Monday, 12th January, 2004, 05:11 AM #111
re: magic system
The nifty part was really the game info on how to adapt normal AD&D characters to those pseudo-real settings.
Does sound neat. Nope - curse tablets are just a nice common way of spell delivery in the ancient world. Thousands have survived, because they tended to get buried in deep "safe" places.
I am actually curious to know how you rationalized using Psi powers in the roman era.
I worked out with Heilyn's player that divine magic should be spirit-based rather than the more conventional clerics, so he's actually a shaman from Oriental Adventures, with a few modifications. Gods are mostly just very powerful spirits, and their power depends on the quantity and quality of worship. This is why the Roman emperor is so powerful - when 50 million odd people offer daily prayers on your behalf to your guardian spirit, life tends to work out pretty well.
Psionic magic, on the other hand, is entirely based on philosophy, which was an aspect of Greek and Roman culture I really wanted to develop in the game. Philosophers strengthen their minds through thought and study, which in turn gives them special abilities. This has worked out with mixed results in the campaign, largely because my players, through no fault of their own, are less well versed and intrigued by major ancient philosophical schools than I am.
Originally, I had an idea of having the different philosophical schools represent different areas of psionics, but that's largely fallen by the wayside. In the next few posts, however, you'll start to see how the philosophical rivalries start to play into the arc plot of the game. For the record, Marcus is a psionic warrior, and Wena is a psion. And obviously, the Black Chain Philosopher has not insignificant psionic abilities... (Heilyn is a shaman, Cornelia is an aristocrat (with some modifications)/sorcerer, Metellus is an aristocrat/fighter, Llyr is mostly a ranger, Meloch's a straight up sorcerer, Lucretius is a straight up paladin.)
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AI VI: When in Rome Post 9: More Philosophy
While reading this, Wena has sat down on the floor in the open section of the library. Glancing up, halfway through the scroll, she notices a small girl with flaming red hair carefully dusting and stacking scrolls, about twenty feet away. As she reaches up to a higher shelf, the girl’s clean but drab tunic falls back and Wena can see what look like some sort of Celtic tattoo patterns. She gets up and quietly approaches the girl.
“Hello, I’m Wena. What’s your name?”
“Praecia. Well, that’s what my master calls me.”
“Who’s your master?”
“Fufidius Priscus, the chief librarian. I clean the scrolls by day and help my mother clean his house and serve food in the evenings.”
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“And what does your mother call you, young one?”
“I’m not supposed to say. It’s a secret.”
“You can tell me if you want. I’m a vates; that means that part of my job is to keep secrets. I won’t tell anyone.”
The young girl beckons Wena down to her level, and, looking first in both directions, whispers in her ear. “My mommy says my real name is Boadicea!”
“That’s a wonderful name. Do you know where it comes from?” Wena, surprised but calm, asks.
“Yes, she was a great queen and hero of my mommy’s tribe, the Icky....Icky...”
“Iceni. Your mother is of the Iceni, and so are you...and so am I. Your mom must have been captured as a slave in the Iceni rebellion 30 years ago?”
Boadicea nods in response.
“Look, Boadicea, I have Iceni tattoos, like I think you do. Will you show me your arms?” Wena lifts the sleeve of her robe briefly, to show the complex and intricate spiral patterns of woad long since inked into her skin.
Boadicea shyly pulls back her sleeve, to reveal a number of inked on designs that look like a child’s rendering of unfamiliar drawings. “Aren’t they wonderful? Mommy says these make me a real Iceni.”
“They’re very good, Boadicea, “ Wena says, trying not to laugh at them, “but I think with my help, we could make them even better. Can I come visit you and your mom sometime?”
Boadicea agrees enthusiastically and gives Wena directions to Fufidius Priscus’s house, warning her to use the servants’ entrance. She says that her mother, Rhysenn, will be very happy to meet another Iceni.
Meanwhile, Marcus has chatted briefly with the fussy Fufidius and, by flashing around his gold ring of the equites, gotten admission to the restricted section. After searching through for some time, he comes to the interesting conclusion that most of the works on Neoplatonist philosophy and on practical applications of Plato’s ideas have been removed. In fact, only one work even by the former chief librarian, Quintus Herennius, survives, and it has had its lower half mysteriously ripped off. Marcus carefully memorizes the remaining portion in an attempt to glean what useful information he can:
On the Practical Application of
the Concept of Platonic Forms
Chief Librarian of the Imperial Library of Trajan,
with reference to discussions with the most-wise
Lysimachus of Chaeronea
Many Greeks, who never in their thousands of years of history did anything useful or productive, argue today that philosophy is merely a mental exercise, designed to enlighten and expand our thoughts. Yet we Romans have a much wiser view, using philosophy as a moral guide by which to live our lives in a more proper and just fashion. We use philosophy to improve the quality of our daily existence, having learned that its precepts may not only inspire our minds but improve our bodies and enable us to manipulate the world around us more successfully.
Even this largely wastes the value of philosophical inquiry, in my opinion. For ideally philosophy is a quest for the truth, and just as the natural philosophers have used their wisdom to tell us the paths and patterns of the stars and how the wheat contains all the building blocks of our bones and blood, so too should we use even the most recondite and abstruse of the Greek philosophies to discover solid, useful truths about our world.
I will use Plato’s theory of forms as an example in this case, though its connection to our everyday world may seem extreme. For Plato supposes a world where each object or creature has its true Form, and that our world is merely a reflection of that place, with all the distortions and dimness that one sees in a mirror.
And while the Greek philosophers deal merely with this place as an abstract concept, I believe that it must actually exist, just as though we cannot perceive directly our strength of body or speed of limbs we know that these exist and can affect them with our minds. I believe that the place of forms is bound and linked to our world although it is not part of our world, much like the pastries one may purchase at the bakers, which have many thin layers which lie over each other to form one entire sweet for children, with only a small space in between each layer for honey or figs. And there are stories that Pythagoras, after long study, was able to bring some of the Forms into our own world, and that this is where he gained his dubious obsession with legumes, after studying and observing the Ideal Bean. But this seems dubious, and more likely the only path between that realm and our own is a mental one.
I have tried to stretch out to Plato’s realm of forms with my mind, and on three occasions I believe that I have managed while in a state of quiet repose to glimpse the true realm, and it is most beautiful and sheds much light on what is mysterious in the human soul. Yet my colleagues mock me and say merely that I dozed, and indeed, none of my students have been able to find the realm of forms. And I doubt whether anyone who does not both truly believe in the place of forms and who does not have a highly trained pattern of thought would be able to send their mind out blindly and find it....
[The rest of the scroll seems to have been torn off jaggedly, and the bottom roller is missing.]
Alea Iacta VI: When in Rome Tenth Post: Britannia Heilyn
Back to exciting action!:
Marcus and Wena return to Cornelia’s house and discuss the documents with us. Much speculation arises, and both the philosophers attempt to reach out and enter the Place of Forms with their minds. For just a second, Marcus thinks he sees a sharper, brighter view of Cornelia’s house, but it quickly fades, and he is left feeling exhausted. Wena has no better luck.
Meanwhile, Heilyn has been chomping at the bit to go and visit the Temple of Mercury, as given permission by Cimbrus, and see the Cap of Twilight, the artifact of Lugh “stolen” by the Romans, which is preventing us from freeing Lugh and restoring him to his full power and glory. Lucretius, Llyr, Heilyn, and Wena set off for the Temple, with Lucretius offering to act as guide and mediator with the temple priests. Indeed, the priests are initially highly suspicious of the three Celts, but Lucretius pledges on his honor and good name that they will do no harm; they merely wish to view and pay their respects to the Cap. (Lucretius clearly hadn’t known any of those three very long; I could have warned him what a bad idea this was, if he’d bothered to ask.)
At the gate of the impressively columned, although small, Temple of Mercury, two statues guard the main entrance. Each holds out their hand in an outstretched position; one depicts Mercury the Guide, the other Mercury as Merchant. The most fascinating aspect of these statues, however, is that they are made of no metal that Heilyn recognizes. The surface of the statues gleams a murky silver and seems to slowly flow back and forth, causing the statues to look as if they are moving. The priest sternly warns the four not to touch the statues.
Although the temple seems small on the outside, the priest leads the four through a bewildering warren of tiny corridors before reaching the Treasury room. Wena and Llyr are sure that the space inside the temple is far larger than it is outside, and suspect magic at work. Lucretius remembers that Mercury, in Rome, is god of magic, an aspect he does not share with Lugh, Celtic god of Light and Crafts and Trade.
The priest opens two giant bronze doors, and 25 feet away, on three intricately carved marble pedestals, the group can see three objects – a pair of sandals, a wooden staff which has two twisting wooden snakes carved around it, meeting at the top and extending out into thin fan-like wings, and, on the center pedestal, an ordinary looking leather cap. The priest warns that no one should attempt to step into the room, as there are deadly traps everywhere. They may view and pray to the relics from this distance, but can go no further. Lucretius thanks the priest for his kindness and consideration.
The Celts kneel in awe, and Heilyn glances over to Llyr and Wena, with a quick nod. After a minute or two of praying, the Celtic smith suddenly flings himself across the threshold, running like mad towards the cap. At the same time, Llyr “accidentally” trips the priest, while Wena starts causing a distraction and commotion in the hallway. Lucretius looks absolutely horrified.
Heilyn is fairly horrified himself when the traps begin to go off and the bronze doors slam shut behind him. Several spears shoot out from either wall, all of which he rolls under or over. He does not manage to dodge either the first or second Wall of Fire which spring up, injuring him badly, but the tiny mannikin he has constructed to take some of his damage does its work. Heilyn is barely alive and standing when he runs into the Wall of Force, located directly in front of the pedestals, before the floor opens up underneath him and he is dropped fifteen feet into a pit, which begins filling rapidly with water.
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Poor Lucretius. Poor, poor Lucretius.
AI VI: When in Rome Chp 10: No cigar
Sorry about the long delay - we played last weekend, and had a great time, and the PCs finally figured out some of the main details of Black Chain Philosopher's Evil Plan. Also, more fun was had with Cornelia's mom.
When last we tuned in...
Heilyn, horribly wounded and burnt, was standing at the bottom of a stone pit, which was rapidly filling with water. Alarms had gone up all over the Temple of Mercury. Llyr had thrown his hands up in surrender, claiming complete innocence, Lucretius stood aghast as he saw his word of honor broken in front of his eyes, and Wena was looking...hopeful, but trying to conceal it.
Heilyn, meanwhile, feeling he had nothing left to lose, called forth the spirits of the Stone, as the Spirit of Earth had taught him in his dreams, and begged them to form a small laddered tunnel in the rock that he could climb. As he reached halfway up the pit, Heilyn saw the bottom of the pit open up beneath him and the water go swooshing out. He continued climbing, thrusting his hands deep into the rock itself, which gave before him, and asked the spirits to form a tunnel that led, not vertically up, but at a sharp angle back and up. Working slowly and carefully while the tumult raged outside, he finally managed to burst up into the air again...on the dais itself. On the other side of the Wall of Force. At this point, a new set of alarms went off, and the angry mages and priests of Mercury, god of, as Heilyn now remembered, magic, threw open the heavy bronze doors on the other side of the room. The first fireballs bounced off the Wall of Force, and the chief priest screeched, "You fools! Let me dispel the Wall first! And don't damage the holy relics! Targeted magics, you worms!"
Meanwhile, Wena, Lucretius, and Llyr pressed to the side, Lucretius holding a sword against both their necks, and decided to stay quiet for the moment.
Heilyn reached out, solemnly, and picked up the plain brown leather cap that stood on the center pedestal on the dais. He lifted the cap up, praying fervently, "Lugh, take this cap so that you may be free, and if I can survive as well, that would be a nice benefit...." For a moment, the cap shimmered with bright golden light, and then the light faded. Apparently, something here was blocking Lugh from reclaiming his cap. Looking briefly at the cap with his spirit sight, while the mage at the doorway dispelled the wall, Heilyn noticed a thin black chain stretching out from the cap and towards the door. Deciding that he had nothing left to lose, he placed the cap on his own head, and disappeared from all human sight. Heilyn concentrated for a second, and found that he could also fly at remarkably fast speeds. He contemplated grabbing the Staff of Mercury and the Sandals of Mercury, but decided that, in the end, he had ventured enough today, and now was the time to make a run for it before they figured out exactly where he was.
A mad and desperate chase ensued. Heilyn managed to fly over the heads of the mages and priests guarding the doorway, but they soon realized what had happened. Once into the shifting maze of corridors, Heilyn realized that he had no idea which way led out of the temple. However, by hovering at the ceiling and moving silently, he was able to find various crossroads at which many guards were stationed, which let him know that he was moving in the right direction. Several of these had priests standing there who could see him, and the faltering smith took several more deadly rays of light directly in the face, but while he was lost in the maze, Heilyn had healed himself of much of the earlier damage.
Eventually, after much careful maneuvering, Heilyn saw the main doorway of the Temple, with the bright sunlight of the Roman Forum beyond. He flew quickly towards the open door, but realized as he approached that the formerly still pair of oddly shining statues were now actively moving, and could undoubtedly sense him. Both reached out with their arms to grasp at him. Praying briefly to Lugh for inspiration, he poured a sack of sestertii onto the scales of the merchant statue, and threw his holy symbol into the outstretched hand of the guide statue. Both statues stopped moving for just long enough for Heilyn to squeeze through them, out into the sunlight.
At the moment that Heilyn crossed the large Ionic columns framing the entrance of the Temple of Mercury, he heard a smooth, oily, familiar voice in his head. "How...resourceful of you. I am indeed appreciative, and grateful. You will bring the cap to the Flavian Amphitheater, 300 feet to the northeast of the Temple, and fly to the highest tier of seats, on the southern side. You will do this, now, with speed and enthusiasm.
Heilyn tried desperately to resist the overwhelming mental command, but his injuries and excitement had made his mind foggy, and the order seemed so clear, and so convincing. He flew within a minute to the deserted amphitheater, and arrived at the designated section of seats. Very good. Place the cap down on the top seat in front of you, young smith, and walk away. Why should I bother having you kill yourself, when it will be so amusing to watch the Roman guards do it for me?
As he heard the voice in his head, and once again found himself oddly soothed by its simple, persuasive commands, Heilyn saw the amphitheater below filling with vigiles, the Roman city watchmen, and knew that his entrances were blocked. He put the cap down on the seat, becoming visible to the shouts and exclamations of the guards, and took a few steps away. When he looked back, the cap was gone.
"Throw down your weapons immediately!" the vigilis below him shouted.
"I surrender!" Heilyn called down. "I don't know what was happening! I must have been possessed - some evil philosopher was controlling my mind!"
Next time...Lucretius plays Bad Vigilis.
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Alea Iacta VI: When in Rome Chapter 11?: Good Vigilis Bad Vigilis
Many apologies about the long delay - running another large LARP ate my (and ladybird's) lives for the last two months. But now, it is over, and sanity is returning. Back to regular posts, I hope.
I, Shast, would like to note at this point that I never trusted Heilyn from the beginning. All those nasty dogs, and the oath he tried to make us all swear, and the tricks he played on Meloch - we should have expected he'd do something insane, although even I never expected he'd try to steal a major artifact from the central temple of the god of thieves. merchants and mages in Rome itself!
I guess you can always be surprised.
Anyways, Lucretius, who was deeply, deeply upset, hauled Heilyn (now minus the cap), Llyr, and Wena into the local vigiles, or watchmen post, and summoned the rest of us as witnesses for or against them. (Marcus calls the watchmen "wigglies;" I don't think he has much respect for them, but the head of one of the three cohorts of vigiles is Cornelia's ex-stepfather, the man who her mother Licinia married after her father but divorced a year or two ago, so we sort of have some connections and pull with them. Roman relationships are very confusing. Apparently, Cornelia also has two half-siblings who live with her ex-stepfather. I have resolutely refused to be introduced to them; three-year-old boys can have very scary ideas about fun ways to play with a monkey.)
Metellus and Cornelia expressed their shock and horror, but asked for clemency and further investigation, given that they had reason to trust at least Llyr and Wena, and mentioned that they had all had reason to suspect philosophical mind control in the recent past.
So, Lucretius summoned a priest of Mercury to perform some truth magic, and a philosopher from the Library of Trajan to try and ascertain whether or not any of them had in fact been mentally controlled.
Under truth spells, Llyr and Wena confessed to their religious interest in the Cap, and that they had hoped to obtain it legally from the priests, but said that they had not been aware of Heilyn's plan. Also, the philosopher did find faint traces of a foreign mental presence in their minds; sadly, it was impossible to tell how long ago that intrusion occurred. After much debate, they were released to the custody of Cornelia and Metellus with stern warnings, forbidden to carry weapons anywhere near the Triumph, and placed on a watch list.
Heilyn was subjected to a lengthier and more exhaustive interrogation; however, he truthfully claimed that he was somewhat surprised by his own sudden impulse to grab the Cap, despite the serious obstacles, and his singleminded obsession regarding it. He stated that he believed that he was under mind control by the Black Chain Philosopher; while he desired the Cap for Lugh, he thought his actions had been irrational and crazy. He was unable to say where the Cap was now, but persisted in his feeble story that the voice in his head had told him to put the Cap down in the amphitheater, after which it had disappeared.
The philosopher confirmed that Heilyn did bear signs of a significant foreign mental control, although he was unable to pinpoint for how long the smith was under control. The priests of Mercury were, understandably, still very upset about the loss of their Cap, although they accepted that Heilyn was telling the truth.
After much impassioned pleading by Metellus and Llyr, and some grudging acceptance by Lucretius that Heilyn was needed to find out the real truth, it was settled that Heilyn would pay the temple 5000 sestertii, most of his life savings, in return for the damages he had caused the god's property. He was not to leave the city, was certainly not to participate in the Triumph, and his description was circulated to every watchhouse, and he was ordered to remain accompanied by good Roman citizens when out on his own in the city.
Next post: the Triumph!
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Excellent news! Thanks.Originally Posted by Orichalcum
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