Songs of Entropy, the Celestial Song of Form, the Songs of Motion, the Corporeal or Celestial Songs of Shields, the Song of Thunder, the Corporeal or Ethereal Songs of Empathy or the Celestial Song of Ice. Common Affinities include Air, Cold. Destruction, Emotions, Fertility, Lightning or Weather.

Stereotypes posted:

Angels : Are they not like us? Making ,breaking, going where they will - they do not acknowledge the kinship beytween us, but we, ah, we cannot do otherwise. Fiercely devoted to their God, insistent that others share their ruling passion, children of the sky, sowers of chaos in our land... Are they not like us?
Demons : In my own person, I am no greater than a demon, and less than some. Yet I am more than my own person. The strands of my being spread throughout the Marches. I am not merely a spirit. I am Weather . In this light, demons are petty tyrants, strutting fiercely but ultimately irrelevant.

Next time: Initiation

Can You Picture That

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Can You Picture That

While a character can have any number of strands, initiation makes one primary and another secondary. A strand's traits usually inform a spirit's personality, but there are exceptions - most spirits do not fully fit the stereotype of their strands, and each strand in a family is a differnet take on its ideas. Even then, if none of the ones listed work for you, you can make your own, or even your own elemental families, as long as the GM approves of what they get access to. So, what is initiation? Some ethereals feel a strong connection with the most important elements of their spirit. Some have so many different strands that they can't identify with anything. A few can't even tell instinctually what makes them up. Those who want a stronger connection to their elemental nature will undergo a rite of initiation, which awakens and strengthens elemental strands.

These rites involve a journey of self-discovery, and they make you more than your Image. You are no longer just the Manticore of Southbridge - you're also Mountains and the Hunt. They are an active part of your identity. Some spirits initiate spontaneously during dramatic situations, like when facing threats to your life or when learning hidden truths. Usually, however, initiations require something like a vision quest. Use of ethereal poisons or great meditative skill allow for entry into a hallucinatory state in search of truth, or an instinctual trip into the Far Marches may be used. These quests are full of vision and portent, helping the spirit understand its weaknesses and its nature. Spirits discussing these initiations often liken it to shamanic rites of passage, while celestials often view them as fledging. Other analogies include 'becoming an adult,' 'understanding yourself for the first time' or 'seeing the dawn for the first time'. Spirits who have not initiated often see these things as mass insanity or self-crippling via atavistic mysticism, however.

Initiation has both concrete and subjective effects. The player selects the primary and secondary elements to initiate. Some primal spirits have only one element, however, and therefore have no secondary. While it is possible to awaken more than two strands, only the first two have mechanical effects. Note that a strand is like a Word - all spirits of a given element are of the same element. These aren't discrete chunks, but a single strand that weaves through all of them. As they learn, initiates imprint parts of themselves on the strand. Thus, initiates have an easier time learning the skills and Songs that others of their element have studied before. By meditating on the strand, spirits can learn Songs or skills without a teacher, provided that many others of the strand have learned that thing before. The experience is more like 'remembering' than 'learning,' for the character, but it costs the same XP. Besides the various things discussed prior, all strands also have access to the Songs of Dreams and a variant Song of Celestial Draining. Initiates also receive a Dread from their primary element. The points received for this Dread are spent on resources from initiated primary and secondary strands. This includes affinities, but unlike skills and Songs, the list of affinities a strand can provide isn't fixed - anything the GM deems appropriate. Further, initiates get 5 bonus CP on top of any gained from the Dread.

An ethereal can initiate before or during play. In chargen, the player would pick a Dread and divide the Dread CP and 5 bonus CP appropriately. The Dread's level is always equal to (Ethereal Forces). This is standard and most PCs will be pre-initiated. If the GM wants PCs to start uninitiated, however, the game suggests canceling the five CP bonus for initiation before play. Note that spirits can have strong, even very strong elemental influences pre-initiation. Once the game starts, a PC may attempt initiation at any time, but the GM decides when they succeed and get the benefits.

Affinities are taken at chargen, though with GM permission they can be later modified. They are similar to attunements, but more flexible and less powerful. They are typically related to an ethereal's elements, its Image, the event that generated its self-awareness, or all of the above. Ethereals need not be initiated to have affinities. Every affinity of at least moderate level grants a Rite associated with the affinity, and each affinity also comes with a list of suggested powers. Any spirit with moderate affinity or higher can use any power from the list with an affinity roll and spending of any needed Essence. Unless noted, this takes neither time nor concentration. The GM may allow additional abilities from the affinity. As a rule, the more potent the effect, the more Essence it costs, and it will rarely beat out an attunement or Song in power. Affinity rolls are made against a TN of (Intelligence+any necessary Essence). Moderate affinity gives +2 to the TN, strong gives +4, and primal adds (Ethereal Forces*2), raising the tN to a minimum of 10 even if that bonus would not be enough to reach it. Some powers do not require a roll. Some affinities have powers exclusively usable by primal spirits. Affinities can also grant an...well, an affinity for certain Songs, much as a Word might, to spirits with strong or primal affinities. They may not necessarily have access to these Songs, though.

Air affinity grants a bonus to creating wind or aerial imagery. The Rite is to spend an entire night exposed to open air. It has the following powers:

Animals affinity gives an affinity for the Songs of Beasts or the Songs of Healing when used exclusively on animals. It also grants a bonus to bring animals into a dream or control their behavior. The Rite is to spend all night in animal form, either in a dream or corporeal vessel.

Artifice grants an affinity for Songs of Artifacts, or to the Songs of Machines either for either primal spirits or use on an appropriate category of machine as listed below. It also gives a bonus to making items within that purview in dreams. The Rite is to create or repair something.

Books gives a bonus to create or alter books in a dream. The Rite is to read or write a book.

Cold gives an affinity for the Songs of Ice. It gives a bonus to turn any dreamscape colder, or to introduce ice or snow. The Rite is to spend all night in sub-freezing temperatures.

Deception grants an affinity for the Songs of Concealment and Deception. Gives a bonus to making things appear other than they are in a dream, including your own appearance. The Rite is to fool someone, either by a trick, simple deception or lie. A grand deception, determined by the GM, earns 2 Essence.

Destruction grants an affinity for the Songs of Entropy. Gives a bonus to destroying dream-images or introducing scenes of destruction in a dream. The Rite is to destroy something with at least 1 Force or 4 HP beyond repair.

Divination grants an affinity for the Songs of Symphony. Gives a bonus to shaping prophetic or clairvoyant dreams - though the believed scenes need not be true. Some spirits can only use this affinity with one sense or otherwise be limited by another affinity. If so, they may spy on Earth from the Marches and vice versa. Otherwise, same plane only. The Rite is to successfully predict a future event, earned when the prediction comes true.

Drowning/Suffocation give a bonus to putting dreamers in a situation where drowning or suffocation is possible. The Rite is to drown or suffocate someone, either corporeally or in a dream.

Emotions is actually a category of affinities, one for each emotion. Love gives an affinity for the the Ethereal Song of Attraction, Joy for the Songs of Laughter, Fear for the Songs of Nightmares, Hatred for the Ethereal Song of Revulsion, and all for the Ethereal Song of Sensation. Gives a bonus to influence the moods of a dream towards that emotion. The Rite is to cause the appropriate emotion.

Next time: Affinities

I'll Be Watching You

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: I'll Be Watching You

Entrancement gives a bonus to diverting attention toward or away from yourself. The Rite is to spend 10 minutes distracting someone from what they were doing.

Fertility grants an affinity for Songs of Fruition. It gives a bonus to create dreams of childbirth of growth. Spirits generally hide a Fertility affinity due to the abilities it grants them being hated by angels. The Rite is to plant something, or to facilitate or participate in an act of conception.

Filth gives an affinity for the Songs of Pestilence. It gives a bonus to pollute any dreamscape with images of mud, muck, sewage, smog or other filth. The Rite is to befoul a structure, stream, pond, glade or similarly sized area.

Fire gives an affinity for the Songs of Fire and Numinous Corpus: Flame. It gives a bonus to create fires or warmth in dreams. The Rite is to consume something valuable with fire.

Glamour gives an affinity for the Ethereal Song of Nimbus. It gives a bonus to any Dreaming rolls to improve your own appearance or create a favorable reaction. The Rite is to impress someone important.

Hunger gives an affinity for the Songs of Hunger. You get a bonus to creating dreams of physical hunger or food. The Rite is to satisfy your hunger or help someone else satisfy theirs.

Light gives an affinity for the Songs of Light. You get a bonus to illuminate a dream. The Rite is to spend a full day or an entire night in a dreamscape under the equivalent of full sunlight.

Lightning gives an affinity for the Songs of Lightning. You get a bonus to introduce lightning storms or electricity to a dream. The Rite is to spend the night in a thunderstorm.

Luck gives a bonus to arrange improbable 'random' events in a dream in order to benefit or harm someone specifically. The Rite is to escape a bad situation or gain some benefit, entirely by chance.

Minerals can provide affinities for the Songs of Stone or Numinous Corpus: Rock, but only when your affinity is for stone. Each Mineral affinity applies to a particular type of mineral, such as stone, metal or gems. You get a bonus to create your preferred material in dreams. The Rite is to spend the night surrounded by your favored material - which includes concrete for stone and cars or vaults for metal.

Motherhood gives a bonus to creating images of motherhood in a dream, including any attempts to protect children. The Rite is to defend a child from harm or care for a child for one day.

Obscurement gives affinity for the Songs of Concealment and the Ethereal Song of Form. You get a bonus to hide yourself or others, and to any attempt to use Move Silently in the Marches. The Rite is to successfully hide something from a searcher for a day. (You are something.)

Plants gives a bonus to introduce or control plants in a dream. The Rite is to spend all night in contact with plant life.

Puissance gives a bonus to creating weapons or conditions favorable to weapon usage in dreams. The Rite is to hit someone with a natural CD 6.

Speed gives an affinity to the Songs of Motion. You get a bonus to Dream-Shaping rolls to outrun or outmaneuver someone else. The Rite is to beat someone in a race or other contest of speed.

Terrain is like Emotion - you pick a specific type of terrain, like Sea, Mountain, Forest, Arctic, Desert or City. You get a bonus to creating that type of terrain in dreams. The Rite is to spend the night in the chosen terrain type.

Water grants an affinity for the Songs of Water. You get a bonus to bring water into dreams or shape water in dreams to your will. The Rite is to spend the night in or next to a body of water.

Wealth gives a bonus to shape a dream towards images of riches or quests for wealth. The Rite is to acquire something more valuable than anything else you currently own.

Weather gives an affinity for the Songs of Storms. You get a bonus to alter the weather in dreams. The Rite is to spend all day exposed to severe weather.

We get a brief bit on Vessels. You can cache Essence for vessel creation. The cost of a vessel is (15*vessel's size*vessel's level) Essence. Size is limited by your Forces. You must have a certain number of Forces to be able to use a Vessel of a certain size, though you can wear one smaller than your Forces. The size of most vessels is equal to the Forces of a normal being of that type - so 5 for an adult human. However, it's not always that way - really big things need more Forces even though a whale probably doesn't have more Forces than a human. Charisma can be raised up to +3, costing 15 Essence per vessel level, or 10 Essence if the Charisma is limited to a certain kind of being. Vessel Discord makes vessels cheaper, and only affects one vessel - so you only have it while in that vessel. It reduces the cost by (3*vessel's level*Discord's level) Essence, or (5*vessel's level*Discord's level) for Celestial Discord, though never below 1 Essence.

Next time: Types of Ethereal o

Happiness Hotel

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Happiness Hotel

Anything imaginable can lie in the Marches. Ethereals include singing beer bottles and pagan gods. All they have in common is that they are of the same stuff. A figment is like a god, in the same way a reliever is like an Archangel. Ethereals are innately mutable, formed of Essence and dreams, and often their nature is imposed on them. It can even be changed. They can be categorized by nature and origins, but no classification is either definitive or entirely accurate. Spirits can take any guise, and there's no way to be sure if the Santa you meet is a recently escaped drema-fragment, a full spirit or even a god trying to subsume the image of Santa into his own Image - or even an elemental disguising themselves for osme reason. All spirit types are made using the same rules, and they aren't really classes so much as descriptive categories, which can overlap quite easily.

Elementals are those spirits defined primarily by their elements. Most older ethereals are elementals, and the eldest of them predate humanity. They might be born of mortal dreams, but are more likely to spontaneously materialize in the Marches. Some say the first were born as the Earth cooled and began to dream of stone, water, mountains and storms. Note that these aren't just Earth Fire, Wind and Water - there's plenty of more contemporary and humanocentric elemental strands, after all! The defining feature is that an elemental strongly embodies only one or two strands, usually in a simple way. Elementals tend to have thin masks, defining themselves by their strands, not by some external purpose or Image. Sometimes they may take unlikely guises, however, most commonly when trying to change their Image or expand affinities. However, they usually prefer more intuitive forms, and even in other forms it is usually easy to tell what their elements are, unless they're really trying to hide them. Primal spirits are usually elementals.

Primal spirits are made of only one strand. This lets them have access to primal affinities. Most primal spirits are elementals, manifesting their element in the most straightforward way, but they can have more complex Images.

Dream spirits , sometimes know derogatorily as dream fragments, are those born in dreams, their Image crafted by a mortal dreamer. Most are quite weak and short-lived, but a few endure by gathering Essence from other dreamers to feed their Image, and some have become quite powerful. Figments are the images generated by dreams, non-sentient and non-sapient, who exist only to perform their role. Almsot always, they have but a single Ethereal Force, and they never have Celestial forces - any that gain them cease to be figments. Figments can be quite intelligent in their behavior, and they are Symphonically aware, but they can't voluntarily grant Essence to others. They lack self-awareness and usually vanish when the dreamscape does. Every so often, however, a dreamer wil ahve an extremely vivid dream, and a figment will escape it, remaining after the dream ends. These figments wander about, obeying their Image, oblivious to their own origins. Most of the time, they are quickly devoured. However, sometimes they will grow in power and gain more Forces, and very occasionally, they will survive to become a true spirit, able to fight back and so much safer than a mere figment.

Figments come in a few types. Background Animations are just...there, the parts of the dream you rarely notice. Random passers-by, the band of penguins playing jazz, trees. They do the same thing over and over, and if they somehow escape, they'll just keep doing that until they're noticed or somehow expand to a greater role. They are almost always 1-Force. Foreground Figments have a bit more personality, because they directly interact with the dreamer - the tiger that chases with you, the girl that flirts with you, the giant butterfly that quotes Rand and is your repressed childhood. They are more sophisticated and can briefly pass for autonomous. They are usually 1-Force, but may have a second. Central Characters are the focus of a dream, and are most likely to break free and eventually become true spirits. Most are still 1-Force, but some have as many as 3, though none Celestial. They might be family members, man-eating cars or whatever, but they are highly sophisticated and smart enough to fake the free will they don't actually have.

Autonomous Dream Spirits are what figments can become. They may not immediately realize their nature has changed, and most do continue to act out their roles for along time. Still, they have the ability to act independently and even violate their nature and choose different goals. The most willful, intelligent and lucky figments become these spirits. They can be...well, anything. The more 'rational' they are, the more likely they can interact menaingfully with others and grow in power. Talking bears, signing furniture and so on, that's normal. Psychopathic inverted kidneys, or singing black holes, they probably don't last very long. Each of these spirits is unique, and while another dreamer may dream something like them, they are gone if destroyed. If a new one shows up, it's just a coincidence.

Gestalt Dream Spirits are born from the synergy between an escaped figment and ambient belief of dreamers. Dream images that are very common might show up as figments in thousands of dreamscapes - millions, even, that never go anywhere for each that becomes a true spirit. Because gestalt spirits can benefit from ambient belief, they tend to be stronger and more likely to survive than autonomous spirits. However, they are viciously competitive with those that share their Image, unless they form a tribe. Functionally, they are little different from autonomous spirits...except that when they die, they tend to get replaced, and the replacmeent may even share their memories and abilities. This makes it hard for others to track which 'version' of the spirit they're meeting, or even how many versions exist.

Creatures of Myth are beings so prevalent in the collective consciousness that they just show up in the Marches. Some argue the cause and effect are reversed - these spirits predated human dreams, and popular belief made them stronger. Some were born before the Purity Crusade, when ethereals went to Earth more, and had both the Image and vessel of myths. Some interbred with corporeal beings, making half-breeds that were corporeal but had the form of mythical creatures. The difference between these and gestalt dream spirits is that gestalts begin life as afigment and become stronger by ambient belief, while creature of myth are born in the Marches, with no birth in dream. The distinction is a fine one, though, and easily obscured. These spirits can easily be identified by their popular Image, which can vary from the archetype, but always shares enough common features to be identifiable.

Classical Myths are the most numerous, even after the Purity Crusade, since they've had millenia to embed themselves in the dreams of humanity. They were swept from the Earth and many died in the Crusade, sure, but even Uriel couldn't get them all, nor prevent human dreams from reviving them. Of course, all are much rarer now, and wary of going to Earth, almost never in their true form. But they remain.

Modern Pop Icons are somewhat rarer. It takes a lot of belief to make a legend, and few qualify. The latest movie star or dictator might generate more Essence in raw numbers than Galahad, sure, but a temporary surge won't create permanent ethereals often, and once their Image is forgotten, most will fade. Attila, Robin ood and Mulan endure the fads that wiped out the Cromwells, Nobunagas and Ben Franklins. The spirits who are strong and plentiful now may not be the ones with staying power. In the meantime, however, pop icons are usually avoided by older ethereals, because they're very strong and aggressive while powered, and often they lack manners. Plus, of course, there's a certain amount of envy for the power that Kennedy, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe currently enjoy.

Pagan Gods were once strong, with temples on Earth feeding them vast flows of Essence. And then monotheism happened. Now, some of the gods describe it as a sudden assault that left them stunned and weakened, but it was really a process that took almost 3000 years. During that time, gods declined and arose, but they stayed around until the Purity Crusade, which broke them. It did not, however, kill them all. They lost their worshipers, sure, their temples and Tethers, but legend and stubbornness kept them around. Some even still get a tiny trickle of Essence, and others have pinned their hopes to the neo-pagans. There are also a few gods that somehow share power with the Archangels - mostly the Hindu gods and the Loas. They are too benevolent ot be Heaven's enemies, and are grudgingly accepted, given their durability.

To be a god, you need at least 9 Forces, and likely more. Then, you need to make your Image so strong that it becomes a defining component of your being. This is referred to as a godhead, and there's two ways to get one. The first is assumption, which is fast and exceptionally dangerous. The second, transfiguration, is slow, and only very dangerous. Assumption will be covered later, but it's essentially stealing a god's godness, and failure means you die. Transfiguration, meanwhile, means establishing your Image as synonymous with a concept. The concept can be anything, but it's usually one of your elements or affinities. This requires a lot of Essence supporting your Image to permeate the Marches. When thousands dreamed of Amaterasu as the sun goddess and hundreds of motes of Essence were sent by worship, she was transfigured from mere sun-sirit to the Japanese Kami of the Sun. There's no hard mechanics here, but the usual method is lots of worshipers and becoming famous for representing your nature. Elvis would need, for example, to not only be associated with rock and roll, but worshiped as it, and would need to be the only Elvis so worshiped, having wiped out all other potential challengers and sharers of the Image of Elvis.

PC-level gods would be Lesser Gods , potent by ethereal standards and even celestial ones, but nowhere near a Superior. They're essentially made like normal characters, and most gods are of this level thanks to Force-loss in the Purity Crusade or fading. However, even a Lesser God has powers other etherals do not. They can break the rules on primal affinities - any affinity compatible with their godhead can be primal, even if they have multiple elements. Further, they can devise personal Rites to gain Essence. These must be compatible with their nature, and they can be given to others...but when used by others, they draw Essence from the god to the user.

Greater Gods are Superior-level being. They are unquantifiable, and exceptionally rare. The Purity Crusade destroyed most of them and continuing persecution by Heaven and Hell took care of the rest, alongside declinging worship. These gods can have many powers, but all are able to grant attunements - mostly Ethereal Connection, Seneschal and possibly Songmaster. They may create Domains rather than just taking control of existing ones. And they can stabilize and claim ethereal Tethers, as long as tyhey have a Domain. Greater Gods are largely beyond the scope of play, and even Lesser Gods are suggested to not really be allowed as PCs. The game gives only one sample Greater God: Odin.

Next time: Odin

Brick House

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Brick House

Ill Words is an attunement that draws on Odin's reputation for causing feuds and lying. He gives it only to other ethereals, and generally only close allies. Loki also has it, and may or may not be able to grant it. It can be used when you speak to bad-mouth another person, object or idea. Everyone who hears must make a Will roll. Failure means they must immediately make a new reaction roll to the subject, with a penalty of (Ethereal Forces). Success, however, means they must make a new reaction roll towards you, with a penalty of (Ethereal Forces).

One-Eye draws on Odin's own sacrifice of an eye for wisdom. The receive it, you must pluck out one of your eyes. For ethereals or celestials, this causes an effect like a Discord - any vessels or hosts will be missing an eye, as will celestial forms. For ethereals, it becomes part of the Image. There are no defined game effects for this part. Anyway, in exchange for the eye, you may attune yourself to up to (Ethereal Forces) other creatures, with a touch. They must be either willing or unware of what you are doing, and if they later decide they don't want it, it vanishes. Each attunement lasts until either you or they dispel it. You may see through the eyes of anyone to whom you are attuned, and you can see through as many of these eyes, on any plane, at once, without confusion. It is rumored that Odin himself is attuned to anyone that accepts the attunement.

The ethereal realm is sometimes seen, probably inaccurately, as being 'between' the corporeal and celestial. It can be accessed from both, after all. There are Tethers from Earth, and you can literally walk out from Heaven or Hell into the Marches, via Gabriel's Volcano or the Towers of Blandine and Beleth. For those that cannot use those Tethers, however, the path seems endless. Some spirits maintain that these are not actually Tethers, but unique Domain-borders. Celestials just htink theyh ave unique features that resemble Tethers. Much that is true in the celestial plane is also true in the ethereal. Spirits who claim celestials are just empowered ethereals claim this is proof.

Anyone can etner the ethereal plane. Mortals do so every night. However, to control entry takes an act of will. Ethereals and celestials have vairous methods, but mortals can usually do so only be dreaming. Any non-mortal in corporeal form can force themselves to sleep with a Will or Dreaming roll. Failure, however, means waiting 30 minutes to try again. Success drops you in the Marches, leaving your napping vessel behind. (Ethereals can ascend in their vessels, but it costs Essence.) Humans, likewise, can will themselves to slepe, but it takes (30/CD) minutes. Humans enter the Marches in their own dreamscape, which usually materializes in the Vale of Dreams. Celestials also appear on the Vale, with angels on Blandine's side and demons on Beleth's. Ethereals appear at their anchor site. Anyone who entered by sleep can leave by waking. This takes a Dreaming roll, and on a failure, celestials and ethereals can try again the next round, while humans must wait (CD) minutes. Ethereals or celestials awaken instantly if their vessel is disturbed by anything, with a Will roll to avoid waking if they desire. Humans make a Perception roll when disturbed to wake up, with bonuses applied as the GM desires. If not disturbed, an ethereal or celestial can sleep as long as they want, but mortals must eventually wake, though a Will roll can delay this for (CD) minutes.


Anyone with the Corporeal Song of Dreams or the Dreamwalking attunement can enter the Marches via a human dreamer, appearing inside their dreamscape while leaving their corporeal form behind. Unlike dreaming, however, you are anchored to the dreamscape and can't exit it. If expelled from it somehow, you return to your body, which can also be awakened as normal. Kyriotates, as a note, can enter the Marches by 'sleeping' - they appear next to their host's dreamscape, not inside it. The human can remain asleep or wake up. A Shedite's location depends on if they willed themselves to sleep (in which case, next to the dreamscape) or allowed the host to sleep naturally (in which case, in the dreamscape).

Ethereals who have a vessel may enter the corporeal realm anywhere they've been before by making a Will roll and spending 1 Essence. They can return to the ethereal, arriving at their anchor, for another Will roll and 1 Essence. Celestials cannot, however, ascended directly to the Marches except via an ethereal Tether. However, they can walk in from Heaven or Hell. Any angel or demon that leaves the celestial plane and enters the Marches is no longer in celestial form, though they may appear to be. On exiting the Marches for the celestial realm, their celestial form reappears, with a Will roll but no Essence cost. A celestial that entered the Marches this way can neither ascend to Heaven or Hell nor descend to Earth - they must find an exit to the Marches first. However, one who entered by an Ethereal Tether or who entered the Marches by sleep can physically enter Heaven or Hell, de-manifesting their vessel with a Will roll as if ascending. (If they don't, they must go to their tether when they next return to Earth and until they do, it is comatose. However, if it is killed, they suffer no Trauma.) Ethereal Tethers on Earth are rare, but exist, linking to a Domain. Any ethereal or celestial can use them to travel from Earth to the Marches, though a celestial must assume celestial form first. Ethereals can just use Tethers freely to get into the Marches without paying Essence, or to exit the Domain to Earth without cost.

Once in the Marches, unless anchored to a dreamscape, you can travel between Domains. Most mortals are anchored, however, unless they are lucid dreamers. Anyway, traveling through the Marches is a bit mindbending. The geography in the Vale of Dreams is relatively consistent, but outside that, nothing is certain. The GM can make a journey as long or short as they like. The Marches may be infinite, though some say that travelers have found the edges, beyond which lies only gray emptiness, though always in a friend-of-a-friend sort of way. Time and space in the Marches are relative. You are only fast or slow there in relation to others, and that can change by Domain. However, no journey ever takes more than one night, even to the Farthest Marches. While the experience may feel indefinite, even years-long, it always ends within one night...just, not necessarily at your intended destination. If you fail to get where you wanted, it's because you didn't know the way or the place was avoiding you, not because you didn't go far enough. An angel could search forever, arriving in different places each night, trying to find Mount Shem, where ethereals claim God came from, but a spirit who knows the way could get there in a single night. Ethereal journeys are story-driven, taking as long as the GM likes before arriving at the right place, but for quick trips you can just make an Area Knowledge )Marches) roll, arriving on a success within (6-CD) hours. Failure means you wander for (CD) hours before finding somewhere else, or all night on a 6.

A lucid-dreaming human is able to shape their own dreams, and even to notice that the greater Marches exist and exit their dreamscapes. They do not leave these dreamscapes behind - they are part of the dreamer, and the dreamscape instead merges with the Marches. Everything they can perceive is now effectively part of their dreamscape, and vice versa. This gives humans the unique power to use and maintain dream-shaping no matter where they are in the Marches. If a human makes a dream-object, they can even carry it between Domains, as that object is part of their personal dreamscape - though this doesn't apply to anything that leaves their person. Humans are also able to alter their dream-selves and ignore any penalties based on the Domain they are in. They may use the Dreaming skill to grant themselves a bonus to skill rolls, as well, as per a free use of the Ethereal Song of Dreams. However, lucid dreaming can be dangerous - anyone that can see you can use Dream-shaping against you, even without entering your dreamscape, as everything is your dreamscape. And any bonuses they'd get still apply. Further, lucid dreamers are fully exposed to celestial attacks. A lucid dreamer can make a Dreaming roll to reform their dreamscape around themselves, to shield out the Marches...but only when not in a Domain. You have to exit a Domain to raise your dreamscape.

The ethereal plane does not operate based on normal physics. Everything is a dream, and reality is shaped by intellect. There is no such thing as an ethereal form - all occupants of the Marches are mental constructs, making the point where their intellect is focused relative to others. This is why humans and celestials can travel the Marches without taking theirb odies along. However, it tends to leave ethereals unsatisfied, as it does not explain what they are. Celestials claim they are dreams animated by Essence, but ethereals prefer to believe their true selves are part of the Marches, made of interwoven strands. Whatever the case, appearance in the Marches is mutable, changeable easily by thought.

Independent entities all have a 'natural' appearance in the Marches, even figments. It's the form they take when they first manifest and how they appear to others unless they use Dream-Shaping to change it. An ethereal's natural appearance is its Image. A celestial's is either their celestial form or the appearance of their last vessel, depending on if they entered from the celestial plane or Earth. A human, of course, appears as their corporeal body. Because all of this is illusion, however, even a Seraph can't necessarily tell if an entity is presenting their natural appearance...though deliberately pretending to be something else is a form of lies, and a Seraph of Destiny can always see through illusions at a touch.

Anyone can conjure an ethereal object with a Dreaming roll, but personal dreaming will only make an object that remains with you. Environment dream-shaping can make items you can give to others and take elsewhere in a Domain...but even these will vanish if you leave the Domain. Further, just because you make a weapon doesn't mean it does anything useful as an ethereal weapon. Actual artifacts, however, have a reality that surpasses their image. Like entities, theyh ave a natural appearance. Those made on Earth or the celestial plane appear identically to their true form, while those made in the Marches have the apearance given to them when they are created. The owner can alter their appearance (but not function) with a Dreaming roll, while anyone else cna alter a found artifact via environmental Dream-Shaping.

Places, primarily Domains or dreamscapes but also the areas between them, take on a natural appearance when created. Sometimes this is self-sustaining, sometimes definded by the ruler of a Domain. Anyone else can attempt to change it, but this is an environmental change that anyone can contest - particularly the Ruler - and even if successful, changes vanish when you leave the Domain.

So, what is dream-shaping? It's an effort to influence the environment of the Marches by use of the Dreaming skill. The more you want to change something, the harder it is. Failure means you can't try again for (CD) minutes, with CD 6 meaning a full hour or until you leave the Domain or dreamscape. CD of a success determines how close your intent was to what happens. CD 1 gives you a perfectly serviceable item, but CD 6 means it was exactly what you imagined. Any success lasts either until the dream ends or something else alters it. However, environmental dream-shaping can be opposed by a contest by anyone else in the same environment.

For Dream-shaping, there are four 'environments': the Vale of Dreams, Domains, dreamscapes and everywhere else. In the Vale, you can use any personal dream-shaping you want...but no environmental dream-shaping at all. Blandine and Beleth prevent it entirely. In a Domain, personal changes are possible but can be resisted by the Domain's properties. Environmental changes are also resisted this way, but can also be contested by the Domain's master, who is immediately aware of any alteration attempts while they are in the Domain and can negate them with a simple, non-contested Dreaming roll. Dreamscapes are easier - humans can't impose automatic penalties and must win a contest to resist changes. However, a dreamer can force you out of a dreamscape with a Dreaming roll, and a lucid dreamer can use Dreaming to reduce your rolls as well as improve their own. Lucid dreamers are always treated as being in their own dreamscapes when making personal changes, but not environmental ones. As for the Border and Far Marches, there's no restrictions in those empty spaces. Anyon can shape them as they like, but all changes fade when you leave.

It is possible to cause Disturbance in the Marches. Conscious Essence expenditure always does, but ethereal combat does not. Entering and leaving the Marches by any means does not, evn Superior manifestations. Celestial combat, however, does cause Disturbance. Any Foce destroyed by a celestial causes Disturbance in the Marches, and soul-killing humans causes another 10 Disturbance on top of that. However, this applies only to when any non-human harms a human or when a celestial harms an ethereal. Humans can hurt anyone freely, and ethereals can damage each other or celestials without making any Disturbance. Altering human dreamscapes also causes Disturbance.

While there is no linear distance in the Marches, Disturbances weaken as they cross Domain boundaries. However, they do not weaken when crossing within Domains, regardless of subjective size. For each Domain 'border' between the source of Disturbance and the listener, it is -5 to sense the Disturbance. The theoretical line between Blandine and Beleth's sides of the Vale is a border, as does the theoretical line between Border and Far Marches. They do not normally cross between realms, but those in Blandine or Beleth's Towers can hear Disturbances made in the Vale.

Next time: Ethereal Combat

Moving Right Along

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: Moving Right Along

Corporeal combat cannot be done in the Marches. Ethereal combat, sure. Celestial combat, yes. But no part of the corporeal ever matters in dream fights. Celestial attunements that would deal corporeal damage instead deal either ethereal or celestial damage, user's choice. Songs that normally deal corporeal damage, however, do nothing in the Marches unless they specify otherwise, except for Numinous Corpus. Ethereal combat may appear to be physical - wrestling, fencing, shooting lasers, whatever - it's not. It's all mental in nature, and all damage is Mind damage. Ethereals can naturally make ethereal attacks. Humans and celestials must know the Songs of Dreams or the Dream-walking attunement to do so, or have an ethereal weapon. Lucid dreamers may also make ethereal attacks.

While there are no celestial forms in the Marches, the soul is bare there, and thus can be attacked. Celestial combat is significently deadlier than ethereal combat - it risks Force-loss and death. Spirits very rarely use it unless they're certain they'll win. They consider angels and demons to be bullies and marauders because celestials usually considerably outmatch them in celestial combat ability, and thus are quick to initiate it if they're losing ethereal combat. While humans can be attacked celestially, they do have one protection: within their dreamscape, they have to initiate celestial combat before they can be harmed celestially, and few know how. Lucid dreamers, however, no longer have this protection. Few ethereals will fight mortals in celestial combat, however - they gain nothing from it and can still lose. Demons, however, have been known to take advantage, and angels will use it against Hellsworn. Either way, both ethereal and celestial combat in the Marches are rangeless - barring Domain conventions, if you can see a foe, you can attack them. Ethereal weapons have no use in celestial combat, however.

Loss of all Corporeal Forces in the Marches has no immediate effects, but prevents you from taking corporeal form again until you get at least one Corporeal Force. Any vessel on EArth immediately dies unless it's in a body bag, as does a human's body. Loss of Ethereal Forces is normal. Loss of Celestial Forces destroys the soul, though a human's body will remain in ap ermanent coma. Celestials are expelled from the Marches and awaken as Remnants if they have a vessel to return to, or die if not. Ethereals become figments or Remnants.

The Marches are, to most eyes, featureless, empty and covered in mist. A spirit can walk for hours without finding anything, and days without finding more than scattered, abandoned landscapes of old Domains. The darker parts of the Far Marches have bits and pieces of unpleasant terrain scattered about, with roaming monsters and nightmares. But most of the Marches are empty. Evne spirits, alert to the subtleties of the terrain, need special expertise to fidn their way around outside their normal areas. Spirits refer to the breaks in this emptiness as Domains. Some are immense, others tiny, 'micro-Domains' that could fit inside a fist from the outside and, on the inside, contain about as much as a house. Domains move through the Marches, drifting like icebergs, and the bigger ones move slower. Some Domains, called oases, are natural. No one knows how they form. Greater gods and Superiors can create other Domains by force of will, while lesser spirits can cobble together micro-Domains into a shared world. Humans, of course, transform their dreamscapes into tiny Domains whenever they dream.

The Vale of Dreams, at the heart of the Marches, attracts most dreamscapes. The beautiful dreams manifest more purely in Blandine's half of the Vale than anywhere else, and nightmare is strongest in Beleth's. At the center of Blandine's Vale is the Tower of Blandine, an immense Divine Tether. Rumor has it that spirits once visited it and spoke to Blandine, but in the modern day, it is death. The guards might hear a messenger, but never allow a visitor in, and kill any intruders. The ancient spirits mourn this, for it is said that the Tower hold the greatest library in all of the Marches. About half of the Vale is ruled by Blandine as her Domain - greater in size than the Domain of any pagan god. But even she has limits. While Blandine influences all of her Domain, she does not define it totally. Most of her realm remains mist and potential, flavored with hope and inspiration, and a few tiny, spirit-crafted Domains hide within it.

The Fortress of Gabriel also manifests in the Marches - a huge volcano, dimly visible from the Vale of Dreams. Usually, it is directly opposite Beleth's Tower, with Blandine's Tower in particular, but it does move on occasion. Walking to its foot is not hard. A narrow path runs to the caldera, a Tether between the Marches and Heaven, and the path definitely moves and can be hard to find, but it's always there. Those who can sense the strength of Tethers say it is the strongest that has ever been. Some say Heaven will use it to invade one day, while others claim it will one day be used by refugees from the Marches to enter Heaven.

Beleth's Tower stands tall in the nightmare realm of the Vale of Dreams, a Tether into Hell. Spirits visit it sometimes, reluctantly, and they say it is a dark place of mazes and horrors. It contains an ampitheatre for the torture of dreamers, a library of nightmares of extreme quality, and of course Beleth's throne. Approximately half the Vale belongs to her, but like Blandine, she cannot dictate its form entirely. Some regions are designed personally by her into sub-Domains of terror, but others remain a blank, tinted by fear.

The Border Marches which surround the Vale of Dream are patrolled by the Guardians, a force of Malakim of the Sword. They protect the Vale and the human dreamers from spirits that would influence them. For Malakim, they seem almost reasonable, preferring to drive spirits off to destroying them, but that doesn't stop the ethereals from bitterly resentng them. The Guardians defend Blandine's Marches vigorously, and while they try to keep spirits out of Beleth's Marches, it's much harder, and they lack the authority to start a war with Nightmares.

The Far Marches lie beyond the influence of celestials, built from the human unconscious. They are a barren landscape, full of many pockets of substance. Thousands of micro-Domains, hundreds of oases, more than a few spirit-crafted Domains. The farther one goes, the less the Far Marches resemble Earth. Beyond the Domains angels know are regions of allegory and myth, where superstition dictates reality. Beyond these areas lie the Utgard stones, and beyond that, either chaos or nothing, according to travelers.

Greater gods create some Domains in the Far Marches, while others occur naturally, and yet more are made by lesser spirits, who steal substance from dreams to help create their little Domains. They don't always run on the same rules as the rest of the Marches. The 'physical' reality of a Domain, set in the time of its creation, can operate however the maker wanted. Water can flow uphill, inanimate objects can weep in the presence of lies, whatever. Spiritual reality, however, cannot be changed. Spirits can't design domains that alter the nature of celestial combat, Songs or the fundamental selves of those within. (Some Domains do these things, but no ethereal has ever been able to ensure it happens.) The natural law of a Domain can't discriminate between individuals. A god can make a Domain where whoever sits on a throne controls the weather, but can't lock that to itself. Thus, most gods avoid building their power base into physical law, but instead design Domains to subtly play to their strengths.

Created Domains have a master or ruelr. A god who creates a Domain is automatically its master. If a group work together to make one, the most powerful spirit is made master. When the master of a Domain formally grants residency to a spirit, that spirit gains a permanent anchor within the Domain. If the master also assigns a position, like craftsman or Seneschal, the spirit also gets a bonus to fulfilling its duties. The master gets that bonus on all activities in their Domain. If a Domain's master dies or enters Trauma, the most powerful spirit in the Domain at that moment becomes the new master. A polite usurper will usually leave the old master alive if they can, but more ruthless types will destroy them utterly. If a spirit assumes the godhead of a Domain's master, they become the new master as well.

Domains have a few properties that make them valuable. They can become the upper locus of a Tether. Ethereal craftsmen can build vehicles out of the substance of Domains, as well as other 'material' goods. Spirits can use the Dreaming skill to make a small home in a Domain, though generally they are limited to things thematically suited to the Domain. The master has the most power over this - they can not only shape the Domain, but veto other changes. Most Domains are also defensible. Few gods make them impregnable, but they usually have walls and defenses, to help ensure survival in the Marches.

Every human mind creates a dreamscape in the Marches. From the outside, they appear to be a strange, gaudy artifact, usually reflective - a crystal, bubble, mirror or whatever. Inside, one can see the representation of the human's mind. Most dreamscapes at any given time will be in the Vale of Dreams. However, with billions of humans alive, a spirit can expect to run across one or two dreamscapes just wandering the Far Marches each day. When a human sleeps, their dreamscape becomes a micro-Domain of their dreams, able to be manipulated both by outsiders and the human's subconscious, and they can be looked into from without to see faded images of what's inside. If a human in Beleth's realm makes a roll with a CD 6, they instantly go to Blandine's realm, and vice versa for failure with CD 6. Otherwise, dreamscapes drift almost randomyl, based on the events iwthin the dream. The Far Marches typically hold strange dreamscapes that are neither very uplifting nor troublesome. When a human wakes, all intruders are generally ejected from the dreamscape.

Many ethereals, unable to find a home in an established Domain, will build a micro-Domain for themselves - a tiny region of stability, the size of a human house, to use as shelter, home and place t keep things. Three common forms exist. First is the fabricated micro-Domain - a boat, truck, hut with legs or other spacious vehicle made in a Domain but able to travel the Marches. A competent artisan can make one that doesn't accidentally eat the cargo or change shape at random, and a good one can make one that abides by consistent natural laws. Crafting a micro-Domain takes at least a successful Dream-shaping roll with CD 4+. The second common form of micro-Domain begins as a human dreamscape. When the dreamer awakens, any ethereal present can make a Dreaming roll to preserve the dreamscape. If the spirit succeeds with CD 6, the dreamre awakens but the dreamscape splits - one part stays with the human, and the other becomes the spirit's micro-Domain, able to be remodeled and used as they see fit. Unless the spirit actively moves the dreamscape, it hovers completely still and is obviously unnatural. Angels drive these things away when they can. Most spirits tend to believe that doing this causes no harm to the human, but Heaven fears it damages human ability to dream. Most oases are also micro-Domains, though some are much larger. No one knows where they coome from. Spirits can 'merge' micro-Domains with 10 Essence and a Dreaming roll. Any number can contribute Essence and the best among them makes the roll. The usual result is a larger micro-Domain, but with enough, spirits can even make small Domains, usually taking decades of work.

Every Domain and micro-Domain has a few quirks that make it unique. Many have great positive features that benefit those living there. Some have negative features, tolerated because there's nowhere better to go. Others are just weird. As a rule, every full Domain will have at least one weird quirk and no more than three positive or negative Features...but the farther into the Far Marches you go, the weirder the quriks get and the more Features show up. Establishing or removing Features is done by RP, and has no mechanics involved, but is never easy.

Next time: Domain Features

I Hope Something Better Comes Along

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: I Hope Something Better Comes Along

So, first up, positive Domain features!
Aspected Domain (Uncommon): One elemental strand dominates the Domain. Those within the Domain, when using Songs or skills associated iwth that element, get +1 TN.
Common Tongue (Common): Everyone in the Domain understands any spoken or written language, regardless of what languages they actually know. Unlike most Features, a Domain's master can deliberately turn this on; turning it off is sometimes harder.
Deceitful (Rare): The true nature of the Domain is hidden. Unless you know the secret of revealing its true nature, everything looks and sounds like something else. Domains can also be susceptible to deceit, such as the Domain called Faerie. These places allow you to use Dreaming to mask or reveal something without actually altering its true form.
Domain Artifact (Uncommon): The Domain caontains a powerful artifact that, for some reason, cannot leave. The Domains creator or creators must pay XP for it. The artifact feature 'Unable to leave Domain' is worth -3, or -4 if leaving will destroy the artifact entirely.
Dream Magnet (Uncommon): The Domain attracts dreamscapes of a certain type in great numbers, even in the Far Marches.
Fierce Figments (Rare): Typical figments in the Domain have 2 Ethereal Forces. They can still be Dream-shaped away, but there is a penalty to the TN of -1 to -6 depending on the Domain.
Healall (Rare): Mind and Soul HP recover at twice normal speed in the Domain.
Infinite (Rare): The Domain is millions of times larger on the inside, even infinitely large in one or more dimensions.
Intrusive Domain: Attunement (Rare): The Domain can actually grant attunements to those that live there. This costs 10 CP for the spirit and 5 CP from the Domain's master. Domain Attunements are rare but as powerful as Servitor Attunements. The most common is Universal Assertion, more on which later.
Malleable (Uncommon): When making Dreaming rolls to change the Domain, there is a fixed bonus between +1 and +6 to the TN.
Mobile (Rare, or Typical for Micro-Domains): The will of the spirits in the Domain can move it in the Marches. Each spirit's will accelerates the Domain equally, so two spirits can cancel each other out. Without this, Domains move either randomly or along a set course made at the time of their creation, and more slowly. Micro-Domains are mobile by default, but larger mobile Domains are rare.
Visible Anchors (Common): The Domain's master can sense anchors within it and can move or destroy them with a successful Will roll.

Negative Domain features!
Acidic (Rare): Any sapient being in the Domain at midnight loses 2 Mind HP.
Doomed (Uncommon): The Domain is facing destruction, perhaps fading or facing a prophecy of imminent disaster. At some point, it will vanish or become entirely uninhabitable.
Dream-Caul (Rare): To enter the Domain from the Marches or exit itno the Marches, you must pass through a border reality not designed by the Domain's creator, which can be hostile.
Hostile[/o] (Uncommon): The Domain's environment is dangeorus, perhaps due to a curse or destructive weather. This can be designed deliberately by the Domain's creator, unlike most features.
Incomplete Mastery (Rare): The Domain's master cannot automatically sense attempts to use Dreaming in the Domain.
Intrusive Domain: Discord (Rare): The Domain can alter the nature of those that live there, granting them Discord. Every week spent in the Domain forces a Will roll to avoid gaining one level of the appropriate Discord. However, any levels of the Discord already possessed are added to the Will roll TN.
Oasis (Uncommon, or Common for Micro-Domains): The Domain appeared naturally, and so has no master.
Unbound (Rare): The Domain is cut loose in time and occasionally skips 'forward' to the future. It vanishes from the Marches for some period, then returns, and for anyone inside, no time has passed at all. The GM may allow Unbound Domains to skip backward occasionally, appearing before their departure, or even jump randomly through time.

M<ixed features!
Bilocational (Rare): The Domain exists in two locations at once, and can be entered or exited by either one.
Bonded Master (Uncommon): The Domain's master only has to roll Dreaming if another tries to contest their changes. However, the master cannot leave the Domain, and their moods affect it heavily.
Living Domain (Rare): The Domain is alive, complete with Celestial Forces. It may have good or bad relations with its inhabitants.
Multiple Mastery (Rare): The Domain has two or more masters. A spirit can serve only one master at a time, but all masters rule the Domain and must be honored.
Primal Force (Rare): The Domain has incarnated part of itself as a primal guardian or bane. This force cannot leave the Domain, but within it it has nearly infinite power, though it obeys precise and predictable rules. It could be a ravaging monster if not sacrificed to, or it might be a guardian of justice in the Domain against those who violate its laws. While these beings are very powerful, they have no Celestial Forces and cannot hear the Symphony or have true free will.
Quirky (Ubiquitous): Almost all Domains have strange attributes - a constant must that obscures anything more than five feet away, shading everything green, making artifacts glow, causing sounds whenever someone is alone, whatever.
Regenerates (Rare): When manipulated physically or by Dreaming, the Domain slowly returns to its previous state. Figments return from death, walls repair themselves, trees grow back within hours.
Serendipitous/Hidden (Uncommon): Serendipitous Domains give +1 to +4 to the TN of anyone trying to find them, while Hidden Domains give 1 to -4.
Sticky (Rare): Spirits always succeed at anchoring ot the Domain, but after doing so, receive -2 TN to anchoring anywhere else. Domain rulers must roll Will at -2 to grant residency elsewhere to a spirit stuck this way, as well, and will not know if they failed automatically.
Time Effects (Common): The Domain's time flows at a different rate than the Marches in general, though Essence recovers at the normal Marches rate. The timeflow need not be regular, either.
Transcendental (Unknown): The Domain exists on a different level of reality than the Marches. If God was a spirit, Heaven and Hell would be a combined Transcendental Domain. Spirits do not know of any such Domains, nor how to make any, but they keep looking in an effort to prove they exist at all.
(Rare): The Domain's creation is incomplete, and its physical laws are not yet set. When someone succeeds on a Dreaming roll with CD 6, an amplified version of the effect spreads throughout the Domain. The same happens on a failed CD 6, but the effect is twisted into a malevolent form. Even the Domain master cannot overrule these changes.

Ethereals are the natural inhabitants of the Marches, and they're enemies as often as friends. Unlike celestials, they have no unifying goals. The War doesn't matter to most of them. They have no supreme leaders or governing bodies. They are more like humans, made of countless tribes, often solitary or working at cross purposes. Some spirits dream of uniting the whole Marches, overthrowing God or so on, but the idea is no more practical than uniting Earth. Spirits are a rather contentious lot, and often have less in common than an American does with a Bolivian. If there is anything they all share, it's a desire to grow in power and a fear of being consumed. All are both predator and prey. There are, however, reasons for ethereals to be allies, and most games will have the PCs be allies in some way.

Most spirits are individually weak, especially compared to celestials. Thus, they often band together for mutual protection and to harm othjers. These gangs, like human ones, can be quite powerful, but are more likely to fight each other than celestials. Being made of different kinds of ethereals, they rarely hold topgether well without a strong and charismatic leader. They are mostly found in the Far Marches, occasionally with their own Domains. They're hard to keep togehter without an external threat.

Ethereal tribes exist, made of spirits that share the same Image or motif. They function similarly to gangs, but also explicitly want to foster belief among humans, to increase their Essence. They have an intrinsic reason to band together and are more likely to remain loyal even without a strong leader. They are also more concerned with humans, and so more likely to attract celestial attention. Some tribes join larger gangs, and tribes often fight each other like gangs - for example, the Benevolent Space Brothers adn the Greys hate each other. The most famous and powerful tribes are the pantheons. They are the most potent forces in the Marches, and no one really wants to cross the Olympians even in their weakened state, for example. If the GM allows god PCs, a pantheon game has a lot of potential.

Som Domains foster cooperation and loyalty among their inhabitants, and some actively recruit. These may have ideological rulers or may just be mercenaries who trade benefits for service or even just Essence. Being a 'citizen' of a potent Domain is rather like joining a powerful gang. They may or may not offer protection outside the Domain, but at the least will give a safe place to anchor, which is worth a lot.

Anyone who isn't a friend is a potential foe. Not all ethereals are immediately hostile and not all enjoy preying on the weak, but it's common enough that paranoia is reasonable. Besides the fear of ethereal predators, there's also reason to fear the Tsayadim, other angels, Beleth's demons and territorial Domain masters or gods. Hiven the fact that anyone can appear to be anyone else in the Marches, trust is rare and traps are common. While this paranoia may seem gloomy, ethereals can be quite friendly when they establish each others' identities. Still, only the most potent are immediately friendly to strangers - no one else can afford to be.

Few powerful spirits are active predators - it stops being useful or satisfying as a way to gain power, after a while. Most predators are good at dream-eating, but little else. Many of the most successful ethereals began as figment-hunters, however. Some even hunt inside Domains, though that's risky. The most bountiful prey is in the Vale of Dreams, with all those human dreamscapes to rade and figments to catch, but it's also the riskiest ground to hunt in, fr fear of Malakim and demons. Some spirits are embarrassed to have once been cannibals, but others accept it as normal. A few even revel in it and continue to devour others when they can. Consumption of disobedient minions or vanquished rivals is not rare even in the upper levels of ethereal society. While some ethereals dislike it, few can claim to have never devoured a figment that bothered them.

Ethereals outnumber celestials - probably by quite a margin - but few can deny that the celestials are the most powerful group in the Marches. Individually, an angel or demon can usually take on spirits that vastly outnumber them without problem, and their willingness to use celestial combat makes them quite fearsome. There are rare ethereals that can match the average celestial, sure, but few can hope to match a powerful celestial, especially a Wordbound, and the weak celestials don't come out to the Far Marches often. Plus, it's like killing a cop - you get the whole rest of their friends out hunting for you. While some ethereals claim the power of celestials is exaggerated, no one forgets what the Purity Crusade did. Thus, most ethereals are hostile and fearful towards celestials, and the exceptions are often bootlickers, sellouts or suicidal, depending on who you ask. Most are not really able to distinguish between the Archangels or the Princes - only a few have even a viable working knowledge of celestial politics. Still, each Superior does deal with ethereals slightly differently.

Everyone knows Blandine. Her servants are despised by those that want to use humans as an Essence farm, but most other ethereals are neutral towards her. Blandine has little interest in them except when they harm humans. A few spirits even get on decently well with angels of Dreams and work to help keep hostile spirits out of the Vale. This works only for spirits motivated by genuine benvolence, however - those seeking reward are turned away.
David ignores the Marches. He tends to allow ethereals to live if they don't encroach on Heavenly territory or harm humans. While he isn't friendly, most ethereals are not especially threatened by Stone.
Dominic is the one that laid down the law forbidding ethereals to go to Earth. This and his strict enforcement of monotheism means that Judges are feared and loathed, though not as much as the Sword, as they rarely come to the Marches. Rumor has it that Dominic sometimes collaborates with sirits, but these rumors are unlikely at best.
Eli was once friend to several of the old gods, before monotheism. Some say his friendship didn't end then, too. Angels of Creation are some of the few angels that ethereals feel they can deal with in good faith, though the older gods hate Eli and his angels for their promotion of the Yahweh cult.

Gabriel is both admired and feared by ethereals. Her volcano is a treat on the horizon, an elemental manifestation of God's power. She is a visionary, a spark seen in many dreamscapes, and has indirectly given life to many ethereals...but she's also a deadly instrument of Yahweh and best avoided.
Janus is rarely seen in the Marches, and his angels take ethereals on a case by case basis. Like other elemental Archangels, Janus has a lot in common with primal spirits, and they see him as a sort of kin, if in the enemy camp. If Heaven needs something acquired from a pagan god or Beleth's Marches, the Wind is who they send, so Windies have sometimes cultivated relationships with ethereal allies.
Jean focuses on the corporeal, but has done projects in the Marches. He has little tolerance for ethereals, however. Angels of Lightning work to limit contact with ethereals and enforce the Earth ban strictly.
Jordi knows that animals dream, but he trusts Blandine to take care of them. He doesn't care about ethereals and rarely has reason to deal with them, but he doesn't mind if his angels befriend them, and some do get on well with animal spirits.
Laurence is hated more than any Archangel by ethereals, with the sole exception of Uriel. Laurence enforces the Earth ban, allows no deals and does not sanction alliances. The presence of an angel of the Sword all but guarantees impossibility in negotiations with spirits.
Marc is pragmatic and is known to communicate at times with powerful spirits or pagan gods. Angels of Trade know who to talk to, and ethereals know that Marc will negotiate.
Michael is uncompromising about the Earth ban...but as long as they know their place, he'll leave them alone. He even respects the old gods a bit. While he is the boot that keeps them under Yahweh's heel, a number of war gods and Struggle spirits admire Michael, and those that hate Hell have worked with angels of War at times.
Novalis is kind to ethereals. Her angels never harm those that don't harm others, though they'll encourage spirits to leave Earth peacefully. Her angels are rare in the Marches, but are treated in as friendly a manner as any angel might be able to expect, save for those spirits that mistake kindness as weakness.
Yves has said that ethereals can have fates and destinies, but has not assigned any angels to minister to them, which most take to mean that ethereal fate and destiny is irrelevant to humanity. His angels tend towards neutrality with ethereals, who regard Yves with a mix of awe, fear and contempt.

Andrealphus has been friendly with love and fertility gods, but always from a dominant position. Some of his demons satisfy their desires in ethereal brothels, but most gods now Andrealphus as a user and abuser...but better than Beleth at times.
Asmodeus wants to keep ethereals in their place. He'll offer Earthly service to subservient lackeys, sure, but he'll destroy any ethereal he finds that isn't serving Hell. It is believed that the Game employs a network of ethereal spies.
Baal was once worshiped as a god, and some ethereals claim he was one, only becoming a demon after he threw in wit Yahweh and then rebelled. The gold gods have mixed feelings towards him - his views on God are similar to theirs, but he treats them as solid inferiors. Still the War will sometimes work with warlike spirits.
Beleth is known to all. Many ethereals serve her for protection and Essence. Those that do not, she ignores, as long as they do not help Heaven and don't poach in her territory. Demons of Nightmares are treated with respect, if some loathing, and spirits rarely dare to be openly hostile to them.
Belial ignores the Marches except to set fire to dreamscapes, spirits and angels at times. This means ethereals do not like him, when they are aware he exists.
Haagenti has adopted some Hunger spirits as pets, and some of his demons like to bully ethereals. For this, they have a bad reputation in the Marches. Still, they don't go there often.
Kobal dislikes Beleth, so he avoids the Marches when he can. Some of the darker trickster gods get support from him, but not usually in ways they like. Demons of Dark Humor are good at making friends when they want something, but the wise do not trust them.
Kronos cares only about human fates, not ethereals. He frowns on spending too much time in the Marches. Ethereals know this and are glad of it.
Lilith deals extensively with ethereals, and even sends 'ambassadors' to major Domains. Many ethereals owe her favors, and they know she can get demons to help them if needed. Because of her, Lilim (especially Frees) tend to be treated slightly better than most demons by ethereals.
Malphas talks to ethereals, and has sometimes convinced them he is their friend. Of course, he is just using them and setting them up against foes.
Nybbas is powerful in the Marches, second only to Beleth in ethereals serving him. He will promote their Images in exchange for cooperation, and crush those who displease him. Still, human Essence isn't channeled exclusively via the Media, much as he likes to pretend otherwise, and some resist his temptations.
Saminga treats all spirits as boring figments to ignore. Some demons once tried to make 'Death Domains' in the Marches. They Domains were created, but did little more than cause a few minor nightmares before they were abandoned entirely.
Valefor's demons usually go to the Marches for theft. Spirits do not trust them, but sometimes make deals with them if needed.
Vapula conducts a little research in the Marches, and treats ethereals as test subjects. While Vapulan demons and artifice spirits are happy to talk ideas, most other ethereals stay far, far away.

Next time: Dealing with outsiders

It's Time To Play The Music

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: It's Time To Play The Music

Angels rarely get a friendly reception from ethereals. Angels of Dreams and the Sword are those most commonly met, and they tend to be seen as existing just to keep ethereals in line. In fact, they tend to be there to protect humans in Heaven's territory, and even the March Guardians of the Sowrd rarely pursue the spirits they drive off. But occasionally, angels will go hunting for ethereals on Heaven's wanted list, and these teams have been known to be rather indiscriminate in their violence. Thus, when spirits see angels, they expect trouble and either hide or get ready to fight. There are exceptions - a few spirits work with Heaven and sometimes there's been deals made with pagan gods. Since ethereals can't enter Heaven, these negotiations must be done in the Marches, and if invited, angels will be given safe passage and even a guide. The unexpected, however, have to get past a lot of fear and resentment, and will need to convince spirits both that they're not here to kill people and that there's a reason to cooperate. There are, however, spirits that hang out around the Vale, ready to help in exchange for Essence or protection. They tend to be weak, know very little and be mostly useful as guides. If more specific assistance is needed, it's best to consult an experienced negotiator. Dreams has a few, as does Trade. Laurence's Guardians often know quite a bit, but rarely admit to personal knowledge of any ethereals.

As with angels, demons are feared...but spirits are more willing to negotiate with them. Hell is known to be about self-interest, and so spirits can understand how to deal with them. Some thereals, of course, are automatically hostile to demons, but most are not. They do, however, expect demons to be selfish, treacherous and exploitative, so they'll demand whatever they can get away with for any service. Ethereals in service to Beleth are always nominally friendly to her demons, and even the independents try not to offend Nightmares. Demons thus have the best luck when Nightmares is around to help. Lilith can always get help, too...for a price. The Media's often got weak spirits sucking up to them, but little respect from ethereals with power. Of course, there is the problem that some Princes, like Baal, Malphas or Kobal, actively antagonize ethereals for fun.

Most ethereals find the War irrelevant and care nothing for human souls. They don't expect either side will be nice to them if they win, so most would prefer Armageddon to never come. However, spirits do know celestials obsess over the War, and they'll happily take advantage of that if they can. Some even have ideological affinities with a side. The Hindu gods, for example, are unofficial allies of Heaven. Other spirits throw in with whichever side seems to be losing, in the hopes of prolonging the war, while others, like the Aztecs or Norse pantheons, try to arrange for their own sides in accordance with their own apocalyptic myths. Ethereals that sign up to take part in the War for one side are rare, but do get special privileges, rather like Soldiers. Dominic does not officially permit this, but Judgment will rarely smite an etheral who is clearly aiding Heaven.

Most humans in the Marches are dreamers. A few do travel beyond, however. Some are ethereal half-breeds, though most of these were wiped out long ago. A rare few of these are gorgons, monstrous humans who are warped by their nature. Ethereals often try to identify and hide or protect their half-breed children, and will teach them how to survive and hide in the Marches. Any human that learns the Dreaming skill can also become a lucid dreamer. Most are unaware of the Marches and never exit their dreamscapes, but a few learn how or are taught as Soldiers. Without a guide, hostile spirits are likely to harm those who have no patron, but some survive. Most Soldiers and sorcerers aren't lucid dreamers, but some learn. They can get in over their heads easily, but Dreams and Nightmares both try to train them on how to survive in the Marches. Saints rarely spend time in the Marches, but they can use the Dreaming skill much like celestials...except that, as humans, they retain personal dreamscapes and all the protections they offer. Undead, on the other hand, do not have dreamscapes. In fact, they can't even enter the Marches without the Corporeal Song of Dreams or the Dream-Walking attunement. And dream-shades we've discussed before.

Most ethereals want to go to Earth. It's a source of freedom and Essence. Spirits there have many powers, but survival is much easier with human help. Those who remain in the Marches also benefit from humans assisting them, if only by sending Essence. There's a number of ways ethereals can deal with mortals. Not all humans realize they're helping ethereals. Spirits will dupe them, making phony cults or even working with knowing collaborators to fool others and gain Essence. After all, an ethereal can spy on dreams and offer you lots of benefits from that information. Besides Essence, spirits get material aid on Earth this way - shelter, allies, funds and so on. Some even try to build a power base to resist the Host, but most have more modest desires.

A few old gods retain pagan worshippers, and some are even getting a resurgence thanks to neo-paganism. Most have no real contact with a spirit. However, ethereals do pay attention to their believers, if they can find them. (They don't always know where the Essence is coming from, see.) Worshippers who are dedicated and sincere and have the potential to be useful may even get personal visits. Of course, they may also be visited by someone masquearding as their god - stealing worshipers isn't uncommon, given the limited supply of pagans. The ethics of pagans in service to a god vary. Most see themselves as benign, but might do bad things if their god tells them to. Some gods actually do care about their worshippers, but others just want Essence and power. Most try to keep their followers away from angels, and tend to seek out the more anti-Christian pagans. Most gods also prefer to aovid demons, but some will ally with sorcerers or Hellsworn, and some that serve Beleth will even lead their worshippers into the clutches of demons for indoctrination.

Worship is not, of course, the only way to gain Essence - the right kind of belief works just as well. At least two tribes of ethereals masquerade as space aliens, both in dreams and in the real world, to gain Essence. Likewise, the many Santas, Easter Bunnies and Sherlock Holmeses all benefit from belief that is not true worship. They are unlikely to manifest corporeally, but can manipulate people into serving them via dream messages.

Sorcerers can be useful...though the Hellsworn ones are off-limits to ethereals. Those that aren't already bought by Hell are valuable resources, though, if you have some knowledge to trade them. Ethereals rarely establish longterm relations with sorcerers, though, because demons of Fate are zealous in killing any they don't control. Sorcerers are rarely stable enough to avoid attention for long periods, so it's best to just use them and move on.

Ethereals are explicitly fictive in nature, creatures of story and dream. But it's not fiction to them. They don't abide by the conventions of stories because they're convention, but because it is their nature. They take their lives seriously. Sure, humans can acknowledge the absurdity of sex while retaining a sex drive. And a minotaur can grasp why it's funny to spend his whole life guarding a labyrinth...but he has the drive to do it anyway. Dream and legend ultimately relies on the human ability to reach for and grab the stars. Ethereals, built from these dreams, do not think small. Nightmare tempers them with fear of extinction, sure, which keeps most from rising above their origins...but they aren't petty. If a spirit sees a chance to achieve some greater goal, they can rise above. Even the smallest ethereal has a higher purpose. They don't have Words, and usually their amibiton relates to personal power or fulfilling the purpose of their Image. Some, however, also seek to advance belief in the world, either in themselves or in a set of values they hold dear. Since gods tend to have afew concrete concepts linked to them, they may also want to increase the strength of those concepts.

We've been talking about Image a lot so far. What is it? Ethereals come into existence with a sense of purpose, an integral part of a human dream or cultural legend. They know who their foes and allies are from birth, what their role is. They carry that little piece of their origin with them. They leave the dreams that created them, but the dream remains a part of them. Humans try to find purpose. Ethereals don't - they know their purpose. They struggle to transcend their roles and natures. The spirits refer to this original nature as the mask or Image. A dream image of a police officer can become its own person - but it still has the Image of a cop. Multiple ethereals can share an Image, though details usually vary. Ethereals who share the same Image tend to become either strong allies or vicious foes, with little in between. Image describes something more important than your appearance - that's changeable. Your Image is your inner self. You can grow beyond your Image, and many do, but you can't escape it. If your Image is a master spy, no matter what you do, at heart you remain a spy. You can settle down as a gardener, but your old skills and identity are always with you.

Figments of all kinds are common as dirt, but only a few awakened spirits possess true self-awareness. In recognizing their nature, they transcend their origins. The most common ethereal philosophy defines your typical figment as an automaton - complex, but ultimately finite. An ethereal with self-awareness got it when a new layer of complexity infused them, opening up infinite, non-deterministic potential. Etherals tend to argue a lot about what that new layer was - some say a formless, mindless consciousness blends with the dream from outside reality. Others say ethereals that awaken are the dreams of the Marches itself. A few hold to theories of emergent complexity, or that ethereals steal a bit of soul from their dreamer. Almost all ethereals, however, believe that transcending their nature and Image is both philosophically important and vital to survival. Still, they view their Images in many ways.

Many ethereals see the Image as a sort of seed of the person they should be. A mailman naturally seeks work as a messenger. As their strength grows, they may look higher - into delivering diseases and curses to their foes, into carrying weather or the moon through the sky. They take their Image as a sort of microcosm for their destiny, giving them a purpose to realize on a larger scale. A fringe bleief, the Divers' Metaphysic, has become the common parlance on this. It holds that the Marches hate self-awarenss, and like an oyster, they try to smother ethereals by covering them in a layer of dream. EThereals cannot survive without these dream layers, and ultimately, they either absorb the layers into themselves, becoming 'pearlescent' in scope, or they die under the weight of dream. This touches on a major theme in post-Crusade ethereal beliefs: stasis and contentment lead to death.

Ethereals with seriously inconsistent Images - a Caucasian Australian aborigine or a killer tiger with a human personality, say - have a difficult choice. Being themselves can make it hard to find a suitable home or lifestyle. The alternative, however, is to reject all or part of their Image, the 'chains of the flesh.' And rejecting part of your nature doesn't exactly make it go away. Oftne, that missing aspect lurks just beneath the surface, waiting for their will to waver. It manifests itself in small ways - perhaps a shadow that doesn't match a form, or footsteps that sound like the 'other self.' Ethereal 'messiahs' show up every few centuries to denounce Images as a base constraint on the higher self, arguing that an ethereal sentience can detch from dream-stuff and become a creature of pure will. Some hold this as a route to enlightenment, others as a path to God's power. No one faults hte motivations, but these messiahs usually run into a few problems. First, few ethereals can conceive of a life that completely transcends their Image. Second, most of these messiahs have a variant on Holy Martyr as their Image, which makes them seem rather hypocritical.

Some ethereals take their Image as a symbol and metaphor of their nature. It doesn't define them - it represents them, like a totem or a flag. They cherish their Image as a sacred truth about themselves, rather than a bit of dreamstuff that shapes them. A nightmare of a teacher might choose to take their nature not as a call to horrify, but as a metaphor, and become a patron of teachers, helping them by 'removing' officials and parents that try to interfere with proper education. Ethereals sometimes ascribe the creation of life to the mindless Chaos, who wielded a sword that cut a hole in the Marches, from which magination and inspiration bubbled up. It takes only one drop of this inspiration in a mortal's dream to create an ethereal, they say, and to bathe in its waters would be to achieve perfection. Some ethereals see their Image, metaphorically or literally, as the key by which they access this primal inspiration, and by meditating on their Image, they can open the door to its endless wells.

The first ethereal to formally identify a basic truth was Kelinci, a noble martyred in the Purity Crusade. She saw that when an ethereal is within an environment resembling that from which it was created, the ethereal becomes a bit more real. The experience invigorates it, it feels good. Some thereals even get addicted to the sensation, which can be a problem when their native environment is 'high adventure' or 'a ruthless environment of double-dealing.' Many ethereal see their Image as a bond between themselves and their appropriate environment. A unicorn's identity gives it a tie to the wild and fae, no matter what it goes. No matter what it does, the forest will be its home field. Unless it utterly alters its nature, it will retain a sense of place there. This choice isn't binary - a unicorn need neither totally embrace nor reject this about itself. It could draw on that natural understanding of forest and faerie to become a guardian spirit of the woods or a librarian in Avalon. It might abandon its shape as a unicorn without ever abandoning its sense for that natural environment - about equivalent to a human changing their job and focus without changing the general field they work in.

As a general rule, ethereals are pretty good at what their Image is about. Nightmare monsters are good at catching and eating kids. Gunslingers can shoot well. Unicorns can detect virgins. Some ethereals, however, have the Image of a screw-up, so they may well be bad at their supposed specialties, if the dream they came from was of someone bad at their job. These ethereals usually get an Image bonus when doing something wrong. When an ethereal fulfills its Image in a grand way, it often becomes more potent. This is known as Image enhancement. Skilled and heroic Images are hard to enhance - but a screw-up's easy. Just make a few really colossal blunders. A few incompetent ethereals have fucked up so much and so badly as to be nearly immortal and omnipotent, their jinx foiling any attempt to destroy them - and their attempts to destroy themselves.

Under normal circumstances, your Image never changes. Even gods rarely change their basic nature. Those ethereals that want to change their Image usually just take a new shape and start lying about what they are. EThereal PCs that want a new Image do have some options, hgowever. The best surgeons of the Marches know techniques that can alter your nature. These results are crude and often fatal, but Asklepios, Avicenna, Chiron, Hiawath'a and similar ethereals have had successes. An ethereal who tries to assume a god's place using a ritual challenge likewise either dies or is massively transformed. Finally, certain natural features of the Far Marches can alter your nature. Thus, a player can have their character seek change this way, or ask the GM to allow a retroactive change, and have had their spirit lying all along about what their Image actually was.

Next time: Power

It's Time To Light The Lights

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ethereal Player's Guide: It's Time To Light The Lights

Pagan gods have a lot of power...but they're nowhere near Superiors. They can't give out much. Your prosperity depends on you. Now, that's not to say ethereals don't try - they've been working for millenia to try to find ways to rework and empower dreamstuff. Some, like the spirit Mekheperre, kidnap and dissect lone angels when they can, in the hopes of discovering the tie to God's power. (He is on top of Heaven's most wanted list of ethereals.) Ethereals pursue many routes in seeking power.

First: Image Enhancement. Some ethereals derive purpose from their Image. They do what their Image demands of them, and in doing so, they define themselves and gain strength. Ethereals treasure their Images for practical reasons, not just sentimental ones. By heroically pursuing their purpose, they gain power, and betraying their nature will weaken them. Even ethereals who reject their Images choose work unrelated to them, not opposed to them. GMs are told to give out more CP at the end ofstories where a PC lives up to their purpose.

Ethereals can also gain strength from Image consumption - that is, devouring a spirit whose Image resembles their own. The greater the resemblance, the more power. One Hercules that kills another gains power, for example. There is currently only one Jack the Ripper spirit - and he claims he has to kill ten thousand human-like spirits to get the satisfaction of one other Jack. While some ethereals prefer to use the Song of Draining or even physically eat their victims, it is known that direct responsibility for their death is enough. As a rule, spirits prefer to avoid mad free-for-alls, however, like those found in the wilds of the Marches. Most Domains regulate and ritualize conflict between ethereals of similar Images, prosecuting mruder and limiting dueling rights. There is also law for the areas between Marches, the Traveler's Dictat written by Hermes in the old Hellenic era, but it rules only in theory - the Marches are large, and no one really prosecutes crimes outside Domain borders.

Domain rulers buy service via the right of assertion. Assertion is the formal appointment of an ethereal to a position of some sort in a Domain, allowing them to call on the Domain's power in performance of that position. When performing duties associated with one's position, a spirit gets +1 to all TNs and CDs. This is cumulative with a bonus provided from Image, but you can only get an assertion bonus from one Domain at a time - though you can 'quit' at will. Spirits therefore seek the most broadly defined positions possible. No matter what, the assertion bonus rarely applies outside the relevant Domain.

Now, there is selling out. Beleth does not offer patronage and rewards to spirits that serve her, but she does offer them protection. She might give them some Essence. However, it is possible for her to reward spirits if they truly do impress her. Not all of her spirits are without rank and power. By allowing Beleth to own them fully, spirits can rise to rival demons in power. Rolf Bjornstad, the Traitor at Bifrost, for example, earned Beleth's favor and command over several her servants when the Aesir put a prince on his head. The knowledge that he cannot survive without her protection inspires Beleth to view him with favor. A number of other ethereals have tried to follow his example.

The first step for most spirits on the path to power is, of coruse, initiation. We've covered that already. But what about assumption? Any spirit of sufficient strength can challenge a deity to ritual combat over their godhead. If they win, they steal the god's Image and power. Some of their original nature will die, but they can retain their name, memories and part of their Image. The narrower the win, the more you must sacrifice. The ritual combat, known as assumption combat because you are trying to assume the god's place, involves the challenged god swallowing you into their own Image. As you and the god duel, the Image twists and mutates, showing both your natures and casting off slivers of spirit as you cut away at each other - quirks, memories, loves, motivations. It's easy to cut away a trait unworthy of the god in question. It's harder for the worthy traits. Eventually, one spirit loses enough self that their ego dies. The winner absorbs the best of the loser's traits and casts off the rest. 'Worthy' in this case is relative to the Image in question - treachery, for example, is worthy of Loki.

Any two ethereals can theoretically engage in assumption combat if both consent. This is normally a bad idea - almost invariably, the challenger dies an the challengee loses part of themself. But an ethereal might accept in order to absorb part of a dying friend or a defeated but respected foe. When this is not used as a pure plot device, it is run as ethereal combat, with the worthier ethereal getting a bonus ranging from +1 to +6 on all TNs. An ethereal that successfully assumes the power of a lesser god gains a Force, the Strong version of any Primal affinities the god had and the Moderate version of all non-Primal affinities, though some may need to be discarded or reduced to remain within rules limits. The spirit also receives the natural benefits of godhood and can convert any XP into appropriate resources immediately. An ethereal who assumes a greater god's godhead gains 3 Forces, to a max of 18, and the basic power package of the greater god. Given a few decades, they will rise to a power level where stats no longer mean anything.

The Greek gods represent a highly successful assumption, having stolen the power of the Titans but remained independent individuals. Their character and temper does not resemble those of the Titans. There were various factors that helped - all the gods fought the Titans at once, so no Titan could help another. Zeus had help from the Hecatoncheires and the traitors Prometheus and Themis, as well as the Cyclopes craftsmen. Further, the gods cheated: they spread myths on Earth of their victory as if it had already happened. These myths strengthened them and, as a result of assumption, became true. The Roman gods, however, were a failed assumption. See, when they were made, they knew they belonged on Olympus, but were far weaker than the Greek gods. They relied on Rome's power and bravado, challenging Zeus and the gods for their thrones. Two succeeded, at the cost of most memories and sense of self. Eight died. The others managed to force a small part of their nature on the Greek gods before death. The Greek gods can now wear the Roman names, but almost nothing else of them remains. Zeus kept Jove's head on a pike outside his court for centuries, to warn other spirits.

Ethereals that hope to steal a god's Image will always worry that the god will refuse the duel and just kill them. Fortunately, there are three methods described by the historian Emelricus that almsot always work: defiant atrocity, acts of dominance, and reenactments. Gods have a strong motivation to accept, of course - the idea that a god is more worthy of their godhead than any other is typically part of their Image. Sometimes, a challenger just has to declare their challenge. Anything else would mean accepting the possibility of loss, which might weaken them.

Typically, one challenges a god by issuing a mortal insult - stealing from its regalia, say. Unfortunately, not all gods will accept, and even then, they might judge you too unimportant or decide your challenge is offered under false pretenses. A defiant atrocity can help your odds - an act that strikes so fiercely against the god's Image that they cannot ignore it or risk being weakened. Putting up internet porn of Artemis, say, or killing Sleipnir for glue. The relevant god can't erase the insult without first proving that you are too meaningless to shame them. If you pass their test of worth, they must prove this via assumption. You can also force a god to agree to assumption combat by showing dominance over a god, too - conquering their Domain, say, or stealing their worshipers. Eventually they'll agree to take their own stuff back. Finally, you can reenact the stories of a god before issuing challenge, putting yourself in their place. If you face genuine danger to do it, the god usually likes it, and will have a hard time just casting you off - it feels like insulting themselves. The actual underlying truth of the story matters far more than little details. The Marches are built on story, and the details generally take care of themselves.

When an ethereal offers challenge, even if the god feels bound to accept, they can first put forth a quest or ordeal to prove your worth. Failure usually means death, and it certainly loses any respect or protection you'd earned. Some gods offer horrible ordeals likely to kill you, to get rid of you. Oters offer quests they want to see accomplished. Some gods even offer tasks meant to prove your worth for their position - not because they want to lose, but because they want more carefully developed traits when they win. They must believe, either way, that they themselves could survive and defeat the ordeal. Otherwise, they weaken their Image by proving themselves unworthy. Thus, the trial can't be impossible, though they do not need to share all the details of the trial. Once you return, though, assumption combat will generally happen...though they can still turn you aware if you didn't use one of the three extreme methods.

Besides this, ethereals do have things they do for fun and profit. They study, converse, travel, perform their duties if they have any. They often plot and gather socially. They visit human dreams to steal Essence, perform Rites, recruit worshipers or even just entertain themselves or get news. Some have an agenda they want to push on Earth via dreams. They visit Earth for the same reasons, and to understand the world that creates theirs. Many also like to live on Earth to be safe from monsters and celestials. Their Image also pushes them to certain actions just by their nature - Faerie lords hunt, gods' diplomats bargain, and so on. A typical ethereal also spends about a fifth of its time 'dissipated,' dissolving their ocnsciousness into the Marches and those dreams in which their elements play a role. A tiny part of their will and perception remain with their Image, leaving their 'body' vulnerable, but they experience a melange of dreams. No ethereal can remember any one dream from this - but they can hope for great portents out of it. Ethereals dissipate despite the lack of concrete benefits because it's restful - it's rather like a good night's sleep.

The general campaign advice is boring and fairly skippable. They talk briefly about mixed games with celestials, and advise that typically these are harder and that ethereals should probably have special access to resources that let them compete. We also get some sidebars on the Tsayadim!

The book ends with a very nice bit of fiction about an ethereal that sent a message of defiance to the angels of the Purity Crusade at the cost of his own life. The leader of the war camp the spirit Caraculiambo marches into reads his message, finds it loathsome, but also orders that a cairn be built for the spirit to honor his willful self-sacrifce. Another then sends a message to Blandine along with the message that Caracliambo bore, begging her to find a way to end the Crusade because she feels that they're teaching the best of the ethereals to hate God, destroying what is good and noble even as they hunt the worst of the spirits.

The End

So, what's next? We've got the Book of Tethers or Revelations 1.