Savannah Knights (mild update 06-10-05)





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  1. #1
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    Savannah Knights (mild update 06-10-05)

    An Introduction to the World of High Fantasy

    I played in the Savannah Knights campaign in the summer of 2000, using rules gleaned from Eric's news and rumors site before 3e had even come out. The setting for the game was certainly unusual--imagine modern day Savannah, Georgia, mixed with the Faerie Realm a la Mists of Avalon, and add a healthy helping of Men in Black. I posted this series originally back in the fall of 2000, but to commemmorate the birth of the new boards, I will be reposting one chapter each night, for seventeen nights.

    I play Jenny Windgrave in Savannah Knights, a Native American Christian Paladin who is bonded to the ghost of her ancestor Pataman, a shaman from the Powhatan tribe. Oh, and by the way, if you like this story, you might also want to check out Tides of Homeland as well.

    And now I present to you the first chapter of High Fantasy: Savannah Knights.

    See the High Fantasy website for more information.



    Prologue

    "This is the world you know. You are born. You learn at school. You get a job, breed, and die. At times you may wonder about some of the more bizarre happenings in the world; you might be religious, or superstitious, but you know what the real world is.

    "This is the world that really exists. Races and beings far older than humankind submit to the necessity of hiding their true nature, living obscure and concealed lives amid the throngs of ever-more-powerful humanity. The magi, creatures of magic and superstition, live beside you, perhaps fearful of discovery. What you saw today is only a taste of the unlimited power of the magi.

    "I am among the magic races. I am an Illithid, a telepath. Other magi include the Elves, the faeries, the Dragons.

    "You can perform magic now as well. When a human dies, they do not always 'cross-over' to whatever afterlife you believe in. Some stay behind, lost souls left to wander the Earth. They search for meaning, for vengeance, for a cause perhaps only they can understand, and they look to the living to find it. They bond with a human, granting them the power humans can only find in the spirit world. Magic. Those of you now bonded with the dead can perform magic. The spirits have their own motives, their own needs, and they intend you to help them satisfy them.

    "We in this organization try to perpetuate that myth that seeing is believing. Most magi prefer to live out their lives without threat, and most humans prefer to live out their own without incident. The Bureau is here to make sure it remains that way. The way you knew the world before you stepped in this room is gone for you, but it is the way a vast majority of humanity would prefer to keep it.

    "Now you will help keep it so."

    --J'Qwuan, Head Telepath, Bureau for the Management of Magi



    Chapter One: Introduction

    Savannah, a city of great history, peculiarity, and mystery. Half the dorms of SCAD are haunted, if you believe the myths, and there always seems to be something unnatural going on among the elite of Savannah’s society.

    The night of May 26th, 2000 SCAD put on a small concert as the final event before the summer break. A rare event to bring together students of dozens of artistic disciplines--photography, acting, computer design, comic books, and more traditional forms.

    At the fringe of the concert crowd, a young man walks un-noticed between his classmates. They ignore the average-build, modest-faced, drably-dressed man, paying no attention to this self-made chameleon. He’s never had an interest in art, and the computer files of SCAD list him only as a modest-grade, full-scholarshipped computer graphicist named “Chuck Tagin-eve.”

    A camera flashes as Madeline West, slender photo-journalist student, finishes her roll of film on the concert. She starts to settle down to enjoy the concert, but then something tickles her ear, reminding her she needs to get another roll of film for her camera.

    Near the stage, something cuts through the noise of the music—a voice only one woman hears. Jenny Windgrave looks up at the sound of her name, a clear voice in the crowd. She doesn’t see the man who had called her, but her eyes level on a scene a the edge of the crowd.

    Tagin-Eve looks up as a woman stops next to him. A Goth chick, complete with torn fishnet stockings, an inverted crucifix around her neck, black hair, and sunken, stoned eyes.

    “Hey. . . ,” she strays off for a moment, and Tagin begins to breathe through his mouth to avoid the smell of the weed she’s been smoking. “You’re Chuck, right? You wanna come see somethin’?”

    Tagin’s more frustrated than interested, but despite himself he follows her to the doorway of the nearest dorm, Oglethorp house. Behind him, Madeline is on her way to get more film, and Jenny is calmly pushing her way through the crowd. Something about the woman makes her uneasy.

    Tagin and the Goth stop next to the steps of O-house, and the woman lays an arm on Tagin’s shoulder. “I forgot how stoned I could get . . . heh. You remember me, right?”

    Tagin nods, nervous. He’s too far from the crowd, out in the open. “Yeah. Chastity, from art history.”

    Chastity smiles, revealing those ivory vampire teeth only the most over-the-top Goths purchase. “You’re good. . . . . . . . and cute. Too cute to let it all go to waste, right? All flesh just rots away, y’know?”

    Two joggers are running on the street nearby. One slows, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. The larger of the two looks at him in frustration, then follows his albino brother’s gaze to the steps of the nearby building.

    Chastity puts her other arm on Tagin’s other shoulder, and then grins, her eyes slits that begin to seep red light. “Man . . . I always get so hungry when I’m high. I just want a little drink.”

    She bares her teeth again, and Tagin tries to pull away, but Chastity holds him strongly as she bends her head to line up her fangs with his neck. “You’re cute. . . . I want you to stay that way forever.”

    From a few dozen feet away, Jenny shouts, “Stop!” Chastity and Tagin both look to see the Native American woman standing unarmed, but resolute, staring wrathfully at the vampire. A few feet away from the steps, Madeline finally looks up at the shout and sees the pale, glowing-eyed vampiress holding a freshman in a death’s embrace.

    Chastity sighs. “Aw damn, girl. I just want a bite to eat.”

    Madeline backs away while Jenny advances.

    Chastity shrugs, “But I’m not picky,” and then shoves Tagin ten feet into Madeline, knocking her down. As Madeline tries to get to her feet, Chastity leaps through the air toward Jenny.

    Jenny scambles back, but the vampiress grabs her by her hair and shirt and pulls her forward, staring her in the eyes intently. Jenny begins to feel sickly, but she grimaces and shoves at her attacker, driving her back. Sneering, Chastity punches Jenny in the face and drops her to the ground.

    The vampiress turns as Madeline runs up and swings her camera by its strap, barely hitting Chastity on the arm. The vampiress grabs Madeline and flings her to the ground atop Jenny, sneering.

    Then from the shadows nearby comes a shout. “Vile child of Satan! Your bloodlust ends tonight.”

    Out from the edge of the building steps a tall man in a trenchcoat, white light flooding from the wall of the building. The wind blows his trenchcoat open, revealing a crucifix around his neck. As he stares down Chastity, he draws a wooden stake.

    Chastity stares at him blankly. “You’re ****tin’ me right? You think you’re some kinda effin’ Van Helsing? Gah.”

    The vampire hunter smiles knowingly, then hurls the stake twenty feet toward the Goth chick. Chastity is shocked, but dodges the stake, then leaps at her opponent.

    By the time everyone gets to their feet, the vampire hunter hangs limply in Chastity’s arms as she suckles at his throat.

    Jenny looks to Madeline, then sprints toward the vampire. Madeline hears a voice whispering in her ear, and a chill runs through her as she repeats the droning words. Chastity stops sucking the blood from the vampire hunter for a moment to look at Madeline, and then her eyes widen as a bolt of energy strikes her in the chest.

    Tagin and Jenny look at Madeline warily, but she’s as confused as they are. Chastity sneers, then grabs her prey and levitates slowly upward. As she moves out of range, Tagin leaps up and slashes at her with a butterfly knife.

    Jenny grabs and hurls a small potted plant at the vampire, to no effect.

    As the pot crashes against the ground, a deep shout comes from nearby: “What in the seven ****s of hell?”

    And then a sharper voice: “That levitating Goth chick is giving the FBI guy a hickey!”

    Jenny looks over to see a pair of men in jogging outfits—looking related except that one’s an albino—jogging up to the scene. She points to Chastity and shouts, “She’s a vampire! She’s killing him!”

    Without missing a step in his jogging, the larger of the brothers breaks into a sprint, pulling a sword out of his jogging bag. Judging the woman too high to jump at, he leaps up at the wall of O-house, then springs diagonally off it higher into the air, slashing across the woman’s legs. With his spare hand, he grabs onto her foot.

    With a jerk and shout from Chastity, the three fall to the ground.

    “Cai, get outta the way,” shouts the albino to his brother, and as soon as Cai jumps away, the ground shudders and vines spring forth, entwining Chastity, the vampire hunter, and Jenny. Tagin leaps clear and jumps over Chastity to land beside the vampire hunter.

    Another bolt flashes out of Madeline’s hands, striking Chastity in the back of the head. The vampiress swears indignantly, then begins to tear at the vines entangling her.

    At the edge of the circle of vines, Cai stands calmly and looks at his younger brother. “Iscalio, what the hell did you just do?”

    The albino Iscalio shrugs, then turns to watch the battle.

    Madeline runs to help Jenny free her legs from the vines while Tagin rips open the vampire hunter’s trenchcoat and pulls out two stakes. Jenny, finally free, kneels beside the wounded man and puts a hand to his throat to check for a pulse. She feels dizzy suddenly as her hand tingles, and the man beneath her starts to stir.

    “Hey, look out!” shouts Iscalio, pointing at Chastity. “She’s moving again.”

    As Chastity begins to finally stand, a ghostly fox appears beside her and leaps at her chest, biting at her. Meanwhile Tagin and Jenny help the vampire hunter to his feet, and he staggers a bit before leaping at the child of Satan, Tagin and Jenny following, just wanting to stop the woman.

    Chastity knocks the ghostly fox away (it vanishes), then looks up in time to be tackled. As the three attackers land on her, Chastity rolls back and flings Jenny off, then punches Tagin back. She struggles with the vampire hunter, eventually grabbing one of the stakes inside his coat and smashing him across the face with it. She mutters a curse, then stands to look for her next opponent.

    As she stands, she turns and steps directly into Tagin’s stake. The wood pierces her chest, and she sags, falling into Tagin’s arms.

    Tagin sinks to the ground with Chastity as the red seeps out of her eyes, and color briefly returns to her strangely calm face. She looks at him gently and whispers with a smile, “Thank you.”

    Tagin looks down at Chastity, shocked. Then a shadow falls over him as the vampire hunter steps up beside him. Tagin steps away, and the man efficiently, without pleasure, draws the hilt of a sword from his coat. A glowing blade of white energy springs out from the hilt, then coalesces into a solid metal blade. Closing his eyes and touching his cross, he prepares himself, then grimly beheads the vampire, putting her to rest. Her mortal remains settle to dust and scatter in the summer wind.

    In the distance, the concert proceeds as normal, heedless. The vampire hunter sighs sadly, then looks around the group. “It’s not safe here. Come with me if you want to live.”

    Tagin, Madeline, Jenny, Cai, and Iscalio slowly walk forward as the tall man’s sword blade turns into light again, then vanishes, leaving only the hilt. The vampire hunter places the hilt in his caot and draws something else in its place. He holds it forward, and a square section of the side of Oglethorpe House glows with white light.

    “Through the doorway. C’mon now. I don’t have endless patience.”

    Cai fingers his katana as he walks toward the wall. He looks at the man before walking through the wall. “You’d better not be ****in’ with us. C’mon Iscalio.”

    One by one the group enters, Tagin last, so inconspicuous that the vampire hunter almost leaves him. As they all step through the white doorway, emerging in the clean hallways of some unknown building, Jenny looks at their rescuer for an explanation.

    “Where are we? I mean, I can guess what just happened, even though it’s supposed to be impossible, but where are we now?”

    Iscalio chimes in: “And who are you?”

    “I’m Balthazar Mordred,” he says calmly, starting down the hallway as he tucks what appears to be a key back into his coat. “And you’re in the Faerie World. You’re gonna have some decisions coming up, and let me tell you, there is some wild stuff up ahead.”
    Last edited by RangerWickett; Friday, 10th June, 2005 at 07:30 AM.
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  • #2
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    The reposting begins tonight, January 20th, 2002, and will continue each night with another chapter until February 5th.

  • #3
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    It's a great start. Always liked the opening!
    Jarval - happy to be back at EN World.

    Rather outdated PbP info:
    Number of PbP games I play in: 14. For full details, click here.
    Number of PbP games I DM: 4. For full details, click here.
    Retired/dead games I've played or run are here.

  • #4
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    I've read this story the first time around and believe me, it is worth following!

    Lots of intrigue and very original.

    Ancalagon

  • #5
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    As part of an ongoing supplement to this storyhour, I'll be presenting some rules information with every chapter of the storyhour, ranging from the world's rules for character creation to stat blocks, magical items, spells, and possibly even prestige classes.

    High Fantasy Campaign Setting

    The High Fantasy Campaign Setting details the same world that we all live in, Earth, but includes information on the world of magic that coexists with us, unseen by most. Known as Gaia (as opposed to the mundane world of Terra), the Faerie Realm can be accessed easily by those who accept its existence, but others are sometimes drawn into this world by sheer happenstance, or by the maliciousness of its inhabitants.


    Races:
    The following races are available for player characters. Note that in Savannah Knights, all PCs were initially restricted to humans because they did not yet know about the Bureau or the Faerie World. Races marked with an asterisk (*) have high Equivalent Character Levels, and thus are limited to more high-level games.
    • Humans.
    • Elves. Elves are considered Middle Fey. Though they have access to magical powers without the aid of spirits, they are still considered Humanoids for the sake of spells and such. Their favored class is Sorcerer or Ranger.
    • Svart Alves. These are the 'dark Elves' of Northern European folklore, typically with dark skin and hair, glowing eyes, and a disturbing aura around them. They receive +2 Dex, -2 Con, and -2 Cha. They have Darkvision 60 ft and vibration-based Blindsight 5 ft. They also gain a +2 racial bonus to Climb, Listen, and Spot checks. Their creature type is Humanoid. Their favored class is Sorcerer or Ranger.
    • Orcs. Orcs are Low Fey, the most mundane of the inhabitants in Gaia. They are statistically identical to the Orcs listed in the Monster Manual, and are considered Humanoids. Their favored class is Berserker or Fighter.
    • Ogres.*
    • Trolls.*
    • Dwarves. Dwarves are also Low Fey, but they are considered Humanoids. They are a very secluded people, but not necessarily unimposing. Thus, they get +2 Con, -2 Dex instead of +2 Con, -2 Cha. Their favored class is Fighter or Wizard.
    • Goblins. Goblins are considered Middle Unseelie Fey, but are still Humanoids, and are identical to Monster Manual Goblins. Their favored class is Rogue or Fighter.
    • Hobgoblins. Hobgoblins differ from their traditional Dungeons & Dragons presentation. These creatures are the more historical ‘house goblins’ of Europe. They are small Fey.
    • Pixies.
    • Brownies. Brownies resemble halflings in size and appearance (and stats), but have even more playful demeanors. They are considered Middle Fey, and thus have the creature type Humanoid.
    • Satyrs.
    • Centaurs.*

    Additionally, the following templates are available, but only to higher level characters.
    • Blood of the High Fey. A template for characters with blood of the true, High Fey. Characters of this variety tend to have wings and a powerful presence, but suffer some of the vulnerabilites of the High Fey (such as to cold iron).
    • Ghost. Also available is the Spirit template, which is a less vicious version of the Ghost template. Spirits are bonded ghosts, and so don't have much use as PCs on their own, but they are available.
    • Half-Dragon.
    • Lycanthrope.
    • Seelie Beast. This template is similar to the celestial template.
    • Unseelie Beast. This template is similar to the infernal template.
    • Vampire. Not all vampires are evil. Some are just victims of foul circumstance.



    Jenny Windgrave: Female human Pal1; Medium-size Humanoid (human); HD 1d10; hp 10; Init –1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 9 (Dex); Atk shortspear +1 melee (1d8/crit x3) or rapier +1 melee (1d6/crit 18) or automatic pistol +0 ranged (1d10/crit x3); SQ detect evil, divine grace, lay on hands (3 hp), divine health, ghostbond; SV Fort +6, Ref +2, Will +8; Str 11, Dex 8, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 17.

    Skills and Feats: Diplomacy +5, Knowledge (Native American history) +3, Knowledge (Christianity) +3, Perform +9, Sense Motive +5, Speak Language (French), Spot +3; Artist (+2 to Perform and Craft (costumes)), Iron Will.
    Note: All Knowledge skills, Perform, and Speak Language are class skills for Jenny because of her Performing Arts education. Sense Motive and Spot are her floating class skills.

    Ghostbond Abilities: Alertness, Locative Bond, See Spirit, Share Spells, Speak with Spirit, Spirit Manifestation, Turn Resistance, +1 to Will and Fortitude saves, and a +2 bonus to resist level drains and death effects.


    Background:
    Jenny’s family has never lived on a reservation, but in a small community in Virginia that consisted singly of the ancestors of the Powhatan and Algonquin Indians as well as several other neighboring tribes that were displaced by English settlers to Jamestown. She managed to nab a scholarship for her acting talent (and only partially for her race) to the Savannah College of Art & Design.

    Her parents (and most of her home community) were Christian, but she only remained at the private Catholic high school her parents sent her to for a few weeks. She quit and returned to public school when several classmates mocked her as “Pocahontas.” In the years since she’s taken the name as a frustrating nickname, but admits that at least the girls got the right tribe. She is directly descended from Pataman, a shaman a year too young to have known the famous Pocahontas before she left for England.

    At the public school she attended, she received somewhat less attention for her race, and actually had a few Native American friends. Her interest kindled in her culture, she rediscovered all the things her parents had taught her that she had ignored. At first it was merely a diversion, but she discovered half-way through high school that most of her friends did not share her Christian faith, and for almost a year she took refuge in her ancestry (even at one point trying to gain acceptance by using her “Native American” status to garner herself some peyote online; peyote was never used by Powhatan Indians).

    Her church restored her faith when she was invited to play Mary Magdalen in a Passion Play. She won the audition and was able to form closer ties to others who shared her faith. She credits God primarily with letting her win the role; it was certainly a miracle that acting as bad as hers was at the time was allowed in a semi-professional play.

    With renewed vigor she began to speak to her friends from high school about her faith. Though she did not achieve anything like a conversion, she realized that most of her friends did not condemn her for her beliefs, any more than they feared she would scalp them because she was an Indian. She continued to pursue acting, and actually became good enough that her audition tape landed her in the first class to be offered a major in theatre arts at the Savannah College of Art & Design.

    Jenny’s Ghost:
    Pataman lived to the age of thirty-seven, and was killed by an armed group of Christian settlers. The settlers had attempted to clear a swath of forest that had been the chief’s favored hunting grounds. Nothing religious, but the Christians assumed the Indians were refusing because of their ‘primitive and uncivilized’ religion. Pataman led three fellow priests to explain the conflict; words flew (only half-understood by either side), tempers flared, and Pataman stated he and his priests would attack any settler who crossed into the forest.

    As they turned to leave, one of the settlers lowered his pants and began to piss at their feet. Appalled at the insult, Pataman tried to punch the settler. Fearing the savages would kill their friend, the settlers jumped into the battle, so Pataman's fellow priests joined the fight as well--four Indians against a half-dozen settlers. Pataman found himself fighting for his life against the settler he’d first attacked, and in defense he wrenched the man’s gun away and shot him. As the settler fell to the ground, another Englishman shot Pataman. Both sides broke away to tend to their wounded, and neither Pataman nor his victim survived.
    Last edited by RangerWickett; Wednesday, 6th February, 2002 at 04:16 AM.

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    Chapter Two: Faerie World

    As Balthazar leads the 5 confused young men and women through the hallways, he seems to grow nervous as they approach the noise of a crowded room. Though they’ve been following blankly until this point, when the group enters the room they all stop in shock for a moment and look around.

    “This is straight out of Men in Black,” Iscalio says as they watch an argument between a burly, green-skinned humanoid and a pair of finely-dressed men in black suits. Sitting at desks, a few normal workers in white-collar shirts are answering the grievances of the various bizarre creatures.

    Interspersed between the modernly-dressed humans is a vast array of other creatures—Elves, Orcs, a few ghoulish looking things (red eyes, pale skin, look a lot like Iscalio the albino), and a nice variety of short little people. Here and there, a handful of winged sprites flit around in curiosity to look at everyone, then fly on when they lose interest. A few of the humans have get-ups similar to Balthazar’s, but none look quite as ready to go out and kill something. Well, maybe the Orcs.

    The only real argument seems to be between a finely-dressed but otherwise plain-looking Asian woman and several of the black-suited agents, all of them shouting in Chinese. Even though it’s obvious the Asian woman she hasn’t even seen the newcomers, it feels as if she’s glaring at each and every one of them, making them nervous with her overpowering presence.

    Balthazar grumbles something about the damned annoying Dragon, and then says things will be explained to them in a moment. They move through the large room and enter a narrower corridor, with its lights dimmed. A man with dark grey skin and white hair, wearing sunglasses, walks by, throwing them a sneer.

    “More? Aren’t you knights supposed to be a select group? There’s too many of you already.”

    Balthazar ignores him stoically, then guides the group into a conference room with a full business-style table in the center. He says 'the chief' will be there any minute. Then he smiles wryly and walks out the door, claiming he has paperwork to file.

    Tagin sits quietly, inconspicuously. Cai sits down also, looking around the room cautiously, then calls for his brother Iscalio to sit down next to him and stop trying to force the door open. Madeline tries to keep busy by checking her camera for damage as she takes a seat down also. Finally Jenny pulls out a chair, looking at everyone and asking how they feel, and what they think is going on.

    The group talks for a while, and of course they’re surprised at what has happened, but they’re taking it well enough. Everyone offers their names and tells a little about themselves.



    Jenny Windgrave: Native American theatre student at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art & Design), descended from the Powhatan tribe (the tribe Pocahontas came from), which has not existed as an actual tribe for a long time. She wears a plain ivory cross around her neck on a short necklace.

    Madeline West: Caucasian photography student, also at SCAD. She’s a little interested in what’s going on, since she tried once unsuccessfully to become a goth, studying all kinds of wicca, witchcraft, and magic. She could never build up enough focused cynicism to become a real goth, but she is still interested in witchcraft and the occult.

    Cai Maxwell: Tall, mid-20s, of mixed Asian and Italian descent, runs a small martial arts school. And yes, he does always carry a katana around while jogging (in his jogging bag; it’s just one of those cheap, mail-order katanas though).

    Iscalio Maxwell: Cai’s younger brother, early 20s, albino, scrawny but tough (his brother forces him to jog morning and night). He cracks a few anti-Christian jokes at Jenny’s expense.



    Finally (and they would’ve missed him if they hadn’t been going down the line), Chuck Tagin-Eve.

    “What kind of name is that?” Iscalio asks.

    “Chuck’s a cute name,” Madeline replies, trying to make Tagin calm.

    Tagin just says a few things about himself, that he’s a computer graphics student. They know he says more, but it wasn’t memorable enough for them to remember.

    On cue, after they finish introducing themselves, the door opens and in steps a middle-aged man who bears a striking resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones. He doesn’t give a name, saying that if they ever see him again they can just call him “Chief.”

    The Chief says they weren’t prepared for such a large group to show up, so it’ll be a few minutes before the person they really need to talk to will arrive. In the meanwhile, he introduces them to the Bureau for the Management of Magi, and gives them the quick run down of how magical creatures have been living discreet lives among humans from the beginning of time, crossing over from their own world of Gaia, which is similar but separate to Terra, the world we all consider to be Earth. In 542 AD, at the battle of Camlann, the final battle between Arthur and Mordred, the battle between Terra and Gaia ended with an agreement for the races of Gaia to remain separate from Terra. However, not all of the Gaian peoples followed this agreement, and for centuries, human warriors continued the tradition of the Knights of the Round, seeking out and killing magi who invaded Terra.

    Finally, in the early 1900s, the Bureau was founded in order to stop the escalating tensions between humans and magi. Now, travel between Terra and Gaia is more closely regulated and monitored, making it easier for the well-meaning to conduct their business, and more difficult for trouble-makers to get away with crimes that might break the ancient Treaty of Camlann.

    The Chief offers them the opportunity to join the Bureau. He says the reasons for Jenny, Madeline, and Iscalio are obvious, though the three of them don't seem to find it so clear. As for Cai, he’s shown himself a capable warrior, and it’d be too difficult to keep the secret if only one brother knew about it. The Chief refrains from saying why they want Tagin.

    Chuckling softly, he goes on to say that, unlike the movie Men in Black, they won’t have to worry about leaving their families behind. The Bureau will pay them for their utilities, taxes, and housing if they want to keep a semblance of their normal life. After all, the Bureau’s main reason for existence is to let magic exist under the veil of the mundane world, so the Chief encourages them not to just drop their original lifestyle.

    The lights grow suddenly much dimmer, and the Chief says the ‘man’ they’ve been waiting for has arrived. The door opens, and a voice slides into their minds, criticizing the Chief for not having the lights dimmed in the first place.

    In the limited light they can barely make out a humanoid shape coming through the doorway. It strides forward, its long robes sliding across the floor, and stops beside the Chief’s seat. The Chief and the new arrival exchange some friendly banter, and they realize that the person isn’t actually talking. As their eyes adjust to the gloom, they can make out a large, bald head with pupil-less white eyes. Where its mouth and nose should be, instead several long tentacles slither about.

    The Mind Flayer mentions casually that they’re uneasy, but then after a moment all their anxiety at seeing this bizarre person fade away, leaving them peculiarly relaxed. He introduces himself as Yondo J’Qwuan, and says plainly that if they do not want to join the Bureau, they can return to their normal lives with their memories erased.

    After some discussion and rabid questioning (Chad, Tagin’s player, really hates Illithids, and so he pinned J’Qwuan as a bad guy from the start), they agree to join the Bureau. Well, all of them except Tagin, who just seems to go along with the show. J’Qwuan goes out of his way to inform the Chief to not forget about the scrawny-little hacker sitting discreetly at the edge of the table.

    Jenny says that knowledge of magic like this is something she never believed in, and as pious as she is, she is not one to go on blind faith if she is offered the chance to learn the true nature of the world.

    Iscalio seems to think that the Bureau is opposed to the US government, and that it proves that the established society has been lying to the world. J'Qwuan reads his mind and explains that, no, he would not be allowed to share the secret of the Bureau to the rest of the world. Regardless, Iscalio refuses to let the wool be pulled over his eyes. When Cai hears that, he nods and says he also doesn't mind knowing about all this stuff, so he might as well stay and protect his brother.

    Madeline smiles at the offer, obviously amazed by the magic she has already seen. She jumps at the chance to learn more, even though the Chief tells her that she will be questioned periodically to make sure she hasn't tried to spread photos of magical races or creatures.

    Finally, everyone looks at Tagin, remembering that apparently he is someone important. J’Qwuan asks Tagin directly if he wants to join, or to just go back to a normal life. The Chief suggests it’s a bad idea to recruit Tagin, since after all, the man has no real assets to give to the Bureau.

    Tagin looks around the group defiantly. Since he doesn't want to get his memories erased (and since Chad doesn't want to have to roll up a new character), he finally speaks up and says that he’s a hacker. A very good one.

    They decide to check into it, and J’Qwuan says there’s one final thing they have to do before they’ll let them into the Bureau. One by one, the Mind Flayer sinks deeply into their minds and scans their thoughts, looking for their loyalty. He tells the Chief all’s well, and that Tagin is indeed telling the truth. Even though some of the people in the group would like to share the truth, they understand that if they did so, they'd not only be expelled from the Bureau and have their memories erased, but would also be considered lunatics. They can be trusted to keep the secret.

    And yes, Tagin is a hacker. A very good one.

    (We ran this game back in early summer, back when Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3E Site said Skill Focus gives a +10 bonus to a skill, not +2. As a human rogue, Tagin had taken Skill Focus (hacking) twice, for a +20 bonus to his hacking checks; . . . um, once we read the official rules, we decided he’s just got the magic touch, rules be damned.)

    * * *

    Over the next few weeks, since school’s out for the summer anyway, the group goes through training in basic Gaian history, weapons usage, procedures and sources of aid if they get into trouble. They also learn that three of them have ghosts that are trying to bond with them, long-dead spirits that have chosen to follow them for whatever reason.

    With the aid of a sorcerer, Jenny, Iscalio, and Madeline contact the spirit world to speak with their ghosts. While magical races can use magic freely (and usually become sorcerers), humans are not innately connected to the world of magic. They can become wizards or psions through very hard study, or they can bond with a ghost, drawing energy from the spirit world, using the ghost as their conduit.

    When the sorcerer connects them closely with their spirit, they’re now able to fully see and speak with their ghosts. Before, the ghosts could only briefly speak with them, and only in periods of great danger (like vampire attacks).

    Madeline’s ghost is Catherine, a young woman who was hung in the Salem witch trial. Her cat was hung too, so Madeline can now see her ghost and her ghost’s cat. Catherine was not actually a witch, and she’s a bit wary of sorcery, so her spells don’t always function properly.

    Iscalio sees his spirit: a small, ghostly-white fox. He communicates empathically with the creature, and begins to call it his totem animal. When the sorcerer who contacted the spirit world for him asks what he’s talking about, Iscalio says he has the ghost of a fox for his spirit.

    The sorcerer who let them speak to their spirits laughs at Iscalio's New Age spirit-bonding. Snorting and snickering, the sorcerer explains that the fox isn’t a fox at all. It’s actually Mr. Lancaster Cornwall, died c. 1840 after a long period of insanity where he believed he was a fox. While some of his friends were out hunting, Mr. Cornwall leapt to save the foxes from the hounds, and was accidentally shot.

    Iscalio says indignantly that the ghost is a fox, and that’s that. (Jessie, the DM, had a slight difference of opinion with Iscalio’s player. Jessie says even if animals do have spirits, they don’t think the same way humans do, and so can’t bond with them; this raised the question if foxes could have fox ghosts, but still didn't allow Iscalio to bond with an actual fox).

    Finally, Jenny’s ghost is Pataman, one of her ancestors from her tribe. Pataman was a young shaman, and was killed in a relatively minor squabble with a Christian settler. He disapproves of Jenny’s religion, but shares her general outlook on morality.

    The group goes through training in procedures, combat, and magic, and how to recognize magical creatures disguised as humans. After a few weeks of training, the Chief gives them their first assignment, a simple clean-up.

    And to make sure they’ve learned everything effectively, they’ll be working with Keira McCormick, Quarter-Elvish sorceress.
    Last edited by RangerWickett; Tuesday, 22nd January, 2002 at 02:28 AM.

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    Madeline West: Female human Sor1; Medium-size Humanoid (human); HD 1d4+2; hp 6; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 11 (Dex); Atk blunt object +1 melee (1d4+1) or taser +1 ranged (2d10 subdual/crit x3); SQ ghostbond; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +4; Str 12, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 14.

    Skills and Feats: Computer Use +2, Controlled Driving +4, Gather Information +2, Intimidate +1, Intuit Direction +4, Knowledge (photography) +3, Profession (photojournalist) +4, Speak Language (Spanish), Swim +1; Clotheshift, Silent Spell.
    Note: All Knowledge skills, Speak Language, and Spot are class skills for Madeline because of her Graphic Arts education. Computer Use and Controlled Driving are her floating class skills.

    Spells Per Day: 5 / 4 — dancing lights, daze, light, detect magic / change self, magic missile.

    Ghostbond Abilities: Alertness, Locative Bond, See Spirit, Share Spells, Speak with Spirit, Spirit Manifestation, Turn Resistance, Wild Spellcaster Template, +1 bonus to all saves to resist magic.


    Background:
    Madeline has been pursuing a career in journalism since high school, and is attending the Savannah College of Art & Design for a major in photography, taking side classes in actual journalism at the local Savannah State College.

    Madeline has always had a good sense of direction, and usually spends up to an hour memorizing a street map of any new city she’ll be traveling to before she leaves. Because of several defensive driving courses in high school, she is quite comfortable navigating even the most treacherous driving conditions, though in her opinion, Savannah’s streets are rather boringly designed (historically, Savannah was one of the first cities designed on a grid plan).

    Madeline’s Ghost:
    Catherine had only one piece of evidence that supported the charge against her, her cat. The townspeople of Salem saw the cat as proof that Catherine was one of the witches, even though she attended church every day and was friends with all the young women in town. But her friends abandoned her and invented maladies they suffered because of her, and the witch hunt moved quickly to end her life.

    When they brought her to be hung, her cat followed in distress, and Catherine had almost cursed at the cat then, believing that it was an evil creature that had brought this suffering upon her. But just as they reached the noose, her cat jumped up into her arms and wailed pitifully, seemingly understanding her plight. It looked into her eyes as if to say it would miss her, and Catherine immediately forgave the small cat, knowing they were both just the victims of everyone’s fears.

    However, to her dismay, her cat was torn from her arms. One of the men present jokingly tied a second, smaller noose with twine, which others agreed to use with morbid chuckles. Catherine and her cat were hung together, before the eyes of her friends and family.

    Classes:
    All the standard classes are available, though we prefer to call them Berserkers, not Barbarians. Some class skills are not the same, but extra class skills can be acquired depending on your background. Also, though the rules for magic remain the same, the explanation behind magic is quite different. Here follows a summary of changes.
    • General: All characters choose a background, which grants certain extra class skills or other benefits. Sample backgrounds are found in Chapter Two: Races and Cultures. Additionally, all characters are proficient in every simple weapon (including handguns).
    • Barbarian: This class’s name is changed to berserker. Literacy is automatic.
    • Bard: This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans can only take levels in this class if they have a bonded spirit.
    • Cleric: Characters choose their domains as they believe their faith guides them. Gods do not walk Terra or Gaia, so characters have to decide what exactly their religion advocates.
      This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans can only take levels in this class if they have a bonded spirit.
    • Druid: This is the name for any type of nature priest; a prestige class details members of the Ancient Druid Orders. The weapon list varies from group to group, and represents not a restricted list, but rather a list of weapons they are proficient in. Druids may use any weapon without fearing loss of their powers, though they are only proficient in limited ones.
      This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans can only take levels in this class if they have a bonded spirit.
    • Fighter: This class is unchanged. It’s a well-designed class, and I won’t fiddle with it.
    • Monk: This class no longer restricts members from multiclassing.
    • Paladin: This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans can only take levels in this class if they have a bonded spirit.
    • Psion: Use the changes presented in Malhavoc Press’s If Thoughts Could Kill.
    • Psychic Warrior: Use the changes presented in Malhavoc Press’s If Thoughts Could Kill.
    • Ranger: This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans cannot progress beyond 3rd level in this class unless they have a bonded spirit. However, there is a variant ranger class that has no magical abilities, which can be taken freely.
    • Rogue: Like the fighter, this class is perfect.
    • Sorcerer: If a sorcerer also has a bonded spirit, he can choose to have his spirit occupy the body of a small creature, making it effectively a standard familiar. Use the familiar progression of powers instead of the Ghostbond progression, except that the sorcerer retains the Speak with Spirit and See Spirit ability, and the familiar is still restricted by the Locative Bond. If he does not have a bonded spirit, he can gain a familiar as normal.
      This class is restricted to races of Gaia. Humans can only take levels in this class if they have a bonded spirit.
    • Wizard: If a wizard also has a bonded spirit, he can choose to have his spirit occupy the body of a small creature, making it effectively a standard familiar. Use the familiar progression of powers instead of the Ghostbond progression, except that the wizard retains the Speak with Spirit and See Spirit ability, and the familiar is still restricted by the Locative Bond. If he does not have a bonded spirit, he can gain a familiar as normal.


    Ghostbond: (Su) Ghostbond is a racial ability possessed by humans, allowing them to be contacted by spirits that have not yet passed on. Though all sentient beings have souls, only human souls are apt to linger after death, and only humans are innately attuned to the powers of spirits. Humans have no natural magical powers, so when a spirit bonds with a human, it metaphorically fills in the emptiness from the lack of magic, granting the human access to magical abilities.

    The Fey have their own magical power, and thus have no place for spirits to bond to. Dwarves and Orcs can bond with spirits, but since most Dwarves and Orcs live in the Faerie Realm of Gaia, they are already saturated with magic and less able to bond. Orcs and Dwarves may gain the Ghostbond ability with a feat.

    Simply having the Ghostbond ability does not assure that a spirit will willingly bond with a character, but spells do exist to force bonding. However, unless such a spell is utilized, both the character with the Ghostbond ability and the spirit must be willing for the bond to take place. Bonding with a ghost grants certain benefits of power, but forever ties the living person and the spirit together, a proximity which can become frustrating and grating if one’s spiritual bond is chosen poorly.

    Ghostbond Basics: The spirit has the spirit template applied to its original stats that it had before death, but then make these changes.
    • Hit Dice: Treat as the bonded person’s character level.
    • Hit Points: One-half the bonded person’s total, rounded down.
    • Attacks: Use the bonded person’s base attack bonus, and the spirit’s Dexterity bonus. Note, however, that spirits cannot affect the material world except in limited ways.
    • Saving Throws: Use the bonded person’s base saving throw bonuses.
    • Skills: Use the spirit’s original skill ranks or the bonded person’s, whichever is better.


    Ghostbond Powers: The Ghostbond ability grants the following powers to the character who chooses to bond with a spirit.
    • Bonding Powers: Each spirit grants some type of power to whomever it bonds with. Similar to the benefit a familiar grants its master, the particular power varies from spirit to spirit, usually based on how that spirit died, or what it’s personality was like. Choose one of the following powers. Once a power has been chosen, it cannot be changed. If the bond is severed or the spirit destroyed, this benefit disappears.
      —Living person gains +2 to one ability score.
      —Living person gains +2 to two related skills.
      —Living person gains +2 bonus to Fortitude, Reflex, or Will saves.
      —The spirit defends the living person’s soul. She gains +1 to Will and Fortitude saves, and a +2 bonus to resist level drains and death effects.
      —The spirits own reluctance to use magic grants the living person the Wild Spellcaster Template, but also provides a +1 bonus to all saving throws to resist spells, supernatural abilities, and spell-like effects.
      —Once per day, if the spirit is within five feet of the bonded person, the spirit can choose to redirect any mind-affecting or charm spell or effect targeting the living person to himself instead. The living person makes her saving throw as normal. If she fails, her bonded spirit is stunned for one minute per level of the spell. If she succeeds, the spell has no effect on either her or her ghost.
      —The spirit grants the bonded person the Sixth Sense feat, allowing her to see, speak with, and hear any spirit.
    • Alertness (Ex): The spirit’s sense of perception aids the bonded person in noticing things. If the spirit is within 5 feet, the bonded person gains the benefits of the Alertness feat.
    • Locative Bond: Once it bonds with a living person, the spirit cannot stray far. The maximum distance of separation is 100 feet per level of the living person. The spirit cannot willingly pass beyond this range, and if is unavoidably separated by more than this distance, he must proceed at full speed back to within range.
    • See Spirit (Su): The person can see her spirit clearly, just as if he was solid and tangible. Though exact appearances vary from spirit to spirit, typically a spirit appearances wispy and slightly transparent, with a soft glow surrounding his or her body.
    • Share Spells (Su): At the bonded person’s option, she may have any spell she casts on herself also affect her spirit. The spirit must be within 5 feet at the time of casting, and if the spell has a duration other than instantaneous, the spell stops affecting the spirit if he moves beyond 5 feet. The spell’s effect will be restored even if the spirit returns before the duration would otherwise have ended.

      Additionally, the bonded person may cast a spell with the target of “You” on her spirit (as a Touch range spell) instead of on herself. The bonded pair can share spells even if the spell does not normally affect the spirit’s type (undead).
    • Speak with Spirit (Su): Likewise, the person and the spirit can communicate freely as if they were two normal, living people. This ability allows them to understand each other clearly, even if they do not otherwise share a common language. The person with Ghostbond is only able to hear his bonded spirit, even if other spirits are present. (It is an ability of spirits to see both denizens of the spirit world and the real world).
    • Spiritual Manifestation (Sp): The spirit is able to manifest slightly into the material world, and can use mage hand (5-pound telekinesis) at will. Also, once per day, it can use ghost sound as a 4th-level sorcerer.
    • Turn Resistance (Ex): A bonded spirit gains +4 turn resistance.
    • Empathic Link (Su): If the bonded person is 3rd level or higher, she can communicate with her spirit empathically, even if the spirit is out of range of hearing. This allows the two to converse as if they were right next to each other. Establishing the link is a standard action which requires concentration to maintain.
    • Touch (Su): If the bonded person is 5th level or higher, the spirit can deliver any touch spells the bonded person casts. When she casts a touch spell, she can designate her spirit as the “toucher” if the spirit is within 5 feet of her. The spirit can then deliver the touch spell just as the bonded person could, with the additional benefit that the spirit can touch both corporeal creatures and ethereal creatures (like other spirits). As normal, if the bonded person casts another spell, the touch spell dissipates.
    • Manifestation (Su): The spirit gains this ability if the bonded person is 9th level or higher. This ability functions as the Ghost template ability of the same name, except that the spirit can only manifest for a total of one minute per day per level of the bonded person.


    Magical Font: Finally, bonding with a ghost grants a character the ability to use certain types of magic otherwise unavailable to her. Normally, the only magic-using classes humans can take levels in are wizard, monk, psion, and psychic warrior. Wizardry relies on study to tap magic from Gaia, while monks and psions draw power from within themselves.

    For other spellcasting classes, like bard, cleric, druid, paladin, ranger, and sorcerer, only creatures with innate magic can directly tap the world’s magic. Elves, Brownies, and even Dwarves and Orcs have natural connections to the magic of Gaia, but humans need an intermediary. A spirit fulfills that role, allowing a human to take levels in these otherwise restricted classes. However, if the bond is severed or the spirit is destroyed, the bonded person loses access to all spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural powers gained from these levels.

    As one final warning, the spirit may not always agree with the behavior of the person with whom he bonded. If the bonded person attempts to use magic granted from this ability for a purpose that clearly conflicts with the alignment of the spirit, the spirit and bonded person make opposed Will saves. If the spirit wins this contest, the bonded person fails in casting the spell, just as if it were disrupted.

    Losing Your Bonded Spirit: The rules for losing a bonded spirit are the same as for losing a familiar.
    Last edited by RangerWickett; Wednesday, 6th February, 2002 at 04:11 AM.

  • #8
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    Yea! I have followed this story from the beginning. Loved every minute of it! Now maybe some of the new followers of the boards can see a masterpiece.

    Keep it up Ranger!

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    Chapter Three: Clean-Up Job

    The Chief assigns the group to travel to Atlanta to do a clean-up job.

    Businessman Harry Felton died recently, at the ripe age of 43. He apparently was a collector of many things—exotic drinks, Greek statues, and information. His still growing internet company now dangles from the hands of his employees, but his business means next to nothing to the BMM. They are more concerned with the artifacts and information he kept. While he was not magi, and his business was not magi, he loved learning about magi, and had apparently run into trouble with the Bureau several times before. His collection grew to a nice size, perhaps more than anyone expected. Now the Knights must clean up the estate before anyone can tell about his hobbies.

    The group plans to enter between guard shifts. Once they make entry to the warehouse where he kept his collection, they’ll have probably 30 minutes to clean out the most obviously magical items, copy then delete his files on magi, and sneak out.

    Their companion on this mission is Keira McCormick, quarter-Elvish sorceress (3/4 African American). She’s the leader on the mission, and so she carries the ‘key.’

    Bureau keys are enchanted crystals from the Faerie World of Gaia, set into metal rods crafted on Terra. These enchanted keys open doorways between the worlds. There are only certain places in the world where doorways can be opened, including one by Oglethorpe House at the Savannah College of Art & Design, one in a downtown Atlanta alley, etc. Apparently there are dozens in New Orleans, and a portal can be found nearby nearly every major religious landmark around the world, from Stonehenge and the Giza pyramids to Notre Dame and the Vatican. Most keys simply go between the Faerie World and Earth, but some powerful keys can jump between doorways on Earth without having to make a stop-off in the Faerie World. Keira has one of the more common keys.

    * * *

    Quick recap so you can learn the characters. Jessie, our DM, decided that the Bureau would train us to 2nd level, just so we’d have some good abilities.



    Madeline West: Human sorcerer 2 (uses the Wild Spellcaster Template rules for potential spell failure, since her ghost, Catherine, is nervous about casting magic since she was hung for being a witch). Madeline is a student of photography at SCAD. Caucasian, brown hair and eyes, slender.

    Jenny Windgrave: Human paladin 2. Native American, descended from the Powhatan Indians. Her ghost, Pataman, was born two years after the famous Pocahontas left for England. Pataman was killed by white Christian settlers, and now his ghost disapproves of Jenny being a devout Christian. Jenny is at SCAD to earn a theater arts degree.

    Chuck Tagin-Eve (we don’t know what his real name is): Human rogue 2. Due to a fubar on Eric’s listing of feats back in June last year, Tagin took skill focus twice and got a +20 to his hacking skill. Even despite this mistake, Tagin’s has a +14 bonus to his Computer Use skill checks, (5 skill ranks, +1 Intelligence bonus, +3 from Skill Emphasis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (computers), +2 synergy bonus from Disable Device, plus software that grants a +1 masterwork bonus). He attends SCAD for free, having hacked himself into the school with a full scholarship and a free meal plan. A skinny white guy who dresses unimposingly, blending into pretty much any crowd he’s in.

    Iscalio Maxwell: Human Druid 2. He’s an albino, and has a bitter streak against most traditional establishments. His ghost is Lancaster Cornwall, who died a lunatic, thinking he was a fox. Iscalio refuses to believe he’s bonded with a lunatic, and instead considers the ‘fox’ his totem animal.

    Cai Maxwell: Human fighter 2. Iscalio’s brother. He owns a martial arts studio and forces his brother to exercise rigorously. Cai is fairly quiet, and only takes action when he sees a need to. Both Cai and Iscalio are of Italian descent.

    Keira McCormick: Quarter-Elvish sorceress 6. She carries a gun with enchanted bullets, “And no, you can’t borrow it, Iscalio.”

    * * *

    Keira leads the group out of the BMM headquarters in the Faerie World, using the key to open a door to Atlanta.

    The party walks through the streets, catching a taxi to the outskirts of town where the warehouse is. They wait for the guards to call it a night, then casually walk up to the thirty-foot tall warehouse’s door.

    The door has a state of the art electronic lock. Beside the door is a numeric keypad with a small computer screen above it, and buttons for “open” and “close.” Jenny shrugs and pushes the open button to see if that will work.

    The screen comes to life, displaying a message in three languages. It looks like Greek, heiroglyphs, and some other script that looks like Arabic. No one can translate it, but Keira claims she can cast a translation spell to see what it says. While she prepares to cast the spell, Tagin simply walks up, somehow gets the computer screen to show the programming code, and he reprograms the door so it’ll open.

    Everyone stands mouth agape as the door slides open. They’d pretty much forgotten Tagin was there. As they head inside, Keira says that the three pieces of text were the same riddle in three different languages. But they didn’t have to bother answering the riddle, so all’s well.

    Inside the warehouse are dozens of crates; it looks like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, if on a smaller scale. A catwalk circles the room about fifteen feet up, and a skylight illuminates the room dimly.

    Keira dispatches Tagin to begin hacking a computer station in the corner, which holds a record of what’s in the warehouse. As Tagin heads over there, Keira, Madeline, Iscalio, and Jenny climb onto the catwalk to survey the room in general. Cai stays on the ground level to look for loose objects between the crates.

    Madeline casts a detect magic spell and cringes. Almost all the crates have magic in them, way more than they planned to carry out. They decide to take what they can, and then come back later if possible. As long as Tagin takes care of the files, no one will notice that anything’s missing.

    Madeline directs Cai to open a particular crate, walking along the catwalk to stand above it. Keira follows, leaving a gap of about 20 feet between Madeline/Keira and Jenny/Iscalio.

    Right as Cai pries off the top of the first crate, a dark shape falls from the ceiling onto the catwalk, silently. It’s the size of a large lion, with wings on its back.

    Iscalio calls for everyone to look out, getting his scythe ready. From the tip of the druid’s metal staff, a flash of green light emerges, solidifying into a scythe blade. Likewise, Jenny activates her weapon, and a wooden shaft materializes from a wide spear-head she was carrying.

    The sphinx on the catwalk turns and looks at them, then looks back to Madeline. It has a woman’s face, with wide eyes and a confused expression on it’s face. Staring at Madeline and Keira it riddles:

    “Voiceless it cries,
    Wingless it flutters,
    Toothless bites,
    Mouthless mutters.”


    Since none of the Knights have ever read The Hobbit, they are out of luck. Madeline shrugs and guesses, “An old guy with no teeth?”

    The sphinx shakes her head, and growls. “You cannot destroy my master’s work.”

    Keira and Madeline back off, and just as the Sphinx is about to pounce at them, Jenny stabs it in the flank with her spear. The sphinx turns and bats at her with a claw. Jenny falls back into the railing of the catwalk, but Iscalio slashes at the lion paw with his scythe.

    The sphinx crouches to spring on him, when a gunshot fires out. Keira’s magic bullet strikes the sphinx and explodes in a small fireball, knocking the creature forward. Confused at the attacks from both sides, it flaps into the air to escape, then drops onto Keira, flattening her.

    Tagin, tapping idly at the keyboard glances over his shoulder and shakes his head, grimacing at the disturbance. He draws his gun and fires a shot blindly over his shoulder. The bullet hits the sphinx in the side, causing the creature to give out a howl of pain.

    Jenny tries to reason with the creature, saying that it’s master is dead, and that they’ll bring her to someplace safe. The sphinx refuses to accept that her master is dead—she’s gone a bit nuts, just waiting in this quiet, lonely warehouse—and so, enraged, she charges at Jenny. Jenny leaps sideways over the railing, trying to snag a grip on the ladder on her way down, but instead she misses and crashes into one of the crates.

    Cai, armed with a shotgun and a katana, is too far away to use his sword, and afraid that the scatter of the shotgun will hit his brother if he tries to shoot. Instead, Cai begins tearing through one of the crates to try to find something to use against the sphinx.

    Madeline yells for Iscalio to run, and she shoots a crackling bolt of magic at the sphinx. Ignoring the minor wound, the sphinx leaps off the catwalk to follow Iscalio as he clambers down the ladder. In mid-air, the sphinx drops past Iscalio and slashes across his back, knocking him off the ladder to land in a crate beside Jenny.

    As the sphinx lands, Cai holds forth an amulet, commanding the sphinx to stop and obey him. When the sphinx ignores him, he shrugs and drops the amulet, then lays out a blast from his double-barrel sawed-off twelve-gauge shotgun. Unfortunately, the blast mostly misses the sphinx, and instead shatters a crate. The sphinx, about to disembowel Jenny, turns and growls at Cai, shouting that no one can destroy the master’s treasure. It pounces upon Cai, knocking him to the floor.

    Keira shoots another fireball bullet, but misses, the explosion destroying a large pile of crates. Meanwhile, Iscalio is slashing at the sphinx, trying to avoid it’s backward kicking, and Jenny is trying to shout for the sphinx to stop, believing it’s simply confused, not evil.

    Sighing, Tagin finishes copying the files, and with a few keystrokes he formats the hard drive, then gets out of his chair to walk up to the sphinx.

    Cai, at the edge of unconsciousness, tries to blast the sphinx with his shotgun, but she knocks his weapon away and the blast goes wide. As scythe slashes wear at the creature, and a few small darts from Madeline’s hand crossbow pepper the sphinx, Keira tries to reload with normal ammo so she won’t incinerate Cai with a successful shot.

    Tagin walks up and fires two rounds into the sphinx’s shoulder and forehead. The creature slumps to the ground. Tagin tells Cai to get up, and then the hacker pulls out a switchblade knife to slit the creature’s throat and end it’s suffering.

    Jenny tries to stop him, saying she can heal the creature enough for it to survive for a little while, but Keira waves her off, saying they’d have no way to get the sphinx discreetly back to the Faerie World. Tagin kills the sphinx with a quick and quiet apology to Jenny.

    Everyone gets a little angry with Jenny that she was going to save the life of a creature that had attacked them. When trying to explain herself fails, she instead simply heals Cai’s wounds as best she can.

    Keira tells them to get whatever magic they can carry, quickly. If someone finds the sphinx’s body and all this mess in here, they’ll want to know what’s up and they’ll check out the crates. Keira decides to torch all the crates, including the sphinx’s body.

    They get all they can carry, a few items apiece (to bring back to the Bureau, not to loot), but when Cai tries to open the door again, it won’t budge. Tagin shrugs, sheepishly explaining that he had only programmed it to open from the outside, forgetting that they’d need to get out again once they closed the door. And he can’t rehack the system, since the keyboard is on the outside.

    Keira orders Tagin to go out through the skylight and open the door from the outside, but just then one of the smoldering crates catches fire. The smoke sets off the sprinklers, drenching the room. They guess correctly that the fire department will arrive soon, so they all head out through the skylight. They manually (using a katana) cut the water line so things will burn better, and on their way out Keira fires off three more fireball bullets to set the place ablaze.

    As the fire trucks appear, the Knights slip away into the streets of Atlanta, to return to the Bureau.

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    Cai Maxwell: Male human Ftr1; Medium-size Humanoid (human); HD 1d10+4; hp 14; Init +3; Spd 30 ft.; AC 13 (Dex); Atk masterwork katana +5 melee (1d10+3/crit 19/x2), or unarmed +4 melee (1d3+3), or sawed-off double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun +4 ranged (varies*/crit x3); SV Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +3; Str 16, Dex 16, Con 18, Int 13, Wis 13, Cha 14.

    Skills and Feats: Climb +4, Jump +7, Knowledge (Japanese culture and etiquette) +3, Listen +2, Profession (cook) +3, Profession (martial arts instructor) +4, Tumble +5; Exotic Weapon Proficiency (katana), Improved Unarmed Strike, Iron Will.
    Note: Knowledge (Japanese culture and etiquette) and Tumble are Cai’s floating class skills.

    *Shotguns deal damage based on range. They deal 3d6 to a target within 10 feet, 2d6 to a target within 20 feet, and 1d6 damage to any target in a 5-foot wide path out to maximum range. However, sawed-off shotguns fire in a cone, dealing 3d6 to a target within 5 feet, and 2d6 to a target within 10 feet, and 1d6 damage to any target within the cone, up to 30 feet away.


    Background:
    Cai’s mother is Japanese, his father Italian. He grew up in California, keeping track of his younger brother Iscalio. Where Cai was resilient and strong, Iscalio was albino and prone to illness. Cai’s good work ethic and emphasis on self-control clashed with Iscalio’s free-spiritedness and roustabout attitude. Cai, five years older than his brother, had worked hard enough and earned enough money that when his younger brother dropped out of school, he was able to do his parents a favor and take the weak-willed kid off their hands. He moved as far away as possible, Savannah, Georgia, and found work for he and his brother, first at an Italian restaurant, and later at a Sushi bar.

    While they worked together, Cai strong-armed Iscalio into joining a martial arts studio with him, hoping that the training would help build inner strength in the weak-willed youth. Quite the contrary, though, it simply strengthened Iscalio’s physical strength, making him better at getting out of whatever trouble he lands himself in. Even though the training didn’t have its desired effect, Iscalio remains with Cai, and they share an apartment. Recently, Cai took over some of the duties of training at the dojo, and has intensified his own training to over four hours a day.

    Cai defines himself by how well he can guide his own choices, and he gives himself no leeway to choose the weak path. He rigorously schedules his life, and though it has strengthened his ability to accomplish his goals, it robs most of his actions of fun. Still, he feels that he needs to be stoic to support his brother. He never noticed any of the magic in the world around him, which frustrates him, since it seems so obvious now. He knows that somehow his brother will abuse his new powers, and he’s just waiting for when he’ll be needed.



    Sample New Feats:
    Some of the following feats are generic feats that come in handy in a world where magi and humans mingle, while others are cultural feats, meant to represent the background of the character. These cultural feats can only be taken if the character is from that culture, or if he has at least 5 ranks of Knowledge of the appropriate culture.

    Ancient Arcanopolis: [Cultural]
    You are from a land with a deep history of magic.
    Regions: China, Egypt, any Gaia.
    Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to Knowledge (arcana) and Spellcraft checks.


    Bond Sense: [General]
    You can tell whether spirits are bonded, and to whom.
    Prerequisite: Sixth Sense, Wisdom 13+.
    Benefit: For any ghost you see, you can tell immediately whether that ghost is bonded. If you can see both the ghost and the living partner in that bond, you immediately know that they are bonded.


    City Denizen: [Cultural]
    You have learned how to avoid being a victim of urban crime.
    Regions: Any city of more than 500,000 people.
    Benefit: You gain a +1 bonus to Hide, Intimidate, and Spot checks. Additionally, you may choose to have the reaction of any stranger you meet be shifted one step closer to ‘indifferent.’


    Clotheshift: [General]
    You can alter the form of your clothing, allowing you to easily blend in or disguise yourself.
    Prerequisite: Ability to cast at least one Transmutation spell.
    Benefit: As a full-round action, you can alter the shape and substance of whatever clothes you are wearing, like a limited version of polymorph any object. You can create any type of worn apparel, from cloaks to swimsuits, suits, hats, jewelry, or even armor. However, you cannot add articles of clothing, so if you are not wearing a hat, you could not create a helmet, but you could gain a hood, or even turn a hairpin into a helmet. You could likewise turn a piece of twine into an ornate gold necklace.

    The maximum value of any clothes you can emulate in this way is 100 gp per caster level, including the value of any jewelry or ornamentation you include. However, any form of immediately harmful substance cannot be created, so you could not, for instance, have a suit of armor covered in poison or acid. In order to create a particular type of clothing or accessory, you must either own an exact duplicate of that object, or succeed an appropriate Craft check (DC 10 for average clothes, DC 15 for a fine dress or suit, and DC 20 for exotic costumes, jewelry, or lavish kimonos). You can continue to retry, each time as a full-round action.

    Once you set the appearance of your garb, it remains in that form (aside from normal wear and tear) until you choose a new appearance, or until you take the clothes off. If you remove an article of clothing in this way, it immediately reverts to normal, so even if you turn toothpicks into arrows, they will be ineffectual weapons.


    Magic Touch [General]
    Your intuition guides you when you try to use unfamiliar devices.
    Benefit: If you are unfamiliar with a particular electronic or mechanical device, you gain a +4 luck bonus to any skill checks involved with your first attempt to use that device. You can also still use your normal bonuses for that skill.

    For example, if Tagin tries to disable an unfamiliar electronic lock (Computer Use DC 30), he gains a +4 luck bonus in addition to his normal skill modifiers. His normal bonus of +14 increases to +18, making it relatively easy for him to override the system. However, if his first attempt fails, he no longer gains this bonus, since he is no longer working on intuition, but instead experience.


    Oppressed Militiaman: [Cultural]
    Your upbringing emphasized training to defend against outside threats.
    Regions: Middle-East, United States South.
    Benefit: You gain proficiency in all martial ballistic and heavy weapons (rifles, portable missile launchers, gatling guns), and gain a +2 bonus to Hide checks.


    Sense of Honor: [Cultural]
    Traditionally, the chiefest virtue of your culture has been honor and alleigiance.
    Regions: Japan, various primitive tribes.
    Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to Will saves against compulsion effects, and a +2 bonus to Sense Motive checks.


    Sixth Sense: [General]
    You are able to see and hear the dead.
    Prerequisite: Wisdom 13+.
    Benefit: You can see and hear ghosts and spirits just as if they were normal people.
    Normal: Ghosts and spirits are incorporeal, invisible, and inaudible. Some ghosts can choose to be seen or heard, but otherwise they are undetectable by normal senses.


    Unfazeable: [Cultural]
    Your homeland is bizarre enough that you don’t frighten easily.
    Regions: Any European, Midwestern US.
    Benefit: You gain a +4 bonus to Will saves against fear effects.
    Last edited by RangerWickett; Wednesday, 6th February, 2002 at 04:15 AM.

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