paradox42's crazy cosmology

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First Post
The Return of the (Thread) King

Yes, Kev. Yes you will.

Apologies to all for being away so long- it's true I'm not getting paid for this stuff, but it's rude for me to promise future posts and then not make any. Honestly, I have no valid excuses; I just haven't felt inspired (and also, for the last couple of months I took the time to enjoy a break from any role-playing games at all). It's not that I don't still enjoy roleplaying, mind you; it's just that running a weekly game for close to ten years sort of takes up a significant amount of life-space and I've enjoyed filling my sudden extra time with activities I hadn't had time and energy for during the last decade. :)

But no matter. Slowly, but surely, my brain has been recharging its batteries, and in the back of my mind I have been figuring out what sort of game to try next assuming I run one (which my former players have largely been clamoring for). Among other possibilities, I've considered how the Reality described in this thread would have been changed by the events of the Grand Nexus, so that I can run campaigns set in the times after the last one. Story continuity is a nice way to begin, plus it would be interesting to have all those former PCs running around as super-powered NPCs (though several, in particular the new First One, will almost certainly not make an appearance on the stage for a very long time in a new game).

"Grand Nexus," you curious readers ask? What's that? Aha, I answer. That brings me to the subject of today's post. For, while I did promise last time to detail some of the Soul Objects which played a large role in my game stories over the years, I realized once I actually started thinking about them in detail that I can't really do it without explaining another key concept of my game campaign first. That concept, which in some ways was more important than any other, was the concept of the Nexus Event, plural Nexus Events or just Nexi.

This is not a concept based in any game rules, nor have I seen it articulated in any game book (though it wouldn't surprise me to learn somebody else had come up with it under a different name). It's really more of a plotting mechanism, much as artifacts are supposed to be in mortal games. It's a somewhat difficult concept to get across, so please post questions if what I type here tonight is too confusing to follow; however, I did get it across to my players at least, so hopefully I'll be able to do it again.

To understand what a Nexus Event is, first consider the significant events of history. Take the world of Toril, the Forgotten Realms: you have the fall of Netheril, the destruction of Myth Drannor, The Time of Troubles, the discovery and invasion of Maztica, the time of Lolth's Silence, and most recently the Spellplague- just to name a few. These are grand and terrible events that affect entire continents, entire civilizations, at once. The fall of Netheril, Time of Troubles, and Spellplague managed to affect the entire planet, for that matter, and arguably many planes of existence as well; Lolth's Silence occurred during her rearrangement of her home realm and nearly destroyed Drow civilization. For Oerth, the world of Greyhawk, obvious events would include the Rain of Colorless Fire/Invoked Devastation, and the return of Kyuss if you're including the Age of Worms adventure path in your game. Events like these are few and far between, but they're the stuff games are made of; these are the events that the coolest adventures revolve around. In a metaplot, they form the backbone of the history that your players and their characters learn about and talk about, and compare their own lives and deeds to.

But that's not a Nexus. A Nexus is something more than that, which is why it deserves the capitalized title. Take significant historical events like those I listed above, and arrange them in such a manner that they begin to occur more frequently. Say, instead of one per thousand years, you start getting one per century instead- then one per decade, then one per year, and while this is happening, some years you get two per year, then three, and suddenly the world and multiverse go through a whole host of massive changes so quickly and of such vast scope that they're all but incomprehensible. Now picture an "acceleration of significance" like that, happening not just on Toril, but also on Oerth, and on Krynn, and on every other world and plane, all at the same time. When the crux of it all occurs, when things finally start to settle down again, many things that happen after it would have been unimaginable to anybody living before it.

THAT is a Nexus Event. It is a happening of such incredible scope and force, that it literally changes the entire outlook on history for those who pass through it and survive; and not only that, but it actually has a way of twisting histories about itself on multiple planes of existence simultaneously (in fact, usually all of them). The key idea with Nexus Events is that they invariably involve an acceleration of significance, a buildup of powers and forces that's unprecedented and possibly unimaginable (certainly for a typical Commoner). If that sort of acceleration doesn't happen, then it isn't a Nexus Event, no matter how forceful or massive the changes wrought by the event may be. If you want a real-world example for comparison, many believers in the upcoming 2012 event (whether apocalypse or otherwise) state in their predictions that it will involve massive changes and "temporal acceleration" similar to a Nexus Event.

Among other side effects of Nexus Events, I postulated to the players (when I first explained this concept to them) that Nexus Events also have a funny way of spawning new gods: people living in times around Nexus Events can go from urchin to archmage, or farmer to pharaoh, in mere months. Commoners can start out fighting orcs in a wheat field and end up a few short years later as the newest objects of worship in the pantheon, actual gods of War, Crops, or the Harvest, to name a few examples. Obviously, the PCs in my games were living around Nexus Events!

Conveniently, for DMs, a Nexus Event has another far-reaching effect, this one affecting any temporal effects used near one. Prophecies and actual temporal vision such as Precognition, can only see up to a Nexus Event, never past it. Even the Goddess of Time herself told the pre-divine PCs that she was unable to see anything past the (then) upcoming Nexus involving a massive demonic invasion of the PCs' homeworld. This doesn't just affect temporal vision, though- in games featuring time travel as a possibility (such as mine), Nexus Events cause hiccups if not outright blockages to time travel. That Timereaver spell might be able to take Raistlin back to the time of Istar, but if we assume that the Cataclysm was a Nexus (it probably wasn't due to the lack of acceleration, but just for the sake of argument, say it was), but if he tried to go deeper into the past beyond the Cataclysm, then his spell would dump him out in the wrong historical era, or possibly just fail to work at all. Nexus Events do weird things to time, and screw up anything that requires objects or information crossing it.

But then, having explained Nexus Events to my players, I compounded it. What do you think would happen, I asked my players, if you live through a Nexus Event, and then the next one doesn't happen after 200 years (like the last one did), but rather 20? And what if the next Nexus after that happens in only 2 years? In other words, what if the very acceleration of history which signals a Nexus begins to occur in the frequency of Nexus Events themselves?

The answer to that question: the Grand Nexus. It was the Nexus of Nexi, the fulcrum around which all of history, all of time, all of fate and destiny, all of possibility, twisted and spun. Every cosmos, every plane, every world, was affected. All of them, at the same time (if that notion even has meaning once you cross the Far Realm). And of course, the Grand Nexus was in fact the opening of the Final Gate, and the waking of the Demiurge, which the PCs had better-than-front-row seats for. In fact, they proved to be critical participants in it, though they were hardly the only ones (this leaves room for future campaigns I run in the same Reality to end in Transcendence as well, which I find to be a most satisfying notion).

I will mention now that I further postulated, on the day the campaign ended, that it was in fact the dimensional twisting caused by the great Ring Portal focusing all its power on the Layer of the Ritual so the Final Gate could be opened which actually created the Nexus Event phenomenon. They were, in other words, ripples created by the Ring and spread out across all possible histories and timelines as it twisted and tore the dimensional fabric to help open the Final Gate. Where ripples crossed and amplified each other, where you had not just "waves" of history but spikes, that's where Nexus Events occur. Also, because this artifact was a Cosmic one (literally, the Soul Object of a Sidereal), this means that Sidereals can break the prohibition against temporal effects working at a Nexus. I'd suggest that having Slipstream would be enough to allow a Sidereal to see past, or time-travel past, a Nexus Event with impunity, as long as it isn't the Grand Nexus (that was and remains a barrier to even them). Mere gods who have Slipstream as an esoteric, by contrast, are still limited; only actual cosmic beings can overcome events of truly cosmic significance.

And on that note, since the Ring is itself a Soul Object, I'll segue into the next post (which will be about some of the big artifacts and Soul Objects in my game). :)
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But no matter. Slowly, but surely, my brain has been recharging its batteries, and in the back of my mind I have been figuring out what sort of game to try next assuming I run one (which my former players have largely been clamoring for).

Best thing I've read in months. ;) 5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended! I left Moiranna's avatar on Taera specifically so that she'd be there to guide the future of Naturalism if you ever ran another game, and now that seems possible.

Nexus Events are of course rather familiar to those of us who were playing, but I definitely like the sound of artifacts coming up!


First Post
Objects With Soul

As a preface to this post, I'll begin by noting that I'm doing this over the course of several days since each artifact is turning out to be more text than I'd originally anticipated. But it's worth noting here that because I intend to consider how the Reality has changed, I will not necessarily be sharing complete details for any artifact listed here- since I'll now need to keep a few surprises back, I reserve the right to change anything posted here if the item should ever again appear in a future game. This list is more of an abstract, showing just how crazy-powerful items can get when you have 21,000-HD First Ones making them.

Also, it's worth noting that although the Silver Key which I've kept mentioning is in fact a Soul Object (specifically, a Soul Object of the Eternal that gave its name as SEPHIROSOPHIA), it is not included in this post, because it was important enough to the full campaign- and old enough in my personal timeline of game development- that I wanted it to have its own post. It will come two posts after this one, if I follow my present plan.

In this post, I will give descriptions and game details for eight major Soul Objects which played a part in my campaign, even if only briefly or peripherally (the Omegablade for example; it's here because the PCs considered questing for it at one point, but they ended up not doing so in the end). These eight, in no particular order, are: The Sword of Time, the Omegablade, the Initial Enabler, the Pit, the (Diamond or Onyx) Scales, the Cosmic Egg, the Ring Portal, and the Device in the Desolation.

The Sword of Time

Ironically, since I mentioned the Silver Key as being so old, I now start with the other oldest item in my collection of personal artifacts. This one began its life back when I came up with the story for how the "Tertiaries" populated the multiverse, and how there came to be only three left alive inside it. I had a whole tiered system of super-swords, within which I included the Githyanki Silver Swords as the lowest tier (specifically, I said that the Githyanki discovered a stash of the "true" Silver Swords and made slightly-inferior copies of them, which was why there were two types back in 1st Edition). All tiers shared two properties: one was that they're capable of cutting the Silver Cord of an Astral traveller, thus killing said target irrevocably; the 1E mechanic for this was a percentage chance rolled if the sword's wielder hits the cord with an attack, and I had the higher tiers of my swords have a greater chance of severing it. The other property was that the swords all know their owners, and refuse to work for anybody else, with a period of "mourning" of sorts when one owner dies or gives up the Sword during which the Sword just refuses to work or accept a new owner at all no matter who tries to claim it (the length of the "mourning" period increases as the tiers go higher). I won't detail all six tiers here, except to note that they were collectively called the "Swords of Time" for reasons I've long since forgotten. The lowest tier was the Silver Swords, but the top tier was the item that became so important to my campaign background. The top tier was exactly one item, originally called the "Sword of Perfection," but I postulated in the original notes I have on the items that it had some alternate names- one of which was "the Sword of Time."

The original backstory to these was that the "bad" Tertiar, the one known as "the Destroyer," named Thangorodoth, originally crafted them to use in a war against the others- its plan was to make the weapons and distribute them, then rile up the other Tertiars and keep the top-tier Sword of Perfection for itself, letting them fight it out and kill each other and then step in and mop up the survivors. The trouble was, one of the first other Tertiars to acquire some of the lower-tier Swords was a "smith" (in modern terms, it'd be an artificer) who figured out by extrapolation that a top-tier Sword must exist. One of the younger Tertiars went a-questing to find the Sword of Perfection, and got to it just as the war really started in earnest. This young Tertiar, dubbed Animar, took possession of the Perfect Sword and used it to unite the then-survivors against the Destroyer- whose plan was effectively kaput at this point, thanks to the property it had put into the Swords for them to "know their owners." Its own weapon was being used against it, and after Animar used the Sword of Perfection to "kill" the Destroyer, the young Tertiar was tired of conflict and became a supreme pacifist.

Of course, Thangorodoth the Destroyer wasn't quite dead yet. It survived, in some unspecified form, and eventually returned to its place of power deep in the heart of the Negative Material Plane (today called the Negative Energy Plane), and began to rebuild. Animar was still around, but refused to ever use violence against another living being due to its beliefs, so another had to step forward to take up the Sword of Perfection again against its maker. This time it was a mere demigod, of a particular Material world of some importance in my cosmos's history; during the quest to take the Sword and really kill Thangorodoth he acquired so much power that he became a Greater God. Eventually, of course, he succeeded in the end, facing off against the Tertiar in its own lair deep in the plane of ultimate annihilation and giving it a taste of its own destruction. Thangorodoth was really dead this time. Except, of course, as my players know, it really wasn't- it left a mortal avatar behind as its only remaining link to existence. But I won't go into that here.

What I will go into is what happened when we fast-forward to the last few years, when my campaign was at last reaching the Nexus Event which it had been building toward since I began it back in 2001. That Nexus Event was primarily based upon the existence of a mysterious Portal, opening every 5,000 years for exactly 24 hours, to a random layer of the Abyss each time. Once this Portal opened, and all the while it remained open, demons could freely cross into the Material Plane (through the Portal) without being summoned, and demons on the Material side could summon others freely without those others either losing their own summoning abilities or having a limited duration-of-stay. In other words, it would cause a demonic invasion the likes of which nightmares could barely scratch the surface. Now, it had always been my intention that the Portal had its special power because it was actually powered by a living demiplane, which originally opened the portal hundreds of thousands of years in this unfortunate world's past because it had received information from the far future that someday, natives of that world would kill it. Naturally, the idea was that this became a self-fulfilling prophecy because the existence of the Portal was what motivated the natives of said world to kill it, and also, that the PCs would themselves be the murderous natives who killed the plane.

Now, by the time the Portal was getting close to opening, we were already using the IH in my game, and the PCs in the main party were starting to seriously ponder divine ascension as valid character prospects. In planning the big day, the Portal Day, I realized that I needed a Sidereal to stand in for the living demiplane (I even emailed UK about it, which he may or may not recall). I also realized that, as a Sidereal, the Entity would obviously have Cosmic String and I therefore needed to give the PCs some way to get around that. This led me to consider what sort of artifacts in the game might be capable of killing Sidereals... and since I always kept as much of the old backstory as reasonably possible when updating my campaign to new editions, naturally this led me back to the Sword of Perfection.

But therein lay a problem, because I had originally planned to introduce this item into my 2nd Edition game run during my college years as a way to deal with the returning avatar of Thangorodoth- which was to have been the climax of that campaign (but we never actually reached it due to graduations and other life circumstances). In my 3rd Edition terminology, that event was another Nexus, but the Nexus Event following the Demon-Invasion Portal one which was coming up in my 3E game. This was a problem because the "mourning period" for the Sword of Perfection was supposed to be inordinately high, on the order of thousands of years. Also, it also occurred to me that if these Swords were made by Thangorodoth, then they would be unable to truly kill anything with greater power than that Sidereal had at its peak because Cosmic String relies partly on divine rank.

But the alternate name for the weapon gave me my solution. Why did it have to be, I reasoned, that these weapons were created by Thangorodoth? In fact, what the Hells is a Sidereal known specifically as the Destroyer doing creating items in the first place, particularly when (as I was slowly realizing) the only logical way to fit it into my new cosmos was to make it the Sidereal of the Negative Energy Plane specifically? Answer: they weren't made by the Destroyer at all. And the reason they were called the Swords of Time is because they literally were that- they were created by Zurvan, the old First One of Time himself. This allowed me to reasonably say that the ultimate sword, the Sword of Perfection (which I stopped calling that as soon as I made this creator switcheroo), could bypass the Cosmic String of any being less powerful than Zurvan himself- in fact, it was crafted specifically to ensure that nothing could be beyond the ravages of Time (should he get angry at them for some reason).

So, after dropping loaded hints into my game in one session involving a "dream sequence" because we didn't have enough players show up on time to run a normal game, and marking the first time I directly used IH background material in my campaign (as opposed to pure rules-based material such as specific Divine Abilities), I sat down to work out exactly what this puppy could do.

The powers I kept from the original version included its ability to cut silver cords (in the 3E version there is no percentage roll, you just have to hit the AC of the cord- which is remarkably easy due to the Sword's "plus" value), the ability to cast any spell (I postulated that it contains the Alter Reality Cosmic, though it rarely if ever tells a non-Sidereal wielder that it can do that), its ability to kill anything (in IH parlance, bypass Cosmic String for any being with a Divine bonus less than Zurvan's), and perhaps its most important characteristic: the duplication of the effects of the Spire in the Outlands. Yes, simply by holding the unsheathed Sword of Time, a wielder creates an anti-Supernatural zone extending out to 1000 miles from the Sword, with diminishing effect as the distance increases. In fact, in the original backstory, the Spire didn't even have that property until the Sword was hidden there in a secret dungeon built right into the Spire itself. Over the long millions of years the Sword was left there, the effect gradually "bled into" the rock surrounding it, until the actual Spire had the anti-Supernatural property and not just the Sword. One difference: while the Sword has an accepted wielder, that wielder is able to use its own Supernatural abilities (including all spells, psionics, whatever) freely, without having them suppressed. Allies of the wielder, however, are not so fortunate, so the Sword of Time is ideally used by lone-wolf types.

Besides the above, I gave the new edition of the Sword two things: first, an ability to erase any being without Cosmic String from ever having existed at all, if killed by the weapon (essentially a less powerful Rectify); and second, its "plus" had to be greatly increased to account for its new (vastly more powerful) creator. I gave it a "plus" value of over +7500 when I worked all this out, but I realized later that I probably miscalculated it and have never actually bothered to recalculate it- so for now that estimated value stands. The players never knew this number, incidentally, even though they did find the Sword (or more precisely, an alternate-history version of one of their members brought it to them in a last-ditch attempt to save the world); all they knew was that it was best used sparingly due to its extreme suppression of Supernatural effects and abilities, and that it always seemed to hit whatever it was used on as long as the wielder didn't roll a natural 1.

And that about covers the Sword of Time. Whew! Hope your eyes didn't get tired reading all that.

The Omegablade

The good news here is, this one was an item I made up on a spur-of-the-moment spotlight when one of my players got a divination effect off which told him (among other things) which artifact could defeat Matter's Cosmic String. So, much shorter description than the above! :) Of course, I needed an item that could not just defeat Cosmic String, but which could also defeat Matter's Transmaterial ability (granted by the First one template). It was almost immediately obvious to me that the only being which both could and would make an item to do both was another First One; the most logical choice was Entropy itself. Entropy, after all, would not want anything in Reality to be beyond its ability to kill somehow; therefore, it created the "nemesis" artifact for Matter and this was that artifact.

The players wanted to know more, so I made up more. First, I will go on a slight detour and mention that we used UK's rules (set out on his page) for Neutronium items; in fact, by the end of the game, all of the weapons wielded by any party member bothering with weapons were pure Neutronium. But the table on UK's page lists two materials which are better than Neutronium: Quark Matter and Black Hole Matter. Now, for my game, where I explicitly capped Virtual Size Category multipliers based on the material of the VSC-user's body, even the dragon with the million-hit-point bite was using Neutronium caps on his teeth to get the maximum possible bonus- items made of special materials were the only allowed way around the cap. Of course, the players wanted to know how to make the next two, but I decided that since Neutronium itself was apparently assumed (by UK) to be the province of Time Lords and Eternals, the two better materials should be unavailable to my own PCs. So were born the requirements for crafting Strange Matter and Singularium (the name we used in my game for Black Hole Matter): Strange Matter requires the crafter to have Abrogate, to stop its "viral" nature (quark matter in real science is theorized to have the effect of converting any other matter that touches it into more quark matter), and Singularium requires both Abrogate and any one Gravity [Effect] to craft it.

The reason for the detour is, of course, that the Omegablade is made of Singularium. A second point to make before going on is that the Omegablade is not in fact a Soul Object of Entropy's- Entropy has no Soul Objects. But the Omegablade is a Major Artifact crafted by Entropy, and that makes it a very, very scary object indeed.

Its most important property is that it has no miss chance, ever- no matter what sorts of incorporeal/Blink/concealment tricks the target may be using, the Omegablade penetrates them all. Even the Transcendental ability Interdimensional is not proof against this effect, because (as I explained to my players) the Omegablade exists in a sort of fractal-dimensional state itself. Of course, this does not mean it always hits its target; you still have to roll against the AC like normal- but if the blade hits the target's AC, then no other defenses the target has (except perhaps Omnific ones like Undimensional) will help.

Second, the Omegablade also produces a nullifying aura like the Sword of Time- that 1000-mile-radius zone within which Supernatural abilities just plain fail to work sometimes, though the Omegablade's is far less powerful (only working out to 100 miles total, so 1/10 the standard radius). Third, all damage the Omegablade deals is Permanent damage- requiring Wishes of various sorts to heal. Fourth, it drains XP and QP from any target struck by it with every hit. Fifth, it grants its wielder Uncanny Gravity Mastery (since it is effectively a shard from a black hole, this makes far too much sense to leave out). And finally, a being killed by the Omegablade cannot under any circumstances be Raised or Resurrected except through use of the Alter Reality Cosmic Ability by a being with equal or greater Divine Bonus than Entropy itself. In other words, the Demiurge could do it, and any true Eternal could, but otherwise, the victim is deadDeadDEAD.

The players decided to not quest for this thing, since they didn't like the supernatural-damping effect- so I never bothered to calculate its "plus" value. It'd be obscenely high, though.

The Initial Enabler

This artifact, the one Raithe the Dreamer has been raving about, played an enormous role in the campaign- in no small part because RtD's character acquired it before she even ascended to godhood, and kept it later through all her transformations and quests outside her home cosmos. It its natural state, it looks like a sort of double-crown, with spines pointing both up and down from a central ring, shaped as if carved from a perfect sphere. It's made of a silvery metal that looks liquid (like mercury), and yet stays solid (in fact, harder than diamond) constantly- even when it's changing shape. A wielder uses it by wearing it; one puts the bottom "crown" on top of one's head, and the spines slowly sink down through the skull until the central ring is circling the head like it was an ordinary circlet. In the process of this, the metal flows into the wearer's eyes, such that they become perfectly reflective silvered orbs (though the wearer's vision is largely unaffected).

This thing is a Soul Object of the Demiurge itself, and the reason it played such a large role in the campaign is that one of its functions is to create and link new Sources for Urgic Magic to the rest of Reality. The Shades, who originated that form of magic, did so after discovering this artifact and learning that function; their original Master (who used the artifact) eventually fell victim to its usual method of passing on from one wielder to another. More on that later though. For a final note on this function, I'll just state that there were no specific game mechanics applied to this function; it was intended to be used as a plot device only (and such it proved to be- the PC who had it used the function only once, to extend the number of Sources from six to ten).

For most PCs, the Initial Enabler's prime powers all involve its ability to produce Metamagic effects. Any spellcaster can use the artifact, simply by touching the tips of the "lower crown" to its head as described above; non-spellcasters (those who have no levels in any casting class) can touch it all they like but nothing will happen. Once in place on a wearer's head, the Enabler works as a Greater Metamagic Rod would, except that it's far more powerful- it grants its wearer 3 daily uses of any Metamagic feat, and the "counter" is separate for each feat. So you get 3 Empowers, 3 Extends, 3 Silents, and so on... up to and including the powerful ones such as 3 Maximizes, 3 Quickens, and 3 Intensifies. Use of this ability is a free action, so the wearer is free to apply any or all of them to a spell as desired, at casting time.

It can also convert spells cast by the wearer into Living Spells, using that special monster template; it can do this 3 times/day as well, but the effects are permanent (at least, until the created monster is killed). One thing I never told the players, and I don't think they guessed, is that the reason it can create Living Spells is that we had a Metamagic feat that could do it- the Enabler essentially duplicated that feat. It was one of the special "Mana" feats that were used with Urgic Magic, so the fact that the object which was essentially the ultimate source of said magic could use those feats was a fairly obvious extension of its basic mechanics.

After my group created the Godspell [Effect] type, I also began thinking of ways for the Initial Enabler to allow a divine user to use that, but wasn't sure how to add this feature since it would radically change the power quotient of any such user. During the game, therefore, this was never mentioned, and even now I'm not sure how to do it (except, perhaps, it could grant 3 daily uses of any given [X] Godspell at the basic level, so Divine Godspell, Force Godspell, Wind Godspell, Withering (STR) Godspell, etc.). This suite of powers would also include the Cosmic [Effect] types, for a Sidereal user, but the Enabler wouldn't allow a non-Sidereal to access the Cosmic [Effect] Godspells (nor, for that matter, a mortal to access the Divine [Effect] ones).

My basic thought for this item was that it represented the Demiurge's secret thoughts about magic and how it should work, and therefore in some ways was the ultimate source of magic everywhere within Reality. So, I postulated that wearers would gradually become more distant and detached from reality as they used it more, eventually becoming tired of dealing with mundanity and simply vanishing into a pocket realm where all their thoughts would become literally manifest. The intended pattern here was to duplicate the life of the character Coin, in the Discworld novel Sourcery. When a wearer vanishes this way, the Initial Enabler does not go with; it stays behind and remains inert until another wielder finds it and claims it.

The Pit

This Soul Object of Matter is an "artifact" in approximately the same way that the Throne of the Gods (from 1st Edition) was. It is a made thing, with specific powers one can attune to and use, but it's not a portable object one can take with oneself on one's travels. Its description is as simple as its name, a simple, slope-sided pit set into otherwise unremarkable ground. Well, unremarkable, that is, for the Elemental Plane of Matter, in both the central cosmos and the cosmos of Matter itself, where the Pit has a weird sort of resonating dual existence. In other words, there is A Pit, which is often considered the center of the plane in both places, but both Pits perform exactly the same functions and it isn't at all clear whether they're separate artifacts, a single one somehow existing in both cosmoi, or just "shadows" cast by some greater artifact which exists outside them both.

The Pit has another strange property, and that is that it appears to be shaped differently each time it is encountered. That is, on one visit, one might find it to be a generally rectangular thing, but if one then leaves it (via whatever means of transport one cares to use) and comes back, even if it's only a few minutes later, it may suddenly be triangular- or pentagonal- or some other shape. Two things never change: first, it is always a shape formed of straight lines, never curves; and second, one slope leading into the Pit is always at a shallow angle so that it's more of a ramp than a wall.

Whatever its shape, the Pit always contains a pool of grotesque, greenish slime or mucous, which is constantly seething, churning, and burbling as if heated from below. The smell near the Pit is awful, thanks to this roiling, noisome mass, but this is usually what leads to its most common description: many adventurers will, upon seeing this mass, think immediately of an Ochre Jelly, Green Slime, or some other Ooze-type monster. This is not far from the truth: anything which falls (or is tossed) into the mass is immediately dismantled and digested by it unless it, too, is a Major Artifact or Soul Object (and even some of them, of course, are specifically vulnerable to the Pit and can be destroyed this way).

But destruction is not the Pit's primary function- or even one of its primary functions for that matter- it's just a sometimes-convenient side effect. The real purpose of the Pit is to create and design life. The Goo in the Pit, which is made up of all elements in essentially equal portions (even those which have no analogs in Material Plane terms), is in a state of half-life in its own right, and it is intelligent enough to respond to requests made directly to it. Any language may be used; the Pit understands them all, though it never under any circumstances answers questions or even speaks to anyone or anything else. Simply by standing at the shallow-sloped edge of the Pit, and asking the Goo to create a creature of desired specifications, the Goo begins to churn and roil more fiercely, and eventually produces the specified creation. It is also possible to take an existing lifeform and make changes to it by requesting the Pit add characteristics, or subtract characteristics, or otherwise make the desired changes, and then bringing the "base creature" into contact with the Goo. For example, one could change an ordinary Material Plane monkey into a Fire Element Monkey by bringing the monkey to the Pit, making the request, and then tossing the monkey into the Goo (though the creature is likely to be terrified of the Pit so it would probably need to be sedated first). The Goo would dismantle and digest the monkey, but would then churn and roil and eventually produce the same monkey again with the Fire Element Creature template added. It would be the same monkey, in terms of memories, temperament, and so on, but would have the added capabilities of the template. Mages can do this with their familiars without breaking the familiar bond in the process, and intelligent creatures can even augment themselves by making specific requests of the Pit and then entering the Goo. However, all of this augmentation is dangerous, for the reasons discussed below.

For the Pit is a device of Matter, and given that Matter is the ultimate source of all Evil and corruption, it should come as no surprise that the Pit often has... unpleasant side effects. In particular, any request made to the Pit will typically be acted upon as though it were a Wish, or more specifically, a Wish being granted by a very irate Efreeti prince who wants to punish the mortals who dared force him into such servitude. The Pit (nearly) always fulfills the stated request of a supplicant, but stated requests nearly always leave "wiggle room" that the Pit fills in with its own "additions." For example, the Fire Element Monkey discussed above may come out of the Pit with an INT score of 26 and a Neutral Evil alignment- not only fully cognizant of being tossed into the Pit against its will, but also desiring revenge on the ones who did it, and smart enough to play dumb so they don't suspect a thing until it's too late. Small requests (minor changes, or small creatures like an inoffensive kitten created as a test by one PC when my party found the Pit) are less likely to have their intent perverted this way than are large requests (such as creating a Paragon creature, for example, or making an Akishra from scratch), but the chance is always there. It is worth noting that requests to "Do X, and make no other changes" are never fulfilled to the letter, as the Pit ignores requests to not do something. Finally, the Pit has a tendency to form pseudopods and attempt to grab and re-digest creatures it just made, so anything coming out of the Pit will need help or must make some swift Acrobatics/DEX checks to escape.

The Pit never demands anything for all this production of life, but the price paid in unintended consequences- the old adage "be careful what you wish for" definitely applies to use of this artifact- means that few who learn of the Pit's existence are willing to use it often, if at all.

The Scales

Originally called the Diamond Scales, then later the Onyx Scales (when they became blackened and cracked after the destruction of their creator), this Soul Object of the Sidereal named Concordance (the name I used for the Old One-level Entity who formed the soul of all layers of the Outlands) was of interest to my PCs in the "second" game, the one wherein the party spent most of their divine existence in an alternate timeline that saw the Sidereals reawaken more than 700 years before the Grand Nexus. In that timeline, there was no Neutral Outer Plane; Concordance and its subordinates had been killed about 50 years after the Sidereals in general awoke (except for one, the Entity Daoloth, who represented the Spire itself and managed to retreat into the Far Realm where it remained alive in safety). In the "standard" central cosmos, these would just be the Diamond Scales- though in truth, of course, they're not made of either diamond or onyx, but instead a crystal far harder and more resilient (treat as a material with Hardness 100 and 50 hit points per inch of thickness).

In the game wherein PCs of mine found them, as the Onyx Scales, they were specifically quested for because the PCs intended to use them to resurrect Concordance: this event never actually occurred in game, but the basic idea was that the remaining piece of Concordance's soul (which was still within the artifact given that it was Concordance's Soul Object) would be drawn forth from the artifact, and then used as a "seed" to essentially recreate the greater Entity. Daoloth was also to play a pivotal role in this event, for obvious reasons, but the PCs never met that Entity before the Grand Nexus made it all essentially obsolete. I stated in game that the reason the Scales turned black was the shock of witnessing two bitter and eternal enemies- a Seraph and a Balseraph- joining together to put Concordance out of their mutual misery.

Creatures of any non-Neutral alignment are obliterated simply for touching the Scales; they must save or be Disintegrated (in my own game, with the existence of the Disruption energy type, this would translate to something like 10,000d8 Disruption damage). Creatures of an alignment that is Neutral in one axis but not the other can use the Scales, but must make a Will save every time they do, to avoid being changed to True Neutral alignment. True Neutral creatures, of course, are what the Scales like, and are not harmed in any way by touching or attempting to use them. Apostasy is irrelevant to this judgement, unless the creature in question has a higher Divine bonus than Concordance itself did (Concordance had a +136 bonus)- the Scales can effectively negate Apostasy for the purposes of making this determination.

The Scales, whatever their color, are one of the rare artifacts that make their sentience known to the wielder, in that they will answer questions asked of them directly (as long as the questions are of the type that can be answered by a Yes or a No). The Scales answer such questions by lowering one side or the other (one side representing "yes" and the other "no" of course), or by lowering first one side and then reversing to lower the other, to indicate "maybe" or "I don't know." This can essentially become an infinite-question Commune, assuming the DM allows it; the Scales aren't bound to answer questions, but usually do if the wielder is friendly. With regard to answers, the wielder can often divine the degree of "yes" or "no" by how quickly the Scales lower one side or the other, and how long the side stays lowered before pivoting back to the balanced position (for example, pausing a round before lowering "yes" would mean "...Eh, okay, sure," while an immediate lowering of "yes" that stays lowered for a full minute could be interpreted as "YES!!! HELLS YES!!!"). The Scales are knowledgeable on any topic the DM feels Concordance itself would be knowledgeable on, but questions of judgement (whether between alignments or for justice reasons) would be prime topics of concern to the artifact, and it should be assumed to have an extensive knowledge of the true history of the multiverse (though of course, what it chooses to share might not be so extensive).

Aside from the function of answering questions, the Scales have the ability to divine the true alignment of any target creature; all the wielder need do is concentrate on the target and ask the Scales where the target falls on the Good/Evil and Law/Chaos spectra. No form of alignment obscurity can override this function, unless set in place by a being with a higher divine bonus than Concordance itself had (rather unlikely in any cosmos where the Sidereals aren't fully awake and active, given how high said bonus is). The Scales can also change a target creature's alignment to True Neutral, as a standard action; the target does not get a save to avoid this ability unless it has a Divine bonus, and even then does not get to use any bonus to its Will save other than its Divine bonus unless its Divine bonus exceeds Concordance's. Finally, the Scales contain the power of Abrogate, and grant that ability to the wielder for as long as they are held.

The Cosmic Egg

This was an artifact (not a Soul Object, but a crafted artifact) of Metatron made to aid in the creation of universes. Originally gifted to Fate and her derivative Sidereals (the souls of the various Material Planes), it can be found and used by any being with the ability to cast spells with the Healing or Creation descriptors.

Its primary function, if used in Astral space, is to create new Material universes; this function pretty much requires that the wielder be a Sidereal related to Fate in order to work so I won't be giving it any game mechanics here.

If used within an existing plane, by contrast, the Cosmic Egg can create any desired celestial object that the wielder wishes to make. New moon for that planet? Check. New planet to put in orbit with your existing one? Check. New sun for your system? Check. New system to build worshippers within? Check. New star to build a system around? Check. New stellar cluster to put stars in? Check. New galaxy to put stellar clusters in? Check. I could go on, but you have the idea by now. I never gave real game specifics for these massive creation abilities, except in the most generic sense.

I told the players (who did actually find and use this item to craft a new stellar system- complete with planets designed down to the shape of the continents- to populate with worshippers) that "crafting a galaxy [the size of the Milky Way] would take about a million years, which is a highly significant speedup over the more normal evolution time of several billion years for a typical galaxy to arrive at the same stage of development. In principle, if you didn't care about crafting in any precious or unusual materials, one could use the Egg to craft a planet about [Earth's] size within a few days. A week at the outside. A star would take longer, but only because of the amount of material needing to be generated- a year or so would do for a typical sunlike star. So for an entire system, not including any outlier objects like an Oort Cloud or an asteroid belt, would take perhaps a year and a month to make from scratch. That assumes no material to start with, building basically from vacuum. If you discount the need to make a star, and just want to add planets to an existing star, then you could do it in far less time- more like a few months. You could also design crazier things like a dyson sphere, a ringworld, or even a "necklace" of habitable planets all orbiting within the same 'goldilocks zone' with no real trouble." Turning a lifeless rock into a fully habitable planet, with atmosphere, ocean, and so on, would be "Trivial- that could be done in a day or two. Two for a particularly large world, understand," I told them.

Aside from its use as a literal creator of worlds, the Cosmic Egg can be used like the Genesis Device in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan. In other words, it can reorganize matter on an existing world, down to the subatomic level, to create organic compounds and other precursors of life- and although it will not (in fact, cannot) create actual lifeforms on its own, any worlds touched by this effect will grow new lifeforms with astonishing speed- speed which would be impossible in a standard-evolution sense. However, given who and what Metatron is, the Egg (unlike the Device in the movie) was crafted with "special programming," I told my players, such that "if it ever was used on an already-inhabited planet or other such object, to eradicate the existing inhabitants and create new ones, that the Egg would immediately stop working for the wielder and Metatron would subject the wielder to summary judgement." I also said that the artifact had been used exactly that way, despite the threat of Metatron's personal involvement, 54 times in its history when the players found it- and 15 of those times, Metatron didn't exact any penalty other than to just take the Egg back and give it to somebody else. Three of those times, I further stated, Metatron "allowed the wielder to return home and continue using the Egg as if destroying an entire biosphere had been the right thing to do." I never specified exactly what those situations entailed, and the players never used the "Genesis Device" function anyway, but this is a potential jump-off point for other DMs who wish to use this artifact to expand upon history and include something interesting.

The Ring Portal

This, of course, played a pivotal role in the campaign, and was critical in opening the Final Gate that opened during the Grand Nexus. I based this artifact on "Bolder's Ring" from Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence stories; for those who haven't read those stories (and even for those who have, since my version was smaller), I'll copy the description I gave my players directly into this post.

" have a spectacular panoramic view of the black hole that is at the center. :) Or rather, the singularity. Because as it happens, this one isn't black. It's surrounded by a typical accretion disk, true, and within that there is an event horizon wherein nothing can escape- but the event horizon itself is far from spherical. In fact, it's so far from spherical that it would be more accurate to compare it to a donut, with a space in the center containing the naked singularity that's responsible for the existence of the black donut in the first place. The singularity is only intermittently visible, as a weird, spindle-shaped object of material unlike anything you've seen before (even Orichalcum), apparently spinning at incredible speed. What obscures it is a flickering area of twisted spacetime directly above and below it, looking from the perspective of a line perpendicular to the black donut; the twisted spacetime is over 3000 miles across. And it looks immediately familiar to you. It is a portal- a Gate ripped open from the fabric of this universe by the incredible gravity of that spinning singularity closed between the two Gates an the event horizon-donut. And the portal does not maintain one set destination, but is clearly flickering rapidly between many. Watching it for several minutes, you don't see it repeat even one, even though the Gate flickers every second or two.

The sky around this weird sight is another thing you can never forget after seeing it- because while there are many stars visible surrounding you, you have never seen a sky exactly like this. All the stars are various shades of blue here. In the distance around and beyond the accretion disk, you can sense the crazy... device?... that's creating the naked singularity and keeping it spinning so quickly, you realize after some minutes of watching. The device doing it is an assemblage of what... science calls 'cosmic string-' objects blown up to astronomical size by the Inflationary Epoch of the universe. Cosmic String is sort of like a black hole, but linear rather than a point source, and constantly moving such that it can't form an event horizon around itself. In this case the cosmic string is formed- quite deliberately, you're certain- into a ring, which has been set around this region of space and somehow spun. The gravity of the cosmic string drags the spacetime at the center of this region around, twisting it so tightly that it formed the singularity and dragged it into spinning to match the ring itself. But the ring is spinning so fast, that the singularity's spin rate is high enough to exceed lightspeed at its equator- and thus the event horizon is pinched away to nonexistence. The singularity is left naked. The Gate (or rather Gates, for there are two) are essentially directly above the poles of the rotating spindle that is the naked singularity.

[The dimensionas of the donut are] Toroidal, outer equatorial radius of about 60,000 miles, inner equatorial radius of about 5000 miles. It's a "squashed donut," not perfectly circular, so the cross-section would be an oval with a long diameter of 55,000 miles and a short diameter of 20,000 miles. The oval is also "thin" on the inner side, so that it's really more like a half-hourglass if that makes sense. The actual naked singularity is an object about 2000 miles wide, and maybe 500 in height, being like a spindle as I said before. The twin Gates are each 3000 miles across, located directly above the poles of the singularity-spindle, and each Gate actually touches the singularity in its exact center (or would, if the Gate were a substantial disk). ...The cosmic string making up the ring itself carries the weight/mass of tens of thousands of galaxies, all compressed into a linear object with a thickness equal to the Infinitesimal, the smallest possible measurable spatial distance. The string is formed into a loop more than 10,000,000 light-years across.

No, that was not a typo.

The cosmic string has been formed into a single enormous ring 10 million light-years in diameter. And furthermore, that ring is spinning like a wheel, and is placed such that the ring is on a precise plane with the black donut in the center of the space. The ring is rotating like a wheel, as I said- and it's rotating such that its string is going at just below light-speed. The effect of this is to cause enormous dragging on the spacetime inside the ring, and outside it to some distance as well; but your concern is more with the inside here. For, the effect of the spinning is to drag that black hole- which would be a normal stellar-mass black hole without the ring- along with it. With the drag induced by the ring, the black hole spins so fast that... its equatorial velocity exceeds lightspeed, at least on the inner side of the toroid. This is what forces the toroid essentially out of existence there, leaving space empty again down to the singularity. The spinning singularity is an object that shouldn't exist in any sane universe- it obeys physical laws that are radically different from those of your universe. And so, spacetime near the singularity does things it shouldn't normally do. The singularity, spinning as it does, is what is opening those enormous Gates and keeping them open. Somehow, the angle of its poles is causing the Gates to open into different universes and/or planes with every flicker of the portals. The pole's angle is changing, you see; the ring and singularity alike are not just rotating but also flipping- though the flip is extremely slow by comparison with the spin.

The entire assemblage, ring and singularity-portals alike, constitute a single incredible device (the ring's mass can only be that Great Attractor you knew about before coming here, in fact, which is drawing all the local galactic superclusters towards this place) designed to tear open holes to other universes. And perhaps more to the point, to other realities? It's unclear what the purpose of doing all this could be, but clearly there must be a reason the Gates don't stay locked on to any one destination very long."

Once you wrap your mind around that, know that the Ring in the Xeelee Sequence was even larger than my version, and spinning even faster, so that the portals it opened were about 3 light-years wide instead of a mere 3,000 miles. Another difference between the original and mine was that my version was specifically used by Eternity (the Sidereal of the Material Plane containing this incredible Ring) as a home base; she had actual rooms hollowed out inside the naked singularity itself and made comfortable by careful manipulation of gravity and other forces inside. The purpose of this vast device, of course, was precisely to open portals to other planes, universes, and (eventually) outside Reality itself, to provide an escape hatch in the event that the Demiurge's awakening didn't go well for the Sidereals (and more to the point, Eternity herself).

I never stated what happened to Eternity during the Grand Nexus, though the fact that the Ring unraveled and self-destructed shortly after the Final Gate closed suggests that she saw no further need for it (or wasn't around to keep it intact).

The Device in the Desolation

This artifact remained a mystery to my players until just before the end of the campaign, because its purpose was not revealed until a Nexus Event just before the Grand Nexus itself came to pass. In particular, this Device turned out (in the end) to be a Soul Object of one of the PCs, specifically the PC who was the Incarnation of Urgic Magic and the wielder/user of the Initial Enabler. It was a Soul Object that had been created by her in the time near that Nexus Event, and constructed such that its existence went backward in time as well as forward- so it had existed since the beginning of the cosmos, and nobody up until that point knew who had made it or what it was for.

The Device itself was located in a location on the Negative Energy Plane called the Desolation of the Destroyer; the Desolation was a Planar Edifice constructed by Thangorodoth to be its home base, but Thangorodoth originally built the Desolation around the Device without ever finding out its purpose or who had created it. It was, in appearance, an enormous roughly spherical object about a mile across, created apparently (though not actually) of Voidstone and which when successfully opened proved to have a cavity at its center about 2,000 feet across. That cavity contained 12 disc-shaped objects (or "nodes") of similar material linked to something like an immense computer console with a holographic display. A user would float to the center of the nodes, arranged in roughly dodecahedral/spherical formation, and would thus be linked mentally to the Device. Only beings with a Divine Aura could use the Device; mortals would be unable to do anything with the nodes except float, unless carrying a special "key" which took the form of an amulet of black stone. A mortal with the key would be able to enter the Device and use it like a divine user, except for not being able to access its primary function (see below).

What it was for, was to provide a temporary home for deities displaced by the awakening of Sidereals on the planes of existence they had previously called home; logically, I reasoned, if a plane of existence has a soul, and that soul assumes a full waking state, then any Divine Realms on the plane inhabited by that soul will go bye-bye unless the soul is feeling particularly friendly towards the gods in question. The Device gets around all that by forming a sort of pocket plane, within which any or all divine beings linked to it are able to "anchor" themselves as if forming a new Divine Realm. In other words, this was a Plot Device, pure and simple, to allow the gods the players didn't dislike to survive that critical Nexus Event involving Sidereals waking up in every plane of existence simultaneously.

The secondary function of the Device, and the one that was known before this revelation just before the end of the campaign, was that it was an information archive of tremendous antiquity, existing in some sense outside the traditional sequence of time. The players used it on previous occasions to gain information regarding the hierarchy of the Sidereals, what to do about a certain would-be Akalich, and examining the lowdown on upcoming Nexus Events.

The reason this PC was able to create and use the Device, I should hasten to add here, is that by the time she did, she was no longer truly the goddess she had ascended from mortality to become. That goddess in fact committed suicide, to attract the attention of Entropy, and Entropy essentially carved off a portion of its own being and reshaped that portion to exactly fill the void left by the goddess's death. So the being which created and linked with the Device was actually a sort of divine avatar of Entropy rather than a standard goddess, which is why (in the game-mechanics sense) she was allowed to break the usual rules of artifact creation to make this thing. This was not the only such "crossover" being in my parties, twixt Deity and Sidereal, but I'll save a description of the "Favored of the First Ones" templates which we used to bring these strange beings to life in the game, for a future post.

As a final note, I'll mention that the Device is sort of a borderline case between normal Soul Objects and the strange artifact-locations that I called Planar Edifices in my game; in one of the early posts in this thread, I promised to make a post detailing Planar Edifices, and now at last the time has come to fulfill that promise. That's the next post.
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Fantastic! I suppose we should have all made the connection to the Mana feats regarding the Living Spells and the Enabler. And it seems the "disappearances" tied to the Enabler were about what I imagined, though somewhat less sinister. I had long imagined that the Enabler *absorbed* the casters, which was part of how it powered itself. Of course, with it being an artifact of the Demiurge, that would ultimately be unnecessary, I suppose.

I like the whole bit with the hierarchy with the silver swords, too. Being as it was associated so strongly with that silly demigod who killed Thangorodoth, I was never too much of a fan of the Sword, but it has a nice history, nonetheless. :)

Also, I'd like to add that I think Thangorodoth really got a bad rap. ;)
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First Post
Locations With Soul

So, on to Planar Edifices. As the title of this post implies, these were really meant to be a sort of crossover between artifacts (specifically Soul Objects) and planar locations; of the artifacts I discussed in the previous post, the Pit, the Ring, and the Device in the Desolation could arguably go into this post just as easily as that one.

But, for most purposes, a Planar Edifice is an at-least-building-sized construct existing on some plane, or demiplane, which has a specific purpose and (usually) grants powers to those who reach it and act towards that purpose. It's worth noting that most Planar Edifices used in my game were never explicitly linked to specific beings; all of the ones I'll detail in this post were created by (and thus Soul Objects of) Sidereal beings at the very lowest. It's possible the Demiurge itself created the Path of the Ultimate Gate and the Shrine of the Ninefold Path, but then again it's just as possible that those were created by the new Seventh First One and simply existed retroactively to their actual creation (that is, they existed backwards in time as well as forwards).

As with the previous post, there are eight "items" I plan to discuss here. Those eight are: the Obsidian Tower, the Dark Lens, the Rift of Life, the Cloud of Secrets, the Desolation of the Destroyer, the Rings of the Spire, the Path of the Ultimate Gate, and the Shrine of the Ninefold Path.

The Obsidian Tower

Of the Planar Edifices I've mentioned in threads prior to this one, this edifice is the one I've mentioned most often. In part, this is because it was one of the most-visited by my PCs; also, it was the very first that any of my parties went to.

This one started its life with the Planescape Inner Planes supplement, a soft-cover book released later in the line which contained (in typical Planescape fashion) first-person accounts of what to expect in the Elemental, Energy, and Para- and Quasi-Elemental Planes. The book is chock-full of ideas, and if any DM out there has the chance to pick up a copy, I recommend it without hesitation unless you're running 4E. The radical changes wrought upon the base cosmology with 4E render it largely obsolete, though you can probably still get good ideas that could be "transplanted."

But it's one idea that was transplanted with which we're concerning ourselves here. Specifically, the book mentions a quiet place deep in the Plane of Minerals where even natives rarely go, that is said to contain a forge of mythic power. The reason even the natives stay away, however, is that it is apparently not completely abandoned, because sometimes travelers who go there... disappear. Nobody knows who or what built it, let alone why, nor what guards it. I'm leaving out a few details from the original, here, but that's the general gist- an honestly the original description isn't much more than what I typed above.

For some reason, though, this idea grabbed hold of my brain and wouldn't let go. I knew I had to have it in my game, when it came time to transform the old setting into the 3rd Edition version, and so I set about giving it more details. First, when I sat down to do this, I had recently moved and so was going off old memories of the description rather than actually digging my book out of whatever box it was in (not that I even knew for sure which one that was). So I got the name wrong- the original version was called the Tower of Lead, but I just remembered that it was a "dark" tower made of heavy materials with ominous overtones. So, I thought of obsidian- black volcanic glass- which also, incidentally, is the material that they supposed Isengard to be made of for the Lord of the Rings movies- and used that. My tower became the Obsidian Tower. To be slightly more specific, the description I used in my game is that in a remote and mostly-forgotten corner of the Plane of Minerals, the rocks get heavy and dark- the crystals so common throughout the rest of the plane give way to ores, veins of dark and heavy metals such as lead, and minerals such as coal or onyx which absorb more light than they reflect. In an immense cavern (half a mile long by about 1,000 feet wide) formed within this "dark zone," there stands a large and lonely tower about 100 feet tall made of blackest obsidian, rising out of a squat, squarish building (of the same material) obeying no architectural standards known to the modern era.

Where I further differed from the original was in giving it the fleshed-out, game-mechanics-compatible details that could make the place work in an actual game, and make it an interesting (if scary) place to visit. First, I knew that I wanted the forge inside the tower to be a place where one could craft full artifacts if one were so inclined, and second, I knew that this had to be a place made by the Overgods (which meant that some of their powers would be left in it). So I studied the item crafting rules carefully and came up with two essential components to the place, to make it an item-crafting location of tremendous power.

The first of these was that the anvil and tools there were of such magnificence, and in fact contained such incredible magical potency, that they would reduce the crafting time of any item created there: I wanted an absurdly powerful speedup, so I chose to borrow from Star Trek II and make "hours seem like days." That is, any item crafted at the anvil would take only one hour of crafting per 1,000 gp value, rather than the normal 1 day of time. Furthermore, I stated that the crafter who was using the anvil would not need to rest, eat, or drink while using it, so you could work 24/7 and never get tired or otherwise need to stop. This would obviously translate to a huge speedup over normal item crafting! Finally, as if that weren't enough, the tools would grant any user a +30 bonus to any Craft skill check- of any subtype- when in use.

The second feature of the Obsidian Tower was its Forge, which contained an arguably more useful power than the anvil and tools did: the Forge could consume existing items fed into its maw, and transform them into "raw crafting stuff" which could then be taken to the anvil and shaped to form literally any desired object. In game terms, this meant that you could take an old item you weren't using any more, feed it into the Forge, and get its full crafting value- in both gp and XP- out of it, to create a new item. So, this meant that by using the Forge, an item-crafting character could in theory spend old items the party didn't want to use to create new items they did want, without going through the rigmarole of selling the items in a market and using the money to buy raw materials for the new items. More importantly, said crafter could do this without even using his own XP if he had enough unwanted items to toss in and burn.

The note from the original book about "something" being left behind that didn't like visitors to the Tower of Lead led me to posit that the Overgods had left an actual Guardian in place, near the Obsidian Tower, which would be capable of merging with the surrounding cavern so perfectly as to be unnoticeable even to natives of the Plane of Minerals. This thing had to be ridiculously strong, so powerful that even beings just short of gods would fear it. I was doing this long before the Epic Level Handbook was even announced, let alone the Immortals Handbook, so I sincerely hoped I wouldn't have to stat the Guardian up for a very, very long time! My thought on the Guardian (and in fact, the Tower itself) was that it had been abandoned by its original makers, but that gods could use it with (relative or actual) impunity. Mortals, however, would have to be nearly gods themselves to be able to take on the Guardian and win, so mortals who used it would only be able to stay for about a month before the Guardian took notice of them and acted against them. And of course, if they were stupid enough to try stealing the tools, anvil, or (gods help them) the Forge itself, the Guardian would be all over them as they left.

When the IH came along, of course, several years later, there was a very interesting bit of correspondence between my old Obsidian Tower and the list of Divine Abilities: in effect, it now seemed as though the anvil granted its user Divine Architect in addition to its mighty Craft bonus, and ability to sustain the user. My old concern about gods was now answered: gods could use the Tower, but would rarely bother doing so, because it didn't really offer them much benefit besides the cost savings of the Forge.

I also statted up the Guardian, using some helpful nasty monsters posted on UK's site as a base, but I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say, the thing is nasty (CR in the high 40s) and not to be tangled with by any but the absolute strongest mortals. Also, the Guardian and the Tower are one, in a metaphysical sense, so if the Guardian is destroyed, the Forge and anvil and tools suddenly stop working- and continue not working until the Guardian regenerates (which takes about a month). This makes working at the Tower enough of a pain for even gods to do so sparingly, even though the Guardian is really no threat to even a single Demigod under normal circumstances (at least, my 100-HD Demigods).

The Dark Lens

Obviously, I didn't stop with the Obsidian Tower. Since, in part, my retooled cosmos was about balancing out things that seemed unbalanced in the original version, I decided that giving the Plane of Minerals a strange edifice left behind by the Overgods wasn't enough. The other Positive Quasi-Elemental Planes should have some too, I reasoned. But what would these other three do? I needed something (more specifically, three somethings) that could somehow match the known functions of the Obsidian Tower in a rough power-quotient sense, while still being very different functions that would be obviously tied to the planes they were on. I decided that if Minerals represented valuable materials and objects, in this sense, and therefore allowed better crafting of items and art, then Steam (because of the clouds) would probably be tied to Knowledge and would have a sort of super-library in it somewhere. This is what eventually became the Cloud of Secrets. Lightning and Radiance gave me fits, but I recognized shortly after coming up with the idea for the Cloud that there was another area where characters could make their own "stuff" that matched items in utility and mechanics: spell research (and psionic power research). My dilemma was, which Quasi-plane would get the "spell research" helper, and why? Furthermore, what would the fourth Quasi-plane get?

Eventually, I solved the dilemma, and put the Rift of Life in Lightning and the spell-research location into Radiance. This left me with a different dilemma: in a plane dominated by light, above everything else, what the hells could an edifice like the Obsidian Tower possibly be based upon?

Well, as the name of this edifice implies, I eventually decided that since a key attribute of research was focus on one's goal, that a plane of endless Light could possibly host an enormous Lens to help produce that. In actuality, the Dark Lens is just the external manifestation of the real find, which is a library of unparalleled comprehensiveness and depth hosted within the bigger-inside-than-outside interior. It appears to be an enormous, perfectly circular lens of crystal dark enough to appear black from the outside, roughly 300 feet in diameter and 70 feet thick in the center. There are no openings visible to the interior, even to characters using True Seeing or other Illusion-defeating effects, but a successful DC 25 Spellcraft or Psicraft check will allow a character to discover the way in anyway and use it. This Lens is located in a region of the plane that appears unusually dim, with the only colors visible being dark red and violet. To many who find the place, it feels eerily like the Lens is somehow absorbing the power of the plane and is thus itself causing this strange dimming.

Like the Obsidian Tower, the Dark Lens has a Guardian, but this Guardian does not remain hidden- it instead orbits the Dark Lens (staying about 200 feet away from its equator) and is just visible as a sort of translucent shadow of itself while not active and attacking. When I described it to my players, I said "It's a vaguely humanoid, red shape about 60 feet tall, and looks like some vision of an Ancient war robot inflated to massive proportions."

On the inside, the library is immense, though of no fixed size- in truth its size is best described as "whatever size it needs to be." The crystal of the Lens is translucent, when seen from within, and lets in enough light from the plane outside to make reading easy and comfortable. Any Knowledge checks made specifically (and solely) for the purpose of advancing spell or psionic power research, as well as all Spellcraft or Psicraft skill checks, get a +30 bonus when made inside the library, and all research is conducted on the basis of 1 hour inside the Dark Lens = 1 day outside it. This exactly mirrors the item-crafting of the Obsidian Tower of course, but more importantly my group decided that the existence of the Dark Lens thus implied the existence of a "Divine Researcher" Divine Ability to mirror Divine Architect. And so we made one: its writeup can be found in the Custom Divine Powers thread.

In addition to providing the bonus to Spellcraft/Psicraft and specific Knowledge checks, the Dark Lens also contains a unique item specifically made to help spell or psionic power research: the Blank Book. This is an immense book (about 6 feet by 4 feet when closed, though it will always be found open when a character arrives at the Lens unless other visitors are also present) set on a squat pedestal in the largest open space in the library, directly underneath the highest part of the domed crystal ceiling. The pages are not made of any recognizable form of paper, and yet it is clearly meant to be just that. Any ink which is dripped or written onto any page of the Blank Book swiftly vanishes into the mysterious "paper" to leave it blank again, as is any marking made by charcoal, pencil, or other non-liquid writing tool; pages which are cut from the Book lose this property and may be written upon normally, but as soon as one leaves the Book and comes back, or even just turns away and then looks at it again, the damage is mysteriously repaired. The Blank Book's real purpose is to transfer knowledge: to use it, one need only hold up a magical scroll or psionic powerstone, or a magical book/Tome such as a Tome of Clear Thought, and touch it to a page. The item will flash brightly and burn away as though used, but the effect of the spell(s) or power(s) it contained do not occur: instead, whatever GP and XP was spent to create the scroll or stone, is drawn out of its remains and gifted to the character who just "burnt" it. This GP and XP can not be used for level-up purposes, and it disappears as soon as the character leaves the Dark Lens by any means; its only use is to be spent on spell or power research.

As a final note here, I'll state that my players spent considerable time in their high Epic levels (pre-divinity) searching out Wish scrolls and stat-booster Tomes, specifically so they could burn them in the Blank Book or the Forge of the Obsidian Tower to create new spells/powers/items.

The Rift of Life

So, with the two obvious Fonts of Creation (the collective name given to the four Quasi-plane Planar Edifices, the Obsidian Tower, Dark Lens, Rift of Life, and Cloud of Secrets) detailed, it now remains to describe the other two. This one was the most obscure during my campaign, and only used twice in the entire run- neither time occurring "on screen." In some ways, though, this is the most powerful of the four, and certainly would be a highly-sought-after goal for many gods looking to build worlds.

This was the hardest one to figure out, in no small part because creating life is not something the D&D game rules were really set up to handle. I placed this one in the Plane of Lightning because of the Frankenstein reference, and continuing that logic led me to posit that its main use (in the modern era at least) was to allow casters/manifesters to create Constructs more quickly and easily than normal. As a less-obvious corollary of this, the Rift can be used to bring sentience to items more quickly than is otherwise possible, though since the Obsidian Tower could also be used in that manner (given that imbuing intelligence in items is a function of item creation) and the Rift of Life has no equivalent to the Forge, it rarely is.

The Rift of Life is a cavernous space (about half a mile across) in the Plane of Lightning where no cloud goes, surrounded on all sides by clouds so dark as to be nearly black. Though lightning flashes within these clouds constantly, putting occasional flashes of light into the otherwise-dark Rift, no arc of lightning ever penetrates the space itself, not even to strike the clouds on the other side. Floating in the center of this space is a strange cage made of strands of some sort of exotic metal, which refuses to retain a single consistent color or reflective index, woven and braided about each other so as to form cords, rods and bars which are much thicker than the strands themselves. The cage is roughly spherical in shape, and wires of the odd metal extend off from it on all sides to apparently connect it to the cloud layer surrounding the Rift; the cage is usually about 30 feet in diameter when first encountered, but can extend (via a weird shifting/sliding of the strands about each other, and cunningly-hidden hinges which reveal the rods and struts to be composed of thinner ones like a huge Hoberman sphere) to be more than 300 feet across when necessary. While in use, lightning from the clouds strikes the wires connecting them to the cage, causing the cage to crackle and dance with powerful electricity and other energies generated by the interaction of lightning and metal- creatures outside the cage are never struck, but anything within the cage is (to put it bluntly) lit up like a Christmas tree.

The Rift of Life enhances creation time for Construct creatures, or the imbuing of intelligence in items, by the same 24:1 ratio as the Dark Lens and the Obsidian Tower; that is, each hour spent at the Rift essentially equals a day of work elsewhere. Additionally, any Construct brought to life at the Rift will be truly alive in the "fifth force" sense, and imbued with a proper soul, which is inclined to be grateful to its creator and therefore never has any chance of going berserk or out of control (as some golems are known to do). Also, a character who comes to the Rift with an Epic "Origin of Species" spell or equivalent means of creating non-Construct life, finds that the casting time is reduced by the same 24:1 ratio (minimum casting time 1 round), and the created creature is always capable of reproduction (even if the effect producing it normally does not allow for such). In other words, the Rift of Life effectively grants Great Breath to anybody creating life there. Every single creature created at the Rift has an INT score of at least 3, even if the effect producing the creature would normally create one with less INT or no INT score at all.

Finally, the Rift of Life has the ability to bring any dead non-Sidereal creature back to life, provided there is a body to place in the cage. No material components are required to cast Raise Dead or Resurrection-type spells there, nor must any XP be spent to cast them. Using the Rift this way always drains a level/HD from the target creature being raised, however, even if the spell used normally doesn't do that (such as True Resurrection). It is even possible to bring a creature back in the Rift without using a spell, though doing so is dangerous: the target must make a Will save against a DC of its own number of HD +1 per day it has been dead (or undead), or else it comes back entirely insane (as if affected by an Insanity spell with Instantaneous duration, irreversible except by use of the Alter Reality Cosmic Ability). To accomplish this risky spell-less resurrection, the body must be placed within the cage and left there with the cage active, for 1 hour per HD/level.

The Rift of Life has a Guardian, much like the Obsidian Tower and the Dark Lens, but it was never given stats or a description. Suffice it to say, the Guardian slumbers in the dark clouds surrounding the Rift until activated by an unauthorized user staying too long (the limit is usually about a month, but all time spent at the Rift counts- even over multiple visits).

The Cloud of Secrets

The fourth and last Font of Creation was the one used by far the most often in my campaign, both because it was simple for any character to use and because they became "authorized users" (which meant that the Guardians of the Fonts considered them harmless and wouldn't activate or attack based on their presence) fairly early into godhood. This one doesn't actually let one create anything directly, but the information one gets at this Font can be very handy for creating things later (if you ask the right questions).

In effect, being inside the Plane of Steam, I figured that the only proper form for a Font (being that they're all "dark" materials for their respective planes) to take here would be a Cloud. And what do clouds (particularly dark ones) surround? Secret things. So, Cloud of Secrets. I also took a cue from the description given to the personality of Steam (Quasi-)Elementals, in Planescape, which included the quirk that they all tend to hoard information carefully and make consummate spies. This led me to associate information with the Plane of Steam, and I decided that perhaps the Steam Elementals were so obsessed with secrets because something in their home plane made them that way. The idea then became, what if there is, hidden in some cloud of steam in some remote corner of the Plane of Steam, a library or archive of the most profound, powerful, and potentially explosive/damaging secrets in the multiverse? This became the initial idea for the place, and as I said above, it was the second one I came up with after the Obsidian Tower.

But it didn't stay that way. In the end, after going back and forth on several ways to handle this place, I decided that what it really does is enhance Knowledge checks. Two of the other Fonts- the Lens and the Tower- enhance associated skills, and if there were any skills in D&D associated with creating life, I would have had the Rift enhance those exactly the same way. But for this place, I decided that it would be simple in mechanics and use: when you go to the Cloud, you ask it questions, and it gives you answers. There are no books, no devices (at least, no obvious ones), and nothing to read or see unless it shows you such (which it can do via illusions or Sendings of direct data, like a file downloaded into the questioner's mind- whatever happens to be most convenient). Just ask a question, and roll a Knowledge check in whatever subcategory seems best. The check gets a +30 (unnamed) bonus, and the answer (if you beat whatever the DC might be) is given instantly. One thing I annoyed my players with many times was what the Cloud says when you don't beat the DC- in that case, its most common non-answer is "You are not ready for transcendence." That drove them nuts. :)

Physically, the Cloud of Secrets is just a particularly dark cloud of steam deep within its plane, in a remote corner that Steam Elementals do their best to persuade travelers away from (though they won't actually fight to stop anybody from going there- instead they'll just sigh, shrug, nod knowingly, or otherwise imply that the traveler's chosen direction is not a good one). Once there, one gets an impression of structure hidden within the roiling clouds of mist, just out of sight, always caught out of the corner of one's eye but never there when looked at directly- and never anything tangible or physical. The impressions of structure are always for something insanely complex, with patterns of lines extending off in hidden directions like some enormous extradimensional computer motherboard. Answers, when they come, are usually given telepathically to the questioner, though sometimes (for reasons known only to itself and the DM) the Cloud actually creates audible sounds so other creatures with the questioner can also hear the answers.

Where this Font really differs from the other three- and the reason the Steam Elementals don't ever bother with combat to keep outsiders away- is that the Guardian of the Cloud never sleeps. It is always active, and always patrolling the region around the Cloud, and it recognizes intruders within a minute of their arrival every time. It moves slowly, but inexorably, and those who tarry too long in the Cloud after getting an answer or two usually don't come out again to bring the secrets they gleaned into the wider cosmos.

The Cloud of Secrets was also one Planar Edifice that I gave my players an explicit connection/origin for; it is in fact a Soul Object of Thought. As a result, its knowledge (and ability to answer questions) is nearly limitless, but everything it says has a tendency to advance Thought's agenda (insane though that may be) and/or make Far Realm intrusions into the multiverse more likely.

The Desolation of the Destroyer

This place is arguably the oldest Planar Edifice in terms of my own thinking about the multiverse, because way back when I was coming up with the story about the Sword(s) of Time, the Destroyer, and the Tertiars and their early doings in the multiverse, I knew that somewhere in the Negative "Material" Plane was a secret place where the energy concentrated like nowhere else, where actual structures like some sort of nightmarish city existed. Now, modern D&D has the City of Moil, true, but this place was never intended to be something built by mortals who delved too deeply into the Negative plane's secrets- it was specifically the headquarters and home of the Destroyer, the "bad Overgod," Thangorodoth. Here was where he was fought to his first defeat, here was where he was killed by the demigod that first time... and here was where his last mortal avatar would awaken to his true potential and origin at last when the time was right.

Now, back before 3rd Edition, I never had any concept of this place having uses or functions besides being a home for the Ultimate Evil, but when I revised my old cosmos for the new game I began to think seriously about such things. After all, one can reason, if Thangorodoth is an Overgod who helped make the Negative Plane what it is- and among other things, that means a plane which destroys everything that enters it- and furthermore, given his appellation as the Destroyer- why in blazes would he need or want a city for his home or headquarters? Wouldn't it make more sense for him to just roam the endless emptiness close to the heart of the plane, annihilating any matter or creatures that made it that far and maintaining the purity of his domain?

The reasoning went something like this: Thangorodoth had minions, so those minions needed a place to gather and learn their master's desires. But then, I reasoned, why stay there, in a place that was almost surely as hostile to the minions as to anything else? Well, the minions had to be Antigods or powerful Undead, I reasoned. But where did all these minions come from, then, especially the Antigods if they're so dangerous to standard gods? And, the answer to that question gave the Desolation its function at last. For, the obvious answer was of course that these minions existed and came there because Thangorodoth made them using his mighty dark powers. And to simplify his "creation" (really conversion) of new minions, would it not make sense for him to build a device to help?

So, the Desolation got its function. It was specifically designed and built to take creatures brought there from other places, and convert them into forms more to Thangorodoth's liking- and utterly loyal to him once so converted. Originally my notion was that normal living creatures would become undead, using templates; typically they would become Liches and/or Vampires since those were all I had when 3E was released. Gods, of course, would and could also be converted, from standard Gods to Antigods. Finally, when the IH Bestiary came out and I got a look at the Unelemental, I knew that Thangorodoth had a hand in their (non)existence too- so I decided that the Desolation could also be used to convert creatures of any sort- living or non- to Unelementals.

The Desolation of the Destroyer is an enormous edifice, literally the size of a city even in modern-Earth terms. It extends for tens of miles from the central core, where the Device in the Desolation is encysted, and altogether is about 150 miles across. In part, this is because Thangorodoth's original form as a Sidereal was so immense- he would take a form resembling an enormous, tentacled sphere of utter darkness about 1000 feet in diameter. Naturally, his edifice would be built to match his scale. It's constructed out of Voidstone, so it is extremely dangerous for material beings (or for that matter any being not built from Negative energy directly) to touch; given that most travelers who arrive there will be using the standard "change the direction of gravity and fall" method of travel, this makes a trip through its extent a hazardous game of chicken at best. It consists of hundreds of block-like buildings, forming various geometrical shapes, all connected by spars and buttresses like some nightmarish castle or cathedral except that there is no single "down" direction. The Desolation is a truly alien construct, from the perspective of Material Plane inhabitants; it doesn't so much as give a passing nod to gravity and is structured in all three spatial dimensions from the get-go.

Individual buildings are either "living" space for minions, or conversion facilities for making new minions; either way, there are no doors or windows of any kind in their outer walls. To enter a given building, one must channel enough Negative Energy into the structure in question, either by using a Command Undead (or similar ability to channel Negative energy) at a high enough DC, or by casting Inflict spells powerful enough to open the way. The exact DC or necessary threshold varies by structure, of course- and the ones which convert gods to Antigods actually require expending QP as well as casting Epic magic (or using a 10th-level spell slot) on an Inflict- or Energy Drain-type effect.

Of course, as the write-up for the Device in the Desolation states, my current concept is that the Device was there first, and Thangorodoth constructed the Desolation around it- but originally, I simply posited that the Device was a machine he created to help him keep track of all the information regarding his minions, plans, and targets. It wasn't until I had IH Ascension that I began to think that it should be different, and maybe he hadn't created it but just found and used it. This is in the largest building of the Desolation, the veritable Heart of Darkness itself, an enormous geodesic sphere a full mile across- which is actually just a hollow shell built around the Device like a pearl around a plastic seed-sphere. This hollow shell, too, needs a 10th-level or Epic spell slot used to cast a Negative-energy effect at it, to open it, but nothing else- and once inside a careful examination proves that the Device is of very different design from the Desolation that surrounds it.

The Rings of the Spire

Way back in the post on the configuration of my "central" cosmos, I mentioned these. Since my version of the Spire is infinitely tall, it has no "top" for the city of Sigil to float above; therefore, Sigil instead floats around it about 1000 miles above the ground (Sigil is, of course, a large ring when viewed from the outside, though it is for some dimensional-warping reason impossible to reach that outside from within the city itself). Well, I reasoned after making this determination, if one ring exists- why not others? And so, the Rings of the Spire were born.

Sigil, of course, needs no introduction to most people reading this- it was the heart of the 2nd Edition Planescape setting, and was imported into 3rd Edition in the Manual of the Planes. It may or may not still exist in 4E, with its radical reconstruction of the multiverse; I haven't read the 4E Manual of the Planes so I don't know. But, in my cosmos, Sigil is postulated to be the "first" (meaning lowest- closest to the ground of the Outlands far below) of the Rings of the Spire. It's a planar metropolis ruled by the enigmatic Lady of Pain and her apparent minions, the silent Dabus who communicate only in projected rebus puzzles. No deity ever appears there, and the few who try are invariably confronted by the Lady of Pain herself and forced away (if not killed outright).

As mentioned in the post on gods between Greater and Sidereal, I supposed that this is because she herself is an Elder Goddess; very few deities in the cosmos beyond Sigil would actually be powerful enough to mount a serious challenge to her and those who are would have very little interest in doing so. More importantly, this is because Sigil is the Lady's Divine Realm, and like other Divine Realms its owner can choose to prevent dimensional travel by undesirables (in this case other deities) from reaching it. And since Sigil is only reachable via dimensional travel, well, that just makes it pretty difficult for deities to get in, doesn't it?

But Sigil isn't the only Ring. The "second" Ring, as I've hinted at in previous posts on this and other threads, is called the Crystal Library in my setting, and is home to Annam- the prototypical Elder God. Within the Library, Annam keeps reminders- usually physical objects but also written stories and recordings made on other media (this is not a cosmos without technology, so he can and does have stuff like tapes, DVDs, or holograms)- of events which have been "erased" from history by action of temporal paradoxes, use of Rectify or the Sword of Time, or other such powers. Somewhere in the Crystal Library, for example, one can find an exhibit dedicated to the world and cosmos of the LeShay, and a record of exactly what they did to so radically alter it and leave themselves bereft of a home. Elsewhere, one can find records of Nexus Events which involved time travel (and honestly, given the nature of Nexus Events, this mostly means all of them), including those that haven't happened yet.

That last point made the place of great interest to my players, when they heard about it, but one last feature of the Crystal Library makes it rather difficult to use this: anybody leaving the Crystal Library by any means must make a Will save to retain the information they gained there, and any items or objects taken from any of the exhibits is mysteriously "lost" (in fact, teleported right back to the exhibits they came from- even out of a Portable Hole or other similar storage device) in transit. Even if the Will save to retain memories succeeds, it must be made again a round later, and then again, and again, until eventually even the strongest mind succumbs and loses the information. That said, it is possible to get around this restriction if one is canny enough; my players did it by using daily Wishes after leaving (they were young deities at the time, just raised to Demigodhood) to record the soon-to-be-lost information on books once they were in another place and the Gate to the Crystal Library had closed. Their minds forgot it, but their characters had new books containing some very interesting fiction which proved to be helpful later.

Annam lives in the Crystal Library alone, and never leaves it; as with the Lady and Sigil, nobody gets in without his permission. In fact, I posited that he placed an effect on the Library such that it works similarly to the Fidelius Charm from the Harry Potter series- to whit, you can't know where it is until Annam himself invites you and opens the way for you. I also decided that Annam created and maintains the Library to help him pursue Sidereal Ascension via the Omniscience method, and though I never stated this in game, it was an obvious enough inference that at least one player suggested it.

No other Rings are known to be inhabited, though many others exist; the exact number of them is not known, but could be infinite given the infinite extent of the Spire upon which they're all "strung." Any uninhabited Ring, once found, can be claimed as a Divine Realm by any deity in the usual manner, just as if it were a plane in its own right- but Rings carry some extras that normal Divine Realms don't. First, since Rings of the Spire are in effect miniature demiplanes, but planes without Sidereal souls of their own, any one deity that makes a Divine Realm in one becomes a sort of "mini-Sidereal" in the process. Only single deities who claim a Ring gain these benefits; if a Ring is claimed by a party or pantheon of deities, then it is no different from any other Divine Realm elsewhere in the cosmos. But, a single owner of a Ring gains the ability to extend his or her Divine Aura across the entire Ring, if desired, at will; the deity can toggle between the normal Divine Aura or this Ring-wide version once per round as a free action. Second, the deity gains Cosmic String while the Ring is his or her Divine Realm; nothing that is not more powerful than the Ring's owner can actually kill him or her while the Ring is the deity's Realm. Third, the deity gets Cosmic Consciousness across the whole Ring, regardless of what the character's usual sensory limits may be; the Ring grants impressions of everything that occurs within its extent to its owner. It may even be, though I never stated this in game nor examined the implications of the idea from a rules-and-consequences perspective, that by maintaining a Ring as one's Divine Realm, a deity can actually pursue Sidereal Ascension via the Birth method. Of course, gaining enough HD and QP to make the transition without ever personally leaving one's Divine Realm wouldn't be at all easy, and I think that upon becoming a full Sidereal the (ex-)deity in question would lose the Ring and it would revert to the "blank" state once more.

Of course, these benefits aren't the whole story, or more Rings would be owned than actually are. A Ring used as a Divine Realm also carries one very large drawback for its owner- the owner can never leave the Ring by any means while it is the deity's Divine Realm. Avatars and Aspects of the deity can come and go normally, but the deity's own manifestation is forever bound to the Ring while it is the character's Divine Realm. An attempted Plane Shift will simply fail to work; if a Plane Shift is cast by an ally to include the character, then everybody except the bound deity will be Shifted normally. If the bound deity (or somebody else) opens a Gate or similar portal off the Ring, then anybody other than the bound deity can use said portal normally- but the bound deity will walk through it without going anywhere, as if it were a mere illusion. One PC (a god of Secrets) discovered this to his extreme chagrin shortly after achieving Demigodhood; he wanted to claim a Ring and make a new Library to someday rival the Crystal Library in scope. After he discovered this drawback, he spent the 10x QP to pull back what he'd put into it to make it his Divine Realm, and thus pull out of the Ring; this freed him to roam the cosmos (and later, other cosmoi) again.

The Path of the Ultimate Gate

This place, located in a small demiplane deep in a remote location within the Astral Plane- so remote, mind you, that even deities would take centuries to travel there without teleportation or opening a direct Gate- is a lonely, rocky outcropping set into a barren desert without even a few stunted trees to break the lifeless feel. The air feels warm, but somehow stale and dead, and the impression of incredible age is impossible to escape there. The outcropping has a single cave, a mere 10 feet wide and high, which leads into the rock and somehow manages to extend longer on the inside than the available space on the outside allows- eventually opening out into a chamber carved into the rock. In that chamber, crumbling and weathered by countless eons of time, there is a sort of impression of a carving on one wall- barely visible even when one is specifically looking for it- of a tall arch, and a hand on top of that arch which appears to be reaching for something above it and just out of its grasp.

This place has one purpose, and that is to facilitate transitions to the Far Realm. In that chamber, by using the proper rituals in conjunction with the spell, one can cast a perfectly ordinary Gate to any desired layer of the Far Realm- provided of course that one can specify the desired layer exactly enough (malicious interpretation of wording should be the norm here). One can also Plane Shift to the Far Realm, even without having an appropriate material component to shift with.

Finally, and this is how the place saw use in my game, one can perform a similar ritual with the Silver Key to "translate" oneself into the Far Realm- but more on that in the next post (which will actually discuss that artifact). I will mention here, though, what should be obvious to anybody who has read the stories from which I took inspiration for the Silver Key: the cavern described above is a match for the one in those stories.

The Shrine of the Ninefold Path

This last planar edifice never saw on-screen use in my game, though the PCs knew about it and had vague plans of going there for a long time. As a result, I never actually gave it a full description; I just stated that somewhere in a demiplane in a remote corner of the Astral Plane (not, perhaps, quite as remote as the Path of the Ultimate Gate, but still remote) is a temple dedicated to no known god or pantheon. Within that temple, carvings and symbols exist that have never been translated into any known language. The place is divided into nine wings, and the name of this edifice was suggested by the discoverers based on that number and the impression they got (from looking at the carvings, though they didn't truly understand them) that they were intended as some sort of instructions or map.

And based on hints I've dropped elsewhere, the purpose of this place is probably obvious to most readers. The "Ninefold Path" of the title is, of course, the nine methods of Sidereal Ascension, and the Shrine is nothing less than an instruction book left behind by Something Greater to show deities (and others) how to evolve to the next level of existence. The carvings are enigmatic in the extreme, and even viewing the original Shrine, one would need to make Knowledge checks (likely Religion, or Arcana) to discern their precise meaning. DCs for these checks should be set in the high hundreds, certainly no less than 400 for even basic information, if one is using my table for deity advancement. Of course, more than merely nine methods exist for Sidereal Ascension, and all methods are in fact recorded in the Shrine regardless of number, but the nine main methods are the focus of the nine wings of the edifice.

It is possible, though since I never detailed this place I never decided on this, that one can perform special rituals at the Shrine to facilitate attempts at Sidereal Ascension somehow. This could make the "paths" easier to follow, or perhaps just help them along (for example, perhaps it is possible there to cast an Epic spell which can cause all mortals on a particular Material Plane to worship a single deity- which would facilitate the Worship Method).
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I miss my Device. :( I suppose Moiranna's Avatar still uses it from time to time, since her own Divine Realm is near the Negative Energy Plane, too.

Hmm...I don't see the March of the First Ones on that list! Someone's holding something back! So when's the game starting?! ;)

I have this feeling there's another one I'm forgetting, though...

paradox42 said:
because they became "authorized users" (which meant that the Guardians of the Fonts considered them harmless and wouldn't activate or attack based on their presence) fairly early into godhood.

The original authorization at the Desolation actually occurred before our ascension, didn't it?
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First Post
So this, at last, is it.

The time has come at last to describe the most powerful artifact I ever made for, or used in, a game of mine. I've been teasing you readers with hints about it for so long, some probably got bored and left- my apologies if so. The fact is, this thing was so deeply intermeshed with so many aspects of my setting and campaign, that I didn't honestly see a way to describe it in reasonable detail before I had described everything else. But now, that "everything else" has been described, in as much detail as I'm able to put up here without sacrificing my options in a future game and without getting specific questions from the audience to answer. It is now time to discuss

The Silver Key.

This thing started its game life way back when I was first coming up with my own setting, back when I first decided to write rules for the beings that existed beyond gods. Back then, I realized that in order for PCs to have any chance to reach the pinnacle of Tertiar society, the "Speaker of the Plan" itself, I had to have a way for old Speakers to leave. That meant that I needed some process or item that they could use to break the rule about "only Originals can leave Incomplete Creations." Sure, they could go off into the Chaos and just vanish, but why wouldn't they later come back? How would a being at that level of power go about retiring?

Around the same time I was pondering these questions, I was getting an introduction to the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. In the process of this, I picked up an old anthology of stories mainly based around the novella, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Now, that novella itself had an inspiration on my setting, not the least of which was the inclusion of the Dreamlands themselves in my version of the Region of Dreams under 3E- but the more immediate impact was felt from one of the other stories in that anthology, written in conjunction with E. Hoffman Price- Through the Gates of the Silver Key.

That story's hard to track down these days, as it's not commonly included in Lovecraft anthologies- and I won't go into any details about it here other than to mention that it contains what still stands (in my mind) as the single best description of the Far Realm, and what it means to go there, ever put to paper or electronic data. It also contained a description of the use of an artifact, the titular Silver Key, which I realized immediately upon reading the story, fit my need regarding the "retirement of the top Tertiar" exactly. So, I sat down to make myself a Silver Key artifact using 1st Edition rules.

Even then, I stated point-blank that the Key was "probably" crafted by the Originals, and was the only thing they left behind in Incomplete Creation when they took their leave of it- furthermore, I stated that the only means of destroying the Key would lay in taking it outside Incomplete Creation, which meant that for all intents and purposes it would be impossible for anybody below the point of transitioning to Original status. Before I detail the powers as I translated them in 3rd Edition terms, I'll list the powers I picked out of the 1E DMG to give the Silver Key:

  • 12 x I: E, F, H, P, U, V, W, NN, OO, PP, SS, VV (can't be dispelled, lasts 100 years unless commanded otherwise)
  • 4 x II: K (no limit to range or times/day), DD, NN, PP
  • 3 x III: B, D, M
  • 1 x IV: Z (when used for attack and not defense)
  • 10 x V: B (when rotated properly, to racial max if not 18), D, H, N, V, X, Y, BB, JJ, LL
  • 3 x VI: C, D, L
Those of you who have a copy of the 1st Edition Advanced D&D Dungeon Master's Guide can find descriptions of those powers to translate all that, on pages 162-164. Bask in the nostalgic glow, and gape at how appallingly powerful this Silver Key was. :) I won't bother detailing what this list means here, though, because I'm really here to discuss the 3.X Edition of the Silver Key and what it meant within (and to) my game.

Of course, having just typed that sentence about it being appallingly powerful, I'm about to blow that estimation right out of the water, because the 3.X version of the Silver Key is far, far more so.

In concept, the artifact is simple: it facilitates travel in any dimension. One operates the Key by making turns with it through specific, precise directions, and activating it is usually a standard action. Certain (more powerful) abilities require more turns, and take longer to activate as a result, but by and large a standard action is enough. When the Key is used, its user can feel the power engage, and there is a sense of a lock being opened or something "clicking" into place as it happens. Also, because this thing comes literally from beyond Reality, there is a sense of inherent wrongness wherever and whenever it is used- animals shy away from the place, intelligent creatures feel chills go down their spines, plants wilt or wither as if trying to crawl away- it's all very similar to effects that occur in the presence of any Far Realm contamination on the Material Plane, except that this weird effect even affects natives of the Far Realm itself if it's used there.

But in this way, the Silver Key can be used to Teleport (with no error of course, if activated correctly- see below) at will, Plane Shift to any desired plane (also with no chance of error, unlike the base spell) at will. It can also open Dimension Doors and Gates, but users rarely bother with this once they can do the first two, because there is no need: the Key can Teleport (and Plane Shift) Other(s) with scarcely more difficulty than it can the Key's own wielder. Of course, creatures targeted by the Key get a saving throw to avoid being involuntarily sent away, but since the Key was crafted by SEPHIROSOPHIA- a Time Lord with 5 Transcendental Ranks and 150,000 hit dice- its save DC would be on the order of 76,000 at an absolute minimum. Nothing below high Sidereal rank is going to be able to meet that without a natural 20.

But the power hasn't even begun to flow yet, because the Silver Key doesn't just allow travel in space or between planes. It can also transport between times and possibilities (i.e., through the fourth and fifth dimensions) just as easily as the others. So, by making the proper turns, one can "CLICK" to a couple of millennia in the past, or a few centuries into the future; likewise, assuming one is skilled enough to make the proper turns, one can transport between possibilities and enter a universe, say, where the Netheril civilization never fell- or the Cataclysm never happened- or the true Asmodeus, the original ruler of devilkind, is still alive- or, on a less spectacular (but potentially more explosive) note, where your friend rolled a natural-20-confirmed-critical-hit on that dragon and lopped off its head with one clean swipe. The Key can only be used for travel in these dimensions once per day, but since we're talking about time travel, here, it hardly matters to Immortals.

As if that wasn't enough, the Silver Key has one property- again resulting from the incredible potency of its creator- that gives security experts fits and nightmares. To whit, no barrier of any kind can stop it. That Dimension Lock? Who cares, we have the Silver Key. That Prismatic Sphere? Shyeah, right! That Wall of Force? Ha ha, tell me another one! Forbiddance? More like "Forfalsehopeance." The Silver Key CLICKs through them all like they're not even there. This is true even of more powerful effects, like barriers put up using some Cosmic Ability that hasn't been specifically listed in Ascension, or even into Dead Zones where no other magic can possibly work. Nothing, bar none, stops the Key. The only limit on this ability is that the Silver Key itself- recall, since it is a Soul Object, it is intelligent and capable of acting on its own if it wishes- can decide to not activate itself, or send itself and/or its wielder and/or targets to a different place than intended. Also, no matter what else happens, if the Silver Key is being carried by a creature who undergoes dimensional transport by some means other than the Silver Key, then the Key doesn't go along for the ride- it stays behind wherever the erstwhile holder/carrier/user just Teleported (or whatever) from.

Now consider, on top of all the above, that the Silver Key is actually an object from the Higher Dimensions operating within the Lower ones. What that means, among other things, is that to the Key, everything in Reality is a Flatlander- we are A. Square and it is an inhabitant of the mythical Third Dimension. Consider, too, that the existence of different possibilities as other dimensional locations means that the Key can pull objects from other possibilities into its user's. Or, it can "align" a target creature or object with some other possible version of it, or swap their positions. This means that the Key is not limited to just travel powers- it can also alter targets in desired ways. For example, it can be used to raise all of its target's ability scores to their racial maxima, just as if the player rolling the character had originally rolled all 18s on the dice. It can also give a target the permanent +5 inherent bonus to all six ability scores, just as if it had Perfect Body and Perfect Mind. Now, both of these abilities can only be used once per year, but even so- very powerful. It can even be used to restore youth to the target, reducing it by one age category, 1/month (logically, it should also be possible to use it to age a target 1/month as well, like a dragon, but I felt this was too powerful and so left it out).

Ironically, I gave the Key one ability usable only in the Far Realm which is arguably more powerful: it can actually be used, Out (Un)there, to grant a mortal being divinity- to cause the target to undergo divine ascension with no other requisites. And the Key was used this way during my campaign, just once, to ascend four party members who did not already have any Divine Ranks and grant them desired Portfolios in the process. Doing this requires that a special process of "translation" be accomplished, to bring the consciousness of the mortals in question into alignment with Everything; this is the purpose of the Silver Key's special interaction with the Path of the Ultimate Gate (mentioned in my post on Planar Edifices above). At the Path, one can use the Silver Key to perform a special Ritual of Opening which creates an actual portal to the Far Realm, a thing which the Key cannot (or at any rate, will not) do anywhere else. Upon passing through the portal, mortals leave everything of their former lives behind them, even their own identities, but become a sort of "raw consciousness" which the Key is able to then manipulate and make "additions" to to facilitate the transformation to deities.

It can also be used, on a slightly less powerful note, to open Gates intended for Calling (1/day unless the wielder wants to pay the 1000 XP), or call up Elemental Swarms 1/week. It can summon a Noble Genie 1/week, to serve the user for 1 day, and 1/month it can even summon a Demon Lord or equivalent small-deity-type creature. Less obviously, it can use its transport powers to shift the location from which issues the user's voice, allowing Ventriloquism 3/day, and by shifting the user "out of phase" a bit with the present location, it can provide Greater Invisibility 3/day. This shifting of sensory impressions also allows it to perform functions such as Vision 1/day, and Commune or Contact Other Plane (whichever is desired) 1/week.

Despite being utterly unimpeded by the barriers of others, the Silver Key can make powerful barriers of its own. It can create an Arcane Lock on a door or portal, which (given its origin) has a caster level so high as to be un-dispellable; this Arcane Lock lasts for 100 years unless the user or the Key want to get rid of it earlier than that. Also, the Key can stop undesirable effects from affecting its user's mind, and thus renders the user immune to Charms or Holds or similar effects such as Brain Lock. Because it avoids any travel except its own, the Key cannot be stolen if it doesn't want to be, a fact which greatly disquieted Zurvan (yes, the old First One of Time himself) when he tried to take the Key from PCs who had just met him.

Finally, on top of all the rest, the Silver Key- being as it is in some sense outside all dimensions of Reality- is able to sense just about anything within Reality that it wants to sense. It can bestow Darkvision and Low-Light Vision on its user (and typically does so constantly), provide Clairaudience/Clairvoyance at will, and by its ability to "see" the thoughts in the minds of the lower-dimensional beings it's operating near, the Key can also produce Comprehend Languages, Tongues (both at will), Detect Thoughts 3/day, Detect (all alignments) and True Seeing 1/day each. And lastly, the Key has one final power that characters in my game used more than just about any other: 1/month, it can produce an effect called Limited Omniscience. This is like an Epic version of Legend Lore or other divination that doesn't answer in riddles (or in fact anything other than clear, understandable language and complete detail), basically an "ask the DM one question he has to give an answer to unless something Transcendental is blocking it" ability.

The Silver Key is shaped weirdly, with many projections so fine and thin that they're razor-sharp, and it can in fact be used as a bladed weapon should the wielder want to do so. Hilariously, given all its other powers, the Silver Key counts as merely a +6 Short Sword when used this way- though in the hands of an especially strong being it can count as being made of any material up to and including Singularium (for the purposes of calculating base damage).

There are essentially three limits on the Silver Key's powers, one of which (the "aura of wrongness" mentioned far above) isn't really a limit on the Key at all. Instead, whenever a major power is used (what constitutes "major" here is up to the DM), the Key produces an aura of Fear around itself, in a 20-foot radius (or out to 4 times the wielder's base Reach, whichever is larger). This aura can, and sometimes does, affect the user himself, though most users only experience this effect when they're also experiencing one of those from the second limitation. For, the Silver Key does not like to be used offensively, and anything done with it which could be considered an attack (though Calling or Summoning an unwilling creature is not considered an attack, just about any other power used on an unwilling target- up to and including attacking it with the Key used as a sword- is) causes it to punish the wielder. It does this by removing senses, first; usually striking the user blind for 1d4 rounds, deaf for 1d4x10 minutes, and/or losing his sense of smell for 2d4 hours. If that first warning doesn't deter the user, the Key follows it up by causing level loss; a user who continues to use the Key offensively soon starts to lose 1 level/HD (not negative level, mind you: actual permanent level loss) each and every time he does so. Finally, if the Key gets annoyed enough, it may decide to just pull the user out of Reality entirely, causing him to vanish abruptly- never to be seen again.

The third limitation on the Silver Key is that use of its activated powers (that is, pretty much everything besides the Darkvision and Low-Light Vision) requires making very precise motions and turns with it. This is a skill check, and in my game the skill we used was a specialized branch of Knowledge: Knowledge (Mathematics). In a game using only the core subskills, my suggestion is that (Planes) or (Arcana) would be the best subskills to use for this- but regardless, every use of the Silver Key requires a skill roll. If the roll fails, the power is not used up, but neither does it activate: nothing happens. At the DM's option, a roll of natural 1 on the skill check (whether or not the result beats the DC), or a roll that comes close to the DC without beating it, might produce a lesser/undesirable result (and use up the power as if it had been used correctly) instead of just doing nothing.

  • The DC for spells other than travel effects is typically 2 x the spell level, +5 for each target beyond the first in a multi-target situation.
  • The DC for Summoning a Noble Genie is 25. Summoning a Demon Lord (or similar creature) is DC equal to the target's HD + 18.
  • Raising the target's ability scores, either to racial max or by the +5 inherents, is DC 50. This can only be done on one target at a time.
  • Travel within the same plane via Teleportation-equivalent is DC 25 for the user alone, +5 for each target beyond the user.
  • Opening a portal such as a Dimension Door (keeping in mind that there is no range limit for the Silver Key) is DC 30, plus 10 per round the portal stays open. Targets are irrelevant for this, obviously, since anything can go through the portal once it's open.
  • Travel to another plane, via error-less Plane Shift, is DC 35 for the user alone, +5 for each target beyond the user.
  • Opening a portal to another plane, like a Gate, is DC 45, plus 10 per round the portal stays open.
  • Travel to the Far Realm is DC 70, +10 per target beyond the user.
  • Portals to the Far Realm can not be created by the Silver Key, except specifically using the special Ritual at the Path of the Ultimate Gate (mentioned above). There is no DC for this Ritual, because if the DM has the PCs learn of it and reach the Path at all, then they clearly deserve to succeed and ascend to godhood. Failure would, therefore, be an absurd anticlimax and should not be more than a dramatic possibility.
  • Travel to another cosmos is DC 100, +20 per target beyond the user.
  • Opening a portal to another cosmos is DC 200, plus 50 per round the portal stays open. Travel through a portal between cosmoi typically takes several subjective months, so mortal users had best be prepared with plenty of food and water for any such trip (if they can even meet the DC).
  • Traveling to another time, without changing location in either plane or space, is DC 40 within one day, 50 within 1 week, 60 within 1 month, 70 within 1 year, 80 within 10 years, 90 within 100 years, 100 within 1000 years, 110 within 10,000 years, and so on. This is for the user alone: to bring others along, the DC increases by 1/10 the base DC from time alone (that is, +9 within a century of travel) per other target transported.
  • Traveling to another time within the same plane, but not in the same starting spatial position, is double the DC given above for time travel after taking other targets into account. So, 80 for within the same day, 100 for within the same week, etc.
  • Traveling to another time within another plane is five times the DC given for basic time travel, after taking other targets into account. So, 200 for travel within 1 day, 250 for travel within 1 week, etc.
  • Traveling to another time within the Far Realm is exactly like teleporting into the Far Realm normally, since it is outside Time by its very nature.
  • Traveling to another time within another cosmos is exactly like traveling to the destination time on another plane, since other cosmoi obey different rules of time and the DC for time travel across planes is already higher than travel between cosmoi.
  • Portals to other times cannot be created by the Silver Key.
  • Traveling to another possibility while staying in the same time and spatial position is DC 100, plus 20 per target other than the user.
  • Traveling to another possibility while moving in space within the same plane, but staying at the same time, is DC 200 plus 40 per target beyond the user.
  • Traveling to another possibility while staying at the same time, but moving in space and to another plane, is DC 500, plus 100 per target beyond the user.
  • Traveling to another possibility while staying in the same spatial position, but moving also in time, is DC 200 within 1 day, 250 within 1 week, 300 within 1 month, 350 within 1 year, 400 within 10 years, 450 within 100 years, 500 within 1000 years, and so on. Each target beyond the user increases the DC by 1/5 the base amount: so +40 within 1 day, +50 within 1 week, etc.
  • Traveling to another possibility while staying within the same plane, but moving both spatial position and temporal, is DC 400 within 1 day, 500 within 1 week, 600 within 1 month, 700 within 1 year, 800 within 10 years, 900 within 100 years, 1000 within 1000 years, etc. Each target beyond the user increases the DC by 1/5 the base amount: so +80 within 1 day, +100 within 1 week, and so on.
  • Traveling to another possibility while moving in both time and plane is DC 1000 within 1 day, 1250 within 1 week, 1500 within 1 month, 1750 within 1 year, 2000 within 10 years, 2250 within 10 years, 2500 within 100 years, and so forth. Each target beyond the user increases the DC by 1/5 the base amount, so +200 within 1 day, +250 within 1 week, etc.
  • Portals to other possibilities cannot be opened by the Silver Key.
  • If the user is trying to affect only other creatures and not himself, with a travel power or a power such as Greater Invisibility which would normally be used upon the user, then the DC is doubled after all targets are accounted for.
  • If the user is trying to affect unwilling targets, for example by sending them to another plane, then the DC is multiplied by 5 after all of the above is accounted for.
For some examples, using Greater Invisibility on 3 party members besides the user himself would be DC ((4 x 2 for a 4th level spell) + (5 x 3 for 3 targets beyond the first)) x 2 for not including the user = 46. Transporting the user and his 4 party members to a city on another continent of the same world would be DC (25 + (4 x 5)) = 45. Sending 3 enemies from the Material Plane to Demogorgon's layer of the Abyss, 90 years ago when he was still alive and in a relatively quiet phase between wars with Orcus and Graz'zt, would be DC ((90 x 5 for travel to another time across planes within 100 years) + (9 x 5 x 2 for 2 extra targets in travel to another time across planes within 100 years)) x 2 for not including the user himself x 5 for affecting unwilling targets = 5400. Also, in the final case, the Silver Key would hit the user with punishment for using it offensively.

As for what the Silver Key meant to my game, it is difficult to overstate its impact. The purpose of leaving the Silver Key behind in DABBATIALDABAOTH, I decided (and told my players during the game) was to keep the malformed Demiurge from "growing up" and assuming a place among the other Eternals, since it was "born" with a "birth defect" (namely, the stunted 7th dimension) and would effectively be a psychotic/sociopath within their society if allowed to grow normally. SEPHIROSOPHIA made the Silver Key and placed the artifact within its child, to ensure that DABBATIALDABAOTH would never grow to full consciousness (as the Eternals view it anyway) and thereby be a threat within Eternal society. The PCs, over the course of the campaign, gave the Key a means to fulfill its mandate in an unexpected manner by removing the Parasite which had prevented the Seventh dimension from growing properly, essentially "writing out" the birth defect and allowing DABBATIALDABAOTH a chance to grow properly and assume a normal position within Eternal society once it finally finished its growth. For this, the Silver Key gave the PCs many allowances it would not normally allow, for example allowing them to use it offensively to send many Hungry Void swarms into the Entropy/Madness cosmos (and within that, certain destruction) without punishment, and allowing them to even use it as a weapon in the final battle against the Egg Occupant (though to be honest they only did that because they had seen a vision from the future showing that they did so against it). In the end, the Silver Key was taken back by SEPHIROSOPHIA, to an unknown fate, but given its ability to time travel and cross all barriers (even those of Nexus Events!), it could still show up again in future games run within DABBATIALDABAOTH.

With this post, my description of the setting I ran my game within is essentially finished, except for one last post (to follow on a future date) wherein I will discuss "Favored of the First Ones" templates that were used in my game. I hope you readers found them edifying and useful; perhaps you will use these ideas (or other ideas suspiciously like them) in your own games. For my own part, this game is done now, though as stated a few posts above I have recently been thinking about how the setting would have changed after the Grand Nexus.
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With this post, my description of the setting I ran my game within is essentially finished, except for one last post (to follow on a future date) wherein I will discuss "Favored of the First Ones" templates that were used in my game. I hope you readers found them edifying and useful; perhaps you will use these ideas (or other ideas suspiciously like them) in your own games. For my own part, this game is done now, though as stated a few posts above I have recently been thinking about how the setting would have changed after the Grand Nexus.

To be honest, I still ponder the Unseen University and its role in Taera's future almost daily. Perhaps I'll take some time to describe Moiranna's religion here, if you don't mind. I miss the game dearly, I have to say! Perhaps, sometime, in a place where curious players of my own won't be able to read, we can talk about the ways in which my own world is connected to Moiranna now that she has BECOME. :)

If you ever do run a game, I certainly hope Moiranna's Avatar has been successful in keeping Urgic Magic alive on Taera, as I very much would like to play a pure Derivator sometime. ;)


First Post
Those artifacts are really cool, all powerful but limited the way artifacts should be. I'll certainly steal some of them for my own games.

Just a couple of questions if you don't mind.

Do you have any examples ofwhat would or could constitue a Nexus event? I think I understand the bascic concept but I'm unsure of the exact scale of such an occurance.

Secondly given the vast power of players in your campaign, what sort of monsters or other foes did they fight? I remember the nanomachine void thing from another thread but did they generally just fight other gods or did they just not spend much time on combat?


First Post
Do you have any examples of what would or could constitue a Nexus event? I think I understand the bascic concept but I'm unsure of the exact scale of such an occurance.
The simplest way is probably if I give a partial timeline of the known Nexus Events prior to about 2 years before the Grand Nexus (which was the last Event my PCs had a direct hand in). If I'd thought of it at the time, I would've included this in the post on Nexus Events in the first place.

  • ~250,000 years prior to Grand Nexus (Fall of the First Empire): "Fugue Plane" Entity is disturbed enough by sensory impressions from the future regarding its destruction at the hands of inhabitants of the Material Plane that it sets up the Abyssal Gate, which opens a portal between the Material Plane and the Abyss such that they effectively become 1 plane. Portal brings down the civilization ruling the world at the time, who invent (and leave behind) such powerful artifacts as Firestars (essentially, reusable Nuke spells in amulet form) in their desperation to stop the demonic tide. Eventually, the emperor of that civilization sacrifices himself by passing through the portal to the demiplane itself and casting an Epic ritual intended to close the Gate forever. Ritual only succeeds partway, forcing the portal closed except for 24 hours following the passage of a total solar eclipse over the Material Plane side of the Gate, an occurrence which happens every 5,000 years following this date.
  • ~25,000 years prior to Grand Nexus (the Great Red Fleet): Fugue Plane Entity leaks the location of the Abyssal side of the Gate to Lower Plane inhabitants prior to Gate opening that time. Devils invade Abyss from the Hells in an effort to succeed where demons have so often failed, but are rebuffed due to extreme power of Material Plane inhabitants on that side. Material Plane inhabitants are incensed enough by the affront that they send a counter-invasion of their own dubbed "the Great Red Fleet" including (among other things) three planet-sized warships bristling with high-tech firepower, which blast their way through the Hells leaving only Dispater of the original Lords of the Nine alive (because he betrayed his race and let them through his territory unmolested), eventually arriving in Nessus itself and killing the original Asmodeus. The being claiming that name in later times was either a surviving Aspect of the original, or an imposter, nobody (else) is ever really sure. Following this, the original Incarnation of Good, ruling from the top of the 666 Heavens, censures the mortals, and for his trouble is the second target of their wrath- the Great Red Fleet turns to the Heavens and storms them just as easily, killing him and leaving the mortals in charge of the Heavens. During the course of the following millennia, the population of devils and angels slowly recovers, but never quite reaches the strength it once had. The next several Abyssal Gate openings see almost no demons dare the portal, out of fear of what the mortals might do.
  • ~2,000 years prior to Grand Nexus (the War of the Return): Ice Elves, mutant survivors in a post-apocalyptic world following a catastrophic war called the Annihilation which had occurred 3,000 years previously, are searching for a plane from which to rule their slaves and subjects agelessly and forever. They open a portal to the Far Realm, leading (eventually) to the events of the Gates of Firestorm Peak but more importantly providing a way back to the Material Plane for the Mind Flayers and Aboleth, who had been forced out of the world by the First Empire over 200,000 years previously. The returning Mind Flayers and Aboleth scour the planet, above and below ground, bringing an end to Ice Elf civilization and creating several new races of mutant survivors before they are finally confined in the deep underground. After rebuffing the Returners from their own continent, the Shades- already masters of Urgic Magic by this time- investigate the Far Realm where the Ice Elves left off, and concoct their Plan of the Final Gate- resulting in the Black Burst that ends their civilization on the Material Plane and leaves their continent a barren wasteland where any living creature that dies is corrupted to rise again as an undead thing.
  • ~200 years prior to Grand Nexus: This Event did not actually have as profound an impact on my campaign world as it did others, but I have assumed that this time represented the Time of Troubles in the Faerunian Material Plane, perhaps the Cataclysm on Krynn, and several others scattered across the cosmos. It resulted, among other things, from the rise of a new Incarnation of Good to take the place of the old one, and a realigning of the priorities in the Upper Planes such that they were essentially unified against Evil (and the Lower Planes in particular). During this time, an army of Deamons/Yugoloths invaded Elysium, and were only rebuffed by the locals after Taliesid the Lion cast an Epic ritual to awaken a being called "the Soul of Elysium" which singlehandedly wiped out the invading army in less than an hour before going back to wherever it came from.
  • ~20 years prior to Grand Nexus (Gate Day): This was the Event around which my campaign revolved for about 7 years, from when the PCs were 1st level, all the way up until they became DR 3 just-ascended deities. This was the final opening of the Abyssal Gate, the day the Fugue Plane Entity had been dreading for hundreds of thousands of years, when all the prophecies came to fruition. There were essentially two possibilities here: either the players' side won, killing the demiplane and closing the Abyssal Gate forever so that no future society would have to worry about it, or the Entity would win and the Material world would become a literal World of Nightmares where the few hardy survivors would be constantly scourged by demons and civilization would be nothing more than a legendary dream out of the past. The original plan was to have the PCs fight the Entity without the Sword of Time, discovering that they couldn't kill it and forcing them into the World of Nightmares where they would eventually learn about the Sword and collect it, only then traveling back in time to the Gate Day to truly kill the Entity and end the threat- but their ascension proceeded more quickly than I had anticipated, short-circuiting my plans and forcing me to rewrite things as they happened in game. To whit: they arrived on the Fugue Plane side, where a dying alternate-future version of the party tank (carrying the Sword of Time in a Portable Hole) gave it to the divine past-version of himself before the Fugue Plane crushed him to death- thus giving the PCs the weapon they needed to finally kill the Entity.
  • ~2 years prior to Grand Nexus (Rise of Tiegon): The mortal avatar of Thangorodoth revealed himself at last, in the form of a mortal boy who was somehow able to naturally use all ten Urgic Magic Sources at once (standard rules assume that a person naturally skilled in the use of Urgic Magic- the Urgic equivalent of a Sorcerer- is only linked to one of the ten Sources, and can only use the others by taking special feats), eventually discovering his true heritage and becoming a full Antigod going by the name Tiegon. He shut the standard gods out of the Material Plane utterly, killing many and forcing what was left of their religions underground, until a party of mortal heroes found an artifact which was capable of opening a portal through his planar block to the Outer Planes and allow the true gods back into the world for an apocalyptic showdown. Eventually Tiegon was destroyed by that same mortal band, whose leader was wielding the Sword of Time. Following this, the Sword warped itself out of the central cosmos entirely, saying that its presence would just be a distraction from what was to come next. The PCs from Gate Day actually skipped over this Event and heard about it only secondhand, due to being in the Pure-Spirit cosmos at the time.
  • ~2 months prior to Gate Day (Rise of the Sidereals): The suicide of one PC, a desperation move intended to gain the attention and favor of the First One of Entropy, succeeded in causing Entropy to create an "avatar" of Itself exactly resembling her original self but with extra powers (which i will detail in the "Favored of the First Ones" templates post since this was what led me to create those templates in the first place). The shockwaves this event sent reverberating through the central cosmos, more specifically the imbalance to the traditional detente that direct interference by a full First One in the affairs of the cosmos represented, caused the Sidereals on every plane of the central cosmos to awaken from dormancy all at the same time. Most Divine Realms across the cosmos were eradicated by the awakening Overgods as they reasserted their dominance; about half of the surviving gods only did so because they were offered sanctuary in the Device in the Desolation (created, ironically, by the very Shard of Entropy who had precipitated the awakening in the first place).
  • Other Nexus Events prior to the Grand Nexus: were not detailed by me, due to coming so close together. Seriously: the next one after the Rise of the Sidereals was scheduled for only about 5 weeks later, then 4 days, then a few hours... I could go on but the point is moot. The real focus by then was...
  • The Grand Nexus: The Ritual of Opening finally takes place, as the Ring Portal focuses all its energy on the Layer of the Ritual deep within the Far Realm (a layer which incidentally also served as home to the actual Entities who were the ten Sources of Urgic Magic). In the Material Plane, an army of gods led by PCs from both groups acting together overcomes the Parasite from the Egg, a baby Brane Dragon who was preventing the Seventh First One from taking its proper place in the grand scheme of things. SEPHIROSOPHIA, the actual Creator of the DABBATIALDABAOTH Reality, arrives through the open Final Gate and facilitates both the Transcendence into Eternal form of many observers present at the Ritual (including all of the remaining Shade Masters and most of the PCs), and the recognition by the two halves of the Seventh First One of its true nature so that they could finally merge and grow into their proper place. DABBATIALDABAOTH wakes on every plane of existence, in every cosmos, but is lulled back to slumber/dormancy by the Sendings of its Creator before it can do much damage.
Noteworthy on the above list is that several obvious massive Events, such as the several openings of the Abyssal Gate besides the two that occurred during Nexus Events (they happened every 5,000 years), as well as the destruction of the remaining Sidereal portion of Thangorodoth, did not count as Nexus Events. Nexus Events were different in that they sort of "ripple" out from the Grand Nexus that caused them all, and also in that major rules changes for the game (for example, switching from one edition to another, like 3.0 to 3.5 or Pathfinder) should ideally be saved for Nexi rather than dropped into the game at other times. Most Nexus Events, as should now be clear, involve direct action by Sidereals in even mortal-level affairs, and this is why the rules can change during such times.

Secondly given the vast power of players in your campaign, what sort of monsters or other foes did they fight? I remember the nanomachine void thing from another thread but did they generally just fight other gods or did they just not spend much time on combat?
There were several occasions when they fought other deities, and honestly if I'd been better at coming up with good optimized stats for such opponents they would have fought a lot more of them. ;) But more often, I threw whatever monsters at them that I thought I reasonably could from the IH Bestiary or other sources. They fought several Nexus Dragons, for example, and a Neutronium Golem, and I used guidelines from the Bestiary to create several opponents of similar level that weren't actually in the book such as the Eye of Daath (an Inevitable on a level similar to a Seraphim) or Pandorym (from the Elder Evils book, though the PCs actually skipped the cosmos before facing this thing so I never actually used the stats for it). I also threw Macrobe and double-Macrobe Vermin at one party, which usually proved to be relative pushovers- they're very over-CR'ed since they can't (by the rules) take feats, or other important things such as Divine or higher Abilities.

Combat, in the later game, meaning as the Grand Nexus approached, became less and less common, and when it did occur it often became anticlimictic due to the players' tendency to pre-analyze their potential opponents to death before even fighting them. With the exception of the Parasite, at the very end of the campaign, they didn't once enter a fight they didn't know in advance they could win. Accordingly, most XP and QP came from story awards by that time.

paradox42 said:
Following this, the original Incarnation of Good, ruling from the top of the 666 Heavens, censures the mortals, and for his trouble is the second target of their wrath- the Great Red Fleet turns to the Heavens and storms them just as easily, killing him and leaving the mortals in charge of the Heavens.

And because *I* know that Damok was one of the movers and shakers of the Great Red Fleet, I now know how a Chaotic Good deity was able to instate his Divine Realm in the Seven Mounting Heavens! Well--I suppose I don't, but I bet this had a lot to do with it. Cool!


First Post
And because *I* know that Damok was one of the movers and shakers of the Great Red Fleet, I now know how a Chaotic Good deity was able to instate his Divine Realm in the Seven Mounting Heavens! Well--I suppose I don't, but I bet this had a lot to do with it. Cool!
I'll note here that I have, throughout this thread, been very careful to avoid using any proper names for any beings below about Elder Deity level, so as to make the concepts maximally portable to other games and settings. But yes, you do have a rather large Clue there.

I'll note here that I have, throughout this thread, been very careful to avoid using any proper names for any beings below about Elder Deity level, so as to make the concepts maximally portable to other games and settings. But yes, you do have a rather large Clue there.

I figured as much. :) But that was one of the little mysteries that always had me wondering. It's nice to finally have some idea. I couldn't help but comment.


First Post
i've been slowly reading this whole thread over the last week or so, and i must say i rather love what i've read so far(i'm on page two atm). Some is a little too mathy-scientific for me(i am incredibly terrible at math), but a lot of your ideas are BADASS, especially some of your planar ideas. I really love the Fate ones, very cool concept. Doubly so since my main group plays both D&D and VtM.

is the Silver Key your last entry, or will there be more??


First Post
Outstanding thread - that Silver Key thing is too powerful. :p
I did describe it as "appallingly powerful," if you read the post closely.

But honestly, what else could one do, with an artifact created by such a great being? It has to be appallingly powerful or it breaks the integrity of the whole setup. Really, in this modern age it sort of leads me to wonder what other Aeon-created artifacts might be like. If I ever try running a game around the presumed time when DABBATIALDABAOTH "grows up" properly, I'll probably have to come up with a few.

If I get the time I'll pick your brain about a few things. ;)
Of course, you and I have traded emails before (though it now occurs to me that it might have been with my old, now dead, account)- so feel free to do that again if you like. I'm usually pretty prompt about answering them, and check my account several times per day.


First Post
The Entropic Shard

I promised earlier to post the "Favored of the First Ones" templates that came up in my game, but given the experience of the "artifact list" and "Planar Edifices" posts, I'm going to do this list in a piecemeal fashion rather than try to make one post containing all of them. This is partly because these things, being templates, are rather long anyway, and also because that way it'll bump the thread when I post a new one. :lol:

But, this was the first one, the one that started the whole trend. Two in-game trends led to its creation: one was a setting feature that I haven't yet explained (but will, in a general sense, below); the other was a plotline that developed after a pair of PCs asked precisely the wrong questions at the Cloud of Secrets.

The setting feature is one of the unique features of the Urgic Magic spellcasting classes in my Material world: I explained back on page 1 that the classes don't have much to distinguish them from other casters except for their spell lists, but actually there is one feature that's quite relevant to this post: the fact that, when the spontaneous Urgic casters (who, as mentioned in the post listing Nexus Events above, are always tied to one of the ten Sources at 1st level and are forever after bound to that Source) hit certain levels, they gain special templates which are supposed to represent their bodies being partly (or wholly) "taken over" by energy from their chosen Source. In the case of Raithe's PC, named Moiranna (he's named her more than once, so I'll feel free to), she used the Negative/Entropic Source and was therefore set for two templates. At 20th level, she gained the Shadow Creature template, and then at 38th, she gained the special "Entropic Apotheosis" template which is called Cthonic. Now, each of the ten Sources has a specific pair of templates for this class feature; one granted at 20th, the other at 38th.

The relevant factor about these templates is that the 38th-level "Source Apotheosis" templates were designed after I had the IH, and in fact were specifically designed to look a lot like hyper-specialized DR 3 templates. A mortal character getting one of these would get a tremendous power boost compared to a pure-mortal character of another class, but to divine characters, the Apotheosis templates are by and large weaker than what they'd get as gods anyway- so nothing to write home about (just a couple of extra Divine Abilities really). This, too, was by design; I wanted these to be a sort of "introduction to godhood" set of things to get the players excited by the prospect of questing for Immortality.

But once the PCs started popping up to godhood left and right, this presented a rather obvious extension of the idea to me (Raithe and a couple of other players did too, in fact, though I'd thought of it myself before any of them suggested it in a game session): if the Sources can create these "godhood lite" templates that sort-of mimic DR 3, why could there not also be templates designed for divine Urgic casters to gain, which would mimic Sidereal existence in much the same way? This is where the idea for the Entropic Shard began- it in fact turned out to be such a template.

But, on to the second catalyst- the plot. What happened was this: one day, at the Cloud, the endlessly inquisitive PC god of Secrets made the mistake of asking one too many questions about the Far Realm and Who (or more to the point, What) ruled it. I decided that his questioning had succeeded in actually waking up Thought, just a little bit, and that the crazy First One would do something crazy in response. Thought broke off a piece of itself- a sort of Seed of its own personality and power- and implanted it inside the god of Secrets. Two other PCs were there at the time, and I told them that they saw a wave of green light (green being a color particularly associated with the Far Realm in my game) expand out from the Seeded character and vanish into the mists, as well as the character's eyes flash green briefly. He seemed fine, but one of the two PCs just wouldn't let it go and asked pointed questions of the Cloud to try and find out what had just happened. Naturally, this got him Seeded too, immediately afterward. The third PC (who as it happens was Moiranna, though that's not relevant to the plot here) got smart and decided to avoid that line of questioning in the future.

But, here was a very interesting thing, I thought to myself. The First One has broken off pieces of Itself to sort of "possess" these two characters when it suits It, but why go to all this trouble at all? I already had in mind, at this time, that I wanted to eventually have the Demiurge wake up and start the process of consuming the Sidereals, so the obvious answer here was that Thought was- on some level- dimly aware of this impending doom and wanted to hide pieces of Itself away somewhere to perhaps survive in some form after the Demiurge chomped It.

Then I hit on the idea that if Thought did this, why couldn't (or wouldn't) the other five? Six First Ones, six PCs- and though two had already been "Seeded," thus creating a sort of game of "musical Seed-chairs" for the First Ones, I realized that it could make for a spectacular campaign touring the various cosmoses and deciding which First Ones to save pieces of. The players would decide who got which Seed, in the end, and therefore also which First One was eventually left out (in the end, for the record, Time was the one they never got a Seed from- though that didn't matter given how things turned out). So I pulled a few railroady plot-points and connived to get the PCs out into the Far Realm, and then later (due to a poorly-worded navigational divination, not that they realized at the time why it was badly worded, tee hee :devil:) into the Pure-Spirit cosmos, where they got the second Seed. And Metatron, being the kindly Entity It is, actually explained to the PCs exactly what was going on and why It had done this.

But this leads us back to Moiranna, and Entropy- because she was the next one to get Seeded. And here, we return to the old idea of the "mini-Sidereal" Urgic-Magic template, because I had decided two things about Entropy if the PCs actually did try to get a Seed of It instead of leaving It to be the odd First One out. First, Entropy would not send a mere Seed, but would in fact largely (or wholly) consume the Seed-carrier in the process; and second, since this made Entropy the "most expensive" First One in terms of what it would cost to actually get the Seed, it would not be fair to not grant some sort of reward for following through with it.

Moiranna followed through, all right- she got Entropy's attention by Gating to the heart of the Negative Energy Plane, where it was closest to the Pure-Entropy cosmos, and there committing suicide by Detonating her QP after supplicating Entropy and trying to get Its attention. A brief digression to explain this method of suicide: this was something I had borrowed from the old Primal Order line; basically it means that the deity in question "sets" all her quintessence to explode all at once- every single Quintessence Point creates a miniature explosion. It's a chain reaction: once started, there is no stopping it, and all of the deity's QP are consumed in the process. It is therefore invariably suicidal, but the point of doing it is the hope that in the process the deity can take its enemies with it: I ruled that since each QP explodes, the process of Detonation deals 1 die of damage per QP. I never specified which die, but face it: a Lesser Deity with 2,000,000 QP would probably not be unhappy dealing 2,000,000d3 damage (even if a more standard 2,000,000d6 would be better).

But Moiranna wasn't trying to kill anything except herself: she deliberately sacrificed herself to Entropy with the intent of drawing Its attention and favor. And Entropy answered. Through the hole in the cosmic fabric that had been torn open by the massive blast, Entropy sent a tiny portion of Its own mighty dark essence to see what was what- and that tiny piece took the remaining patterns left in the still-Detonating quintessence to give Itself a form. Thus, It formed Itself into an essentially perfect copy of Moiranna, right down to the smallest detail, like the "Ilia-probe" created by V*GER in Star Trek: the Motion Picture. But since the copy, the Shard of Entropy, was literally a piece of the Greater Being, It had extra powers that the original Moiranna had not had.

And thus, we arrive at the template itself. I'll just note the appearance changes here and then move on to the "How to Create an Entropic Shard" section, since anybody actually using this template in their own games would naturally want to tweak it. This template was designed with the assumption that my own table of divinity is being used in the game, so it assumes a great deal more hit dice and LA/CR than would be appropriate to a game using "core Ascension" as we called it in my game.

The Entropic Shard creature still resembles its previous form, but under normal circumstances looks like a simple hole in the world- a perfectly black, dark region- which happens to be shaped exactly like the original character, except for the eyes which are twinkling points of brilliant white light set into the whole as stars in an endless night sky. The Entropic Shard emits absolutely no smell, and its voice sounds oddly distorted as if by several echoes at once that are slightly out of synchronization with the original voice.

Creating an Entropic Shard
"Entropic Shard" is an acquired template that can be applied to any deity of at least Divine Rank 4 which has the Cthonic template and at least 100 caster levels as a [spontaneous caster of Entropic-Source Urgic Magic]. The abilities from this template overlap (do not stack with) those from the Cthonic and Shadow Creature templates the deity gained with [caster] levels. It uses all of the deity's abilities and statistics, except as noted below.

[Quick side note for adaptation to other games: it's probably not necessary to link this solely to Urgic Magic or the Cthonic or Shadow templates. Honestly, any creature of 100 HD and at least DR 4 would do, if it sacrifices itself to Entropy in an effort to gain Entropy's favor, and the First One actually decides to bestow said favor.]

Size and Type: The deity's size and type do not change further. [Important note here! I made this decision because it seemed the most appropriate thing, to keep the character as an Outsider rather than Undead. However, if the Umbrals are supposed to be type Undead rather than Outsider, then this should probably change the character to Undead instead.]
Hit Dice: The deity does not gain any extra HD, but its hit dice change to d100s for all current and future hit dice. The deity continues to gain maximum hit points per hit die, as standard for its Divine Rank. Finally, the deity gains bonus hit points per hit die equal to its CHA modifier (to offset the loss of CON- see below).
Speed: The deity's speed values change to 10 times its original speeds (that is, the base speed values it had without divine or other templates).
AC: The Entropic Shard has a deflection bonus to AC equal to its CHA bonus (minimum +1), an insight bonus to AC equal to its INT bonus (minimum +1), and natural armor equal to ¼ its total hit dice.
Attack: The Entropic Shard gains a +24 insight bonus on all attack rolls.
Damage: All attacks made by the Entropic Shard, whether natural attacks or by weapon, gain a +24 insight bonus to damage. This even applies to spells which deal hit point damage, and the bonus applies to each target of any such spell the deity uses (for example, a Magic Missile spell would deal an extra 24 points of damage to each target, whether or not any target was hit with more than one missile, while a Fireball would simply deal an extra 24 points of damage to creatures in its area before Reflex saves are rolled). Finally, all of the Entropic Shard's natural attack forms (if it has any) are treated as Epic and Cursed for the purposes of overcoming Damage Reduction, and ignore up to 25 points of Hardness (that is, treat any Hardness rating that a target of the Entropic Shard's natural attack has, as if it were 25 points less than its base value).
Special Attacks: An Entropic Shard retains all special attacks it had before, and gains the following:

  • Abrogate (Su): [Since different people likely play this ability differently, I'm cutting out the lengthy description in the original template file and leaving this note instead. This is the ability from Ascension, and since it's such a "chase ability" my players universally gasped or were otherwise shocked when I said Moiranna was getting this.]
  • Annihilating Strike (Su): Whenever the Entropic Shard makes a physical attack (whether by a natural weapon, or by using a manufactured weapon), the attack deals an extra 1d6 points of Permanent damage per 16 hit dice of the deity (rounded down, minimum 1d6). Permanent damage can be healed only by using a Limited Wish, Miracle, or Wish spell. A Limited Wish heals one point of Permanent damage. A Miracle or Wish spell heals one point of Permanent damage per level of the caster. Regardless of how much is healed by any such spell, the casting always costs the caster XP (even if the caster has it as a Spell-Like Ability and uses that).
  • Entropic Spellcharging (Ex): The Entropic Shard gains a +24 insight bonus on all checks against Spell Resistance.
  • Spell-Like Ability: At will- Quickened Gate. The Entropic Shard is able to use Gate as a Swift action, once per round. This even allows the deity to use the Calling function without spending XP, but doing so allows the intended target of the Call a Will save to refuse the summons. Unique beings such as other deities are still under no compulsion to come when Called. [Side note here: my logic for this was that I had told players prior to this event that Entropy was known to be able to travel anywhere It liked, pretty quickly, since It could effectively just "tear holes in Reality" and step through them. Because of this, I also ruled that this special Gate did not depend on use of the Astral Plane, so it could reach planes not connected to the Astral such as the Elemental Plane of Matter.]
Special Qualities: An Entropic Shard retains all special qualities it had before, and gains the following:

  • Apostasy (Ex): The Entropic Shard cannot be affected by any alignment based attacks or effects. Whenever an attack, effect, feat prerequisite, class feature, or any other game mechanic checks the Shard's alignment, the Shard is treated as being whichever alignment grants the most benefit or least penalty. For example, the deity can take Monk levels without being Lawful, Barbarian levels even if it is Lawful, takes no damage from either a Holy Smite or Unholy Smite, and gives no reading (up or down) to a Detect Good spell. This applies even if the alignment based attack or effect comes from an immortal of higher divine status- for all practical purposes, the Entropic Shard is beyond alignment.
  • Cold Absorption (Ex): The Entropic Shard gains Cold Absorption 500. The first 500 points of Cold damage that hit the deity in a given round heal it instead of hurting it.
  • Damage Reduction (Ex): The Entropic Shard gains Damage Reduction 50/Epic and Cursed. A weapon must be both Epic and Cursed (that is, the weapon must have a "bonus" of -6 or lower) to penetrate the Entropic Shard's DR. This replaces any DR granted by the Shadow Creature or Cthonic templates, but otherwise does not change the deity's existing DR (if it has any from other sources).
  • Entropic Aura (Su): The Entropic Shard continually emits an aura of darkness, actually swallowing light and making nearby light sources dimmer. The aura fills the deity's entire Divine Aura, and is effectively an extra effect added on to that Aura which cannot be suppressed or deactivated. Within that range, all light sources are reduced in intensity by 50% (as though under the effect of the psionic power Control Light). Among other effects, this negates any damage the light would normally deal to any creatures within the aura; for example, a Derro within the Aura would not lose CON even in full sunlight, since (within the aura at least) the sunlight is effectively no longer "full." It also allows the character to use its Shadow Blend ability (gained with the Shadow creature template) at will, no matter what the local illumination conditions would normally be. The Entropic Aura also causes extreme bad luck to befall creatures other than the deity within its radius. Enemies of the Entropic Shard take a -24 penalty to all rolls while within the Aura, and all Luck bonuses to rolls are negated (whether they would be granted to enemies or friends, though the Entropic Shard is allowed to choose certain Luck bonuses to allow, so the deity can choose to not affect allies if desired). Effects and abilities which simulate luck by allowing a creature to reroll the dice allow one less reroll than normal if used within the Entropic Aura; in many cases (for example, the power granted by the Luck Domain) this renders the power useless.
  • Entropic Senses (Ex): All of the deity's senses expand to 10 times their base range.
  • Horrific Presence (Su): The deity's Entropic Aura is extremely disturbing to all creatures (living or otherwise) that are not immune to fear. Creatures with less than 3 INT are automatically Hostile to the deity as soon as they enter the Aura, whether by force or otherwise; however, they are also Panicked automatically and therefore do not attack unless prevented from moving away from the Entropic Shard. Creatures with less than 1/4 the Entropic Shard's hit dice are actually paralyzed with fear, rendered unable to move, until the Entropic Shard's aura is no longer in contact with them. Creatures with 3 or more INT must make Will saves (DC = 34 + half the Entropic Shard's HD + its CHA modifier) or also become immediately Panicked, including being paralyzed with fear if their HD is low enough. They are not necessarily Hostile, but any Diplomacy checks the Shard uses on them have a -50 penalty due to the overwhelming horror.
  • Superior Spell Resistance (Ex): The Entropic Shard gains SR equal to 34 + its hit dice. Furthermore, all spells used against the deity must check this special SR twice in order to function; if either check fails, the spell fails to overcome the SR at all.
Saves: The Entropic Shard gains a +24 insight bonus to all saves.
Abilities: Change as follows: STR +60, DEX +36, CON -, INT +60, WIS +60, CHA +72. The deity loses its CON score, but uses its CHA modifier in place of CON for all checks which would normally use CON. The deity also gains bonus hit points per hit die using the CHA modifier, instead of CON.
Skills: The Entropic Shard gains both Maven and Omnicompetent, if it did not already have them; all skills are raised to their maximum possible ranks by hit dice. Furthermore, the deity gains a +24 insight bonus on all skills.

Challenge Rating: Same as the deity +53.
Level Adjustment: Same as the deity's Level Adjustment +80.

Before moving on to the next post, I'll remark that this template- and the others that came later based on the same idea- were essentially intended to be "KR-3 Lite" in the same manner that the Urgic Source Apotheosis templates were supposed to be "DR 3 Lite." This will become more obvious as I detail the others.

I'll also mention that this template grants an insight bonus (which should properly be the domain of Thought rather than Entropy), because I wanted this template to grant bonuses instead of radiating "null penalties" the way Entropy usually does- and so I had to pick one. Insight seemed the most appropriate, under the circumstances.
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First Post
The Material Nucleus

So, having crafted a "Shard template" for Moiranna, which included several Cosmic Abilities (something which alone, in my game, with the one-esoteric rule, was enough to make powergamers salivate), and furthermore included some abilities that players would seriously consider taking even if they didn't fit the character just because they were That Cool (Abrogate being the prime example), my other players started chomping at the bit to go get Shards (not just Seeds) of their own. So, I started to think about what other First Ones might do, if induced to grant extra powers to lesser being like mere deities. And of course, eventually most of the PCs in this party quested for (and won) Shards- including two who already had Seeds (the God of Secrets became an Independent Thought, while the Seed of Spirit was expanded to become the Karmic Messiah).

But that came later- after I made this one. This was the fifth Seed to be granted to the party, and from the beginning of the quest to get it, the player who eventually got it for his PC (the Goddess of Catastrophe and Necessity) was determined to get not just a Seed but a new template like Moiranna's. The fact that his character had, for years, had a rivalry with Moiranna as a "blaster mage" (this goddess was originally a standard Sorcerer) no doubt helped that motivation along. But of course, in the end she got it.

This was accomplished in Matter's own cosmos, at the edge of the Pit there- this was when the PCs traveled to reach that artifact. The Goddess of Catastrophe knew that the Pit somehow was her best chance to contact Matter and make a deal with It; she made the kitten as a test but then kept the cute little critter around and actually dismissed her old familiar with the intent to make the kitten her new one. One thing I didn't mention in the post regarding the Pit, see, is that when she made this kitten she didn't make just a normal kitten- she specifically requested that it be an Elemental kitten, and more specifically that it be made of the very Elemental Goo that was in the Pit. The Pit obliged her of course: her little green kitten with the slightly-slimy and wet appearance was plucked from the pseudopods of doom by a quick application of Telekinesis, and then the Goddess got to work.

Cutting a long story short, she eventually figured out how to contact Matter directly, and using the kitten as a conduit, managed to make a literal Deal With the Devil. Matter gave her a Seed by possessing the little kitten (she named it "Atom" in a moment of dark humor), and granting her special powers she had scarcely dreamed of before then. She became a Material Nucleus.

Creating a Material Nucleus

"Material Nucleus" is an acquired template that can be applied to any deity of at least Divine Rank 4 which has a Half-Elemental template and at least 100 caster levels in an Arcane spellcasting class. A Material Nucleus exactly resembles the deity's former manifestation with the Half-Elemental template, but the character's eyes turn a solid dark red (pupils remain, but there is no sclera or "white"), and remain so in any form assumed through shape-changing magic or effects. It uses all of the deity's abilities and statistics, except as noted below.

[As before, some of the specifications up there are really unnecessary if you want to use a template like this as a plot point in your games; Matter as a First One could probably grant this template to any being with 100 HD and DR 4 if it were so inclined- which is to say if the price is right. It just happens that the Goddess of Catastrophe in question was Half-Fire Elemental, and had over 100 Sorcerer levels.]

Size and Type: The deity gains the Evil subtype if it did not have it already.
Hit Dice: The deity does not gain any extra HD, but its hit dice change to d100s for all current and future hit dice. The deity continues to gain maximum hit points per hit die, as standard for its Divine Rank.
Speed: The deity's speed values do not change further. [This was important to note, I felt, because the Entropic Shard got a lot faster- but I didn't see Matter as granting much if any speed bonus to a being- especially since I intended to grant the double-HD-natural-armor ability as you'll see below.]
AC: The Material Nucleus continues to have a deflection bonus to AC equal to its CHA bonus (minimum +1), but natural armor increases to double its total hit dice. This natural armor bonus increases with all future hit dice gained or lost, keeping the total equal to double the deity's hit dice (whatever that number may be).
Attack: The Material Nucleus gains a +24 gravitic mastery bonus on all attack rolls.
Damage: All attacks made by the Material Nucleus, whether natural attacks or by weapon, gain a +24 gravitic mastery bonus to damage. This even applies to spells which deal hit point damage, and the bonus applies to each target of any such spell the deity uses (for example, a Magic Missile spell would deal an extra 24 points of damage to each target, whether or not any target was hit with more than one missile, while a Fireball would simply deal an extra 24 points of damage to creatures in its area before Reflex saves are rolled). Finally, all of the Material Nucleus's natural attack forms (if it has any) are treated as Epic and Evil for the purposes of overcoming Damage Reduction.
Special Attacks: A Material Nucleus retains all special attacks it had before, and gains the following:

  • Gravitic Godspell (Su): Whenever the Material Nucleus casts a spell that uses dice to determine the magnitude of its effect (for example, Fireball, Magic Missile, and Cure Light Wounds all qualify, but Teleport does not), the spell deals extra damage to each target based on the target's maximum healthy hit point total. This extra damage is equal to 1% of the target's maximum hit points, but always does a minimum of 1 extra point of damage no matter how low the target's hit points are. The Material Nucleus can choose to deactivate this ability as a swift action, and once deactivated all of the deity's spells will have their normal effects without this extra gravitational damage. If the ability is deactivated, it may later be reactivated as a swift action to "turn on" the gravity-based damage again.
  • Gravitic Spellcharging (Ex): The Material Nucleus gains a +24 gravitic mastery bonus on all checks against Spell Resistance.
  • Spell-Like Ability: At will- Rapid Elemental Swarm. The Material Nucleus is able to use Elemental Swarm at will, with a one-round casting time (i.e. as a full-round action). The Elementals so called arrive in their standard order, despite the greatly reduced casting time, and the Material Nucleus does not need to specify which element type is being called until casting time, so the deity is free to (for example) call Earth Elementals in one round, and then call Fire Elementals in the next, even while the Earth Elementals from the first casting are still arriving. There is no limit to the number of Elementals the deity can call this way, except that the creatures still disappear when the spell's duration runs out. The caster level of this spell-like ability is equal to the deity's highest level in any spellcasting class, regardless of whether or not that class can normally use the Elemental Swarm spell.
Special Qualities: A Material Nucleus retains all special qualities it had before, and gains the following:

  • Damage Reduction (Ex): The Material Nucleus gains Damage Reduction 50/-. All forms of attack are reduced by 50 hit points before being applied to the deity, except for attacks which specifically say they "ignore Hardness." This Damage Reduction does not change any other Damage Reduction the deity gets from other sources, unless that Damage Reduction is also of the "/-" (Hardness) form, in which case the existing number is increased by 50.
  • Divine Inspiration (Ex): The Material Nucleus gains a bonus Divine Ability, but the ability is not necessarily set: once per round, as an immediate action, the deity can change the Divine Ability to any other. The character must still meet all the prerequisites of the chosen ability in order to gain it, but otherwise there are no restrictions on the power to change this special bonus Divine Ability. Because the ability can be changed as an immediate action, it can even (for example) be used to grant bonuses to a saving throw just before the character makes one, by changing to a Divine Ability that grants a bonus to saving throws such as Unknowing Soul or Profane Soul. Note, however, that if the chosen Divine Ability has a lasting effect (for example, the actions stolen using Time Stealer, or the souls bound using Soul Stealer), then the ability cannot be switched until the lasting effect ends. Thus, if the character is using Divine Inspiration to gain Soul Stealer, and kills a creature, the character cannot then switch Divine Inspiration to Profane Mind, unless and until the creature that was killed under Soul Stealer is no longer soul-bound. Likewise, if the character is using (for example) Divine Sorcery to learn Wall of Force, and has one or more Walls of Force active, then the Divine Inspiration cannot be switched to Divine Architect instead to speed up that magic-item crafting.
  • Fire Absorption (Ex): The Material Nucleus gains Fire Absorption 500. The first 500 points of Fire damage that hit the deity in a given round heal it instead of hurting it.
  • Gravitic Senses (Ex): All of the deity's senses expand to 10 times their base range.
  • Great Breath (Ex): The deity can use its Quintessence to create creatures that are not of the Outsider type, just as easily as it can create Outsiders. All creatures the deity creates are capable of reproduction immediately, if conditions are otherwise appropriate for such (for example, a trio of male tigers will not be able to reproduce with each other unless the deity also creates a female, but an Ochre Jelly would be fully capable of growing and splitting/budding in the usual manner).
  • Superior Spell Resistance (Ex): The Material Nucleus gains SR equal to 34 + its hit dice. Furthermore, all spells used against the deity must check this special SR twice in order to function; if either check fails, the spell fails to overcome the SR at all.
Saves: The Material Nucleus gains a +24 gravitic mastery bonus to all saves.
Abilities: Change as follows: STR +24, DEX +36, CON +60, INT +60, WIS +36, CHA +72.
Skills: The Material Nucleus gains both Maven and Omnicompetent, if it did not already have them; all skills are raised to their maximum possible ranks by hit dice. Furthermore, the deity gains a +24 gravitic mastery bonus on all skills.

Challenge Rating: Same as the deity +53.
Level Adjustment: Same as the deity's Level Adjustment +80.
Alignment: The Material Nucleus changes to Evil alignment, if it was not previously Evil, but the Lawful/Chaotic alignment component does not typically change.

Yes, that last one really did get written into the template- you make a Deal with Matter, you pay for it. The Goddess in question became Chaotic Evil, and if the players by this time hadn't mellowed out a bit on the whole Good/Evil thing they might well have attacked her and/or cast her out for it. I'll also remark, here, upon the fact that I gave this template Godspell rather than Strike (as I had for Entropic Shard). By this time, I decided that I wanted each template like this to have three Cosmics chosen to fit this pattern: (1) one [Effect] ability, a different [Effect] type for each template, and of course doing damage based on which First One was granting the power. Entropy of course dealt Annihilating, Matter would grant Gravitic since that's Matter's "thing." (2) one "chase ability" that most PCs would jump at the chance to get even if they had to take it as their one and only esoteric power. (3) a more obscure ability that fit the theme of the First One, but was not necessarily a "chase ability."

In the case of Material Nucleus, the [Effect] type was Godspell both because it had already been pointed out that Godspell was a more useful [Effect] type for spellcasters than Strike, that having been the point of making it; and also because I wanted to be sure it wasn't Strike anyway. The "chase ability" in this case was Divine Inspiration; since every party member had at least one Anyfeat, it was pretty obvious the players would be very keen on getting the Cosmic version of it.
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