Except adventurers, obviously … Karameikos is the first campaign setting for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and the setting in which my new skype campaign occurs. Karameikos is described in the TSR supplement The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, which gives information about the major towns of the region and the major personalities living in them.

This book makes clear that the major town in Karameikos is Specularum, a town of 50,000 people that may have grown significantly in recent times. It also identifies at least two major high level clerics in this town: Olliver Jowett, an 18th level Cleric, and Aleksyev Nikelnevich, an 11th level Cleric. There are other powerful clerics described in the book but their location is not specified. Olliver and Aleksyev’s stats are given in the book, and they both have Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Disease and Raise Dead memorized, though Olliver could memorize 4x Raise Dead if he really wanted.

I have previously posted here about post-scarcity fantasy, and how it would be extremely cost-effective for clerics in the middle ages to intervene in child birth to save lives. I previously used the AD&D rule book to establish populations of Clerics, but now I have access to the ultimate Canonical text, a definitive world description from the original rules. What are the implications of this world description for my theories about post-scarcity fantasy?

First of all, let us gather some statistics. It’s impossible to know the true birth and death rates in the middle ages, but there are estimates from 17th century Britain that give birth rates of about 30 per 1000 population, and death rates of about 25 per 1000 population. Based on these, we can expect about 3.5 deaths per day, and about 4 births per day, some of which will be of high risk to the mother.

Based on the presence of just Olliver and Aleksyev in Specularum, we can expect that 2 of these 3.5 deaths could be prevented every day by simply walking over to the place they occurred and casting Raise Dead. If we assume that at least 2 of these deaths are caused by disease – a not unreasonable assumption in the middle ages – then two more deaths could be prevented by application of the Cure Disease spell.

Just these two clerics could ensure that no one ever died in Specularum.

They could improve their job by using the Commune spell to learn some basic techniques to improve childbirth and medical procedures. “Why do women die in childbirth” would be a very useful commune question – Olliver can ask one question a day. Presumably once in a year he could get around to this question. Olliver has a 4th level assistant with Cure Light Wounds who could attend 2 births every day and cast this spell to prevent major injuries (ordinary commoners have 1d6 hit points so presumably this spell would completely reverse the damage done on them and/or their children). This would occasionally prevent the need for Raise Dead spells, though between them Olliver and Aleksyenev have enough Raise Dead spells to simply negate every death in the town.

It seems pretty clear to me that based on the canonical textbook, there is no death in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. The only people who die in Dungeons and Dragons are adventurers – we toil in the depths, risking our lives every moment, while overhead a utopian society pursues its life of perfect peace and eternal harmony.

Why are we doing this again?

Strange blooms on far shores

Strange blooms on far shores

The Spiral Confederacy restarts with the characters leaving Niscorp 1743 for The Reach, a pirate system a short jump away. On Niscorp 1743 they had killed some ice spiders at great personal risk, getting a research administrator out of a spot of trouble and earning themselves some zero-g training as a reward. They had also met a priest from an ocean planet, Michael, who had offered to pay them in exchange for taking him to The Reach. The Reach is a fine spot to drop rumours of human trafficking, and also a great place to pick up the kind of weapons that are illegal for ordinary citizens in the Confederacy; they also had a crate of laser carbines to sell, so a journey to The Reach seemed inevitable.

While they rested and prepared equipment they recruited a second pilot, a young woman called Lam with a dubious naval history. Given the risky nature of many of their ventures, they guessed it might be wise to build a little redundancy into their crew, so they recruited the only pilot in Niscorp 1743 who was willing to go to The Reach and who could shoot as well as fly.

Stable personality was not in their list of essential criteria, so Lam was hired.

After a week of travel they arrived in The Reach, jumping in to a point beyond its extensive asteroid field. From the jump point the system’s red dwarf star was a tiny, distant red speck, flickering in and out of view through the curtain of asteroids. They passed around the asteroid field slowly, on a pre-assigned route, and by the time they emerged on the other side they could see the 7th Pearl, shining in the far distance. Between them and it a small flight of fighter vessels approached, hailing them for travel details. Their first encounter with the Pirates of The Reach passed in a completely mundane manner, with an exchange of basic credentials and a docking trajectory for Pearl 7. They docked where they were told and disembarked into a small lounge where they were met by a man who introduced himself as an ambassador for foreign guests, and a small rat-faced man named Ampoule who Michael told them would be their guide for the day. Michael showed them how to use their mysterious payment, and left them to themselves.

Basic rules for Confederate travelers in The Reach gave them one week of free accommodation, after which they must pay in local currency (“credits”) or leave. Overstaying this welcome would see their ship impounded and the crew bonded as indentured labourers for a year. They could live on their ship and organize basic energy and fuel for free, but if they wanted any comfort they would need to make some money. Stir-crazy after a week on their tiny ship, they set out immediately to sell the laser carbines and begin stocking their armoury.

There was a large market place for all manner of unsavoury enterprises a short distance from the docks, and it was here they went first. Here they found arms dealers, slavers, and even a prohibitively expensive dealer in black market memory backups. They sold their carbines and organized delivery of a slew of laser rifles and a suit of combat armour, then retired to their ship to relax. Over the next few days they began visiting slave markets and dealers, dropping hints about their illicit cargo and looking to lay down lots of clues about where they found it. Once the armour and guns arrived, they began to think about looking for a little work.

They booked some rooms near the docks, to spread out a little, and it was then as they were settling in that they received an invitation to meet Michael at a place called the Rubble Bar, to discuss possible work. The Rubble Bar is a small tavern at the part of the docks closest to Pearl 7’s ruined superstructure; from its single large window customers can watch workmen repairing the spars of the damaged section, while they sip drinks from lost civilizations. Each of them ordered a drink from a civilization that had passed away, and sat sipping it contemplatively while they waited for their mysterious priest.

Michael arrived with a glass of the last water from a dessicated planet, and began to talk business. He had come to The Reach to kill a man. This man, a priest named Jaccus, had been welcomed to Michael’s planet as a guest, but had defiled one of his culture’s sacred tombs and killed its guardian. The most ancient tombs on Michael’s planet are dessicated sky burials placed reverently on islands made of the calcified bones of giant sea creatures; these tombs are often thousands of years old, and are tended by elderly monks in a role of great honour and little responsibility afforded to senior religious figures. This priest Jaccus had visited such a tomb-island and desecrated it horribly, then fled the planet. Michael, who had traveled a few times before, was sent to find Jaccus and kill him. Jaccus had assumed his deeds would go unnoticed for months, so isolated are the tomb-islands, but hadn’t realized a supply ship would arrive just a few days later on a scheduled visit. So it was that they were easily able to track his movements out of the system, and Michael could follow him, though he fell further behind with each jump.

Unfortunately, after Jaccus arrived in The Reach a few weeks ago he had managed to obtain the protection of the Viscount of Pearl 2, making it difficult to obtain mercenaries to kill him. So it was that he turned to the PCs to do it; as outlanders they were free to take contracts on anyone they wanted. Currently it appeared Jaccus had made a trip to The Gardens, and so would be easy to ambush and kill if he was approached there in the next few days. For this job he would pay them 100,000 credits, almost enough to buy another suit of combat armour.

The PCs did not agree to kill this Jaccus, but they did agree to go visit him in The Gardens, see what they thought of him, and kill him if necessary. Michael was not phased by this conditional offer. “Once you meet him you will want to kill him,” he assured them, and left them to their drinks.

To the ruins

To the ruins

Death in the Gardens

They left for the Gardens the next day on a small sub-light flyer, a rickety thing that took a few hours to get them to their destination. Its approach took them across the 100km long face of the Gardens, a lush expanse of steel, forest and planes hanging in the middle of space. The mist trapped within its field generators shrouded much of its expanse, and shone with the lurid reflected light of the distant sun. Some strange technology transported that light through sub-space portals so that the Gardens were bathed in sunlight vastly more powerful than its distance from the faint red dwarf warranted, ensuring that the Gardens roiled with mist and heat. In the breaks between these clouds they caught glimpses of the Gardens themselves, vistas of green or gold splayed out across rippling uneven territory, scattered with occasional deep holes where the wreckage of spaceships interlocked. The Gardens started with a low plane of wreckage that crawled slowly up through foothills to shallow peaks formed by the spines of ancient Confederacy capital ships, wrecked by the system’s strange defenses and pulled to this Lagrange point to be recommissioned for The Reach’s bizarre experiment in herb gardening. Beyond the jagged ridges of those wrecked ships, now softened by a shroud of vegetation, hung the infinite blackness of space, cordoned away from the lush fields by a thin layer of field technology.

They disembarked at the Gardens’ tiny docks, noting the presence of another flyer, encoded with the emblems of Pearl 2, and stood for the first time under the Reach’s starry night, unprotected by steel shells or spaceship hulls. Ahead of them stood a low wall and a custom’s house, blurs of green and misty grey visible beyond; but here at the docks they stood under a stunning vista of stars, scattered around the black firmanent like diamonds on velvet. Shielded only by the thin barrier of the Gardens protective field, they could view the full glory of the stars of their sector, try briefly to find their home stars before they were interrupted by the dockmaster.

Brought back to humdrum reality, they dismissed his questions and offered him 100 credits to forget their presence. He aimed to argue, but one look at Ahmose’s stern reproach and he thought better of it. Jaccus, he told them, had headed “that way”, waving vaguely in a certain direction, and headed back to his hut. Simon Simon used his Adherent Grace, scrying, to access all the cameras in the vicinity of the docks, and soon found video footage of an old man in black robes with a staff, accompanied by three men in light armour with assault rifles, heading in the direction the dockmaster had indicated. They were dragging an anti-gravity sled loaded with audio-visual equipment, heading up into the hills. Time to go.

They passed through the low wall and into the Gardens. From here the trek in the direction Jaccus had headed started easily, but it got harder. First a stretch of rhododendron forest steeped in rain and mist; then an open stretch of field, followed by a series of fragrant herb gardens and some hikes through mossy hills. They could see the skeleton of the broken spaceships beneath the fields and forests, with occasional parts protruding from amongst the greenery – here a rusted cannon, there a lichen-encrusted plexiglass window. As they headed up the wreckage became older, and increasingly harder to discern from nature, until they found themselves walking through ancient, silent, mist-shrouded forests, so old they seemed almost hallowed. Old growth rainforest, floating in space on a mere sliver of steel, billions of kilometres from the sun.

It was in this forest that they stumbled on the cameras. Simon Simon noticed them with his scrying Grace, all connected together and filming the zone they were entering. They moved past the cameras and headed upward over the cupola of some ancient battleship, passing through a small copse of trees at the summit. Weapons drawn, they moved out of the shadow of the trees to find themselves looking down into a narrow vale, beyond which stretched slopes leading up to the rim of the Gardens. Black space hung in the near distance, the horizon unevenly scattered with trees and the slopes before them heavily wooded. They stood on the wreckage of an ancient cruiser, but the horizon was formed entirely with the wreckage of an ancient Confederacy warship, its gun turrets, now long dead, rusting in between trees and brooks. Below them the vale opened out towards the lower slopes, a small stream trickling merrily through it. To their right lay the wreckage of the cockpit of a crashed fighter ship, the hull shattered open around an open space that had been turned into a campsite. Three tents had been erected around a small fire, and a little computer ran a set of screens on which the vision from all those cameras could be seen. They had found Jaccus’s camp.

They had also found his men, who opened fire on them from positions in the valley. The battle was short and brutal[1], and with minimal injuries the group prevailed, killing all three mercenaries. They descended into the camp to search it, looking around carefully for Jaccus. The AV gear they had brought with them was nowhere to be seen. They were searching the camp when Simon Simon decided to use his scrying Grace to check the cameras in the vicinity, and saw movement in one. Looking closer he saw something in the shadows, descending the hills towards them.

Lam and Ahmose took defensive positions, guns ready, pointing out at the hills, but they didn’t see it coming. Something emerged from the shadows of the trees and hit Alpha from behind, tearing through his weak armour and disappearing before he could react. Something else hit Ahmose and Lam, but before they could react it was gone. They looked around, gasping, weapons ready, and then the things hit them again. They were beasts of some kind, 3m tall monsters made entirely of shadow but for their glowing red, fiendish eyes and long, lascivious red tongues. They attacked with wicked claws and beat huge, black, bat-like wings behind their misshapen, demonic bodies.

Actual demons, conjured from shadow, were attacking them. They fought back hard and valiantly but Alpha went down with the next strike. Ahmose killed one, and as it died they heard the distant sound of crows screeching, and the thin wail of a tortured child. Ahmose moved on to the second beast, and Lam shot down the third; a cold wind blew over her, and she heard whispers from the shadows, a young man begging for his life, gaggles of students telling lies about their friends in the corridors of a school … evil whispers …

As the fight proceeded Simon Simon desperately searched the area, until he found Jaccus standing in the shadow of a tree, staff in hand. The old man was singing a song, and the air was rippling around them. “There!” Simon Simon yelled, and fired his laser rifle. He missed Jaccus but the beam passed through the coalescing shadow-form of another demon. As they killed them, more appeared! “Kill the priest!” Simon Simon yelled to Ahmose, and Ahmose duly acted.

Jaccus died quickly, but before he did two more of those beasts appeared. One managed to escape their violence, fleeing with the death of its master, and they never saw it again. The battle was done. Where each demon had died was a patch of blackened, dead grass that stank of rot. They stood looking at each other in shock. What had they found, what had they killed?

They searched Jaccus’ body and the area of the camp, but they didn’t find anything to tell them anything about what they had seen. Where was the AV equipment? Why was Jaccus here and what were those things? With no evidence in the camp they expanded their search, trawling the whole area for any information about what Jaccus had been doing there.

History by the blowtorch

They found the reason after a day of searching. They soon discovered that all the disused turrets on the spine of the Gardens contained bodies. This was an ancient burial site, with bodies placed in careful position inside the turrets, wrapped in shrouds and accompanied by gifts for the next world, now long-decayed and crumbling. Two of these turret-graves had been defiled, the bodies broken apart and their skulls burnt in some way. Another turret-grave had been partially defiled, the body broken up and the skull placed in a ritual position. Candles had been set out, along with a silver bowl, a small silver knife, and a blowtorch. Behind this strange tableau was the AV  equipment, some kind of ancient, primitive video camera the size of an artillery piece. A cushion sat between the camera and the skull, presumable waiting for Jaccus, with a microphone next to it.

Back at the camp they found a box full of discs of some kind, with writing on them. Alpha suspected these discs were from two specific locations, and dated in some non-standard dating system: 7 all had the same glyphs written on them, and some numbers, and two had more numbers on them and different glyphs. Acting on a hunch, they put the first of these two into a playback system attached to the camera. And saw…

The camera crackled. Primitive, this camera. The shadows of one of the domed turrets they had seen before, but no burnt bones: in the middle of the room sat a skull, shrouded in shadow, and between the camera and the skull the dim shape of Jaccus, cross-legged on the cushion, rocking backwards and forwards, chanting. One hand sat near the blowtorch, and candles glowed in the dim light, set out around the skull. The chanting continued – so boring.

They fast forwarded the video until they saw movement, stopped and rewound a little. Jaccus’s chanting fading, drifting away, his rocking going still. A shadow rolled in, crouched over the candles, which guttered and dimmed. They heard the sound of a sigh, and then some kind of howling, the room becoming darker, Jaccus hunched. Something stirred in amongst the candles around the skull; they flickered and dimmed, then burned bright. The darkness faded, and Jaccus emitted a kind of grunt, like an old man doing something disgusting; in the distant background of the soundtrack they heard the thin reedy sound of a child crying and begging, quickly fading away. Smoke formed dimly in the air above the skull, coalesced into a semi-solid, vaguely humanoid form.

“Who calls me?” A sound like rocks grating on each other, a grim crackling rustle of anger, emerged from the ring of candles.

“I, Jaccus, your master, call you. I would speak you, and you had best listen.” Jaccus stirred from his listing position, and spat the words out with odd harshness.

“You worm. You grub. I was a great warrior, I have slain men a thousand times your equal, I fought on the marches of Ellas, I was a hero before your ancestors were apes, you cannot command me, wo-”

The grating voice descended to screaming. Jaccus had calmly picked up the blowtorch, turned it on, and started bathing the skull in flame. The screams were horrid, rippling out of the darkness from every direction and sounding as if they would tear the microphone apart and leap through, monsters of agony, to attack the listeners.

After about 10 seconds of this, Jaccus turned off the flame.

“You thought your death put you beyond pain, but I have found you. There is nowhere you can run to. You are mine to play with. You will do as I tell you.”

The voice protested. More flame, more screams. It carried on like this for a few minutes, but slowly the voice became weaker, more desperate, until finally it broke and begged Jaccus to tell it what he wanted.

“Where is the ansible?”

“I don’t know what you -” More flame.

This proceeded for several minutes, the same question and the same answer. Finally, Jaccus gave up. “You know nothing, do you?” He didn’t wait for an answer, but turned on the blowtorch and took a full minute to burn the skull black. The voice screamed and screamed and screamed, but he didn’t stop until he was satisfied the whole skull was black. Then he flicked his fingers, the candles faded, and the screaming voice sank away, replaced briefly by a horrible howling sound like wind over frozen ground.

Jaccus reached back and turned off the camera.

Of priests and lost things

They returned to Pearl 7 with the videos. Once they were back in the ship Simon Simon obssessively watched all of them, but no one joined him in the video room. They called Michael and showed him the video from the tomb. He guessed, as they did, that the other seven videos were from his home planet. This Jaccus had invaded these tombs looking for something called the “ansible”, and hadn’t found it. Obviously he had some plan to search for it – first Michael’s planet, then The Reach. But he had come from somewhere. Someone knew what they were looking for.

Michael made the group an offer: would they come back to his planet, and from there trace Jaccus back to wherever he had come from, find the people he worked for, and destroy them? His people, being just uplifted, had nothing to offer them as a reward, but he would speak to his ruling council and they would speak to the Confederacy, and he thought then a reward could be organized. Would they help?

They looked at each other. Something terrifying had moved in those tombs, something they didn’t understand. But while they couldn’t understand its power, they could feel its evil.

Of course they would help.

fn1: I think this is going to be a common phrase in this campaign. In this battle one soldier died instantly, and another got so badly damaged that he was basically useless. If you don’t have combat armour this is a game of one-shot kills.

On Saturday I ran another session of The Spiral Confederacy campaign, culminating in a vicious battle in a floating forest built on the ruins of ancient spaceships (report to come). One player went down in the first round of the surprise attack and the entire battle (with three waves of attackers, approximately) was over in about 5 rounds – 30 seconds! This system is being run using Traveler rules, which are quite lightly described and incomplete in places. During the battle I discovered a few rules that are missing, and came up with a few new house rules to ease some benefits, and also to employ a wider range of skills and attributes in combat. These house rules are listed below.

No critical hits: The standard rulebook states that a roll of 6 or more above the target number is a “critical success”, but doesn’t actually define any special rule for a critical success in combat except that it definitely does at least one point of damage. I have decided not to fiddle with this, because vicious experience on Saturday confirmed for me that Traveler’s injury mechanism doesn’t really allow for it and is so brutal that there is no need for it; the effect alone is sufficiently powerful to make all the difference.

Stealth attacks: There are no rules for stealth attacks in the book. During the session I chose to add the effect of the stealth roll to the attack, and the target cannot dodge or parry. Reading the book I see a set of rules for carrying one skill’s effect over to another; basically success adds 1 to the next roll, while critical success adds 2. However I don’t like this – I like stealth attacks to be lethal, and with no critical hit system the only way to increase damage is to roll really well, so adding the full effect of the stealth roll onto the subsequent attack seems more realistic (and about the only way for an assassin with a normal blade to deliver serious damage against a heavily-armoured target). This means that a good stealth attack with a blade (with e.g. 2d6+2 damage) is likely to end up doing more like 2d6+6 or 2d6+8 damage on a stealth attack. This will do fatal damage against a lightly-armoured person, which is reasonable.

Using the tactics skill for cover: If a PC is not in cover at the beginning of combat, they need to make a tactics roll to get into cover.  The result of the roll will determine the cover level as follows:

  • 0-5: 1/4 cover (no benefit)
  • 6-8: 1/2 cover (-1 to hit)
  • 9-11: 3/4 cover (-2 to hit)
  • 12+: Full cover (-4 to hit)

This ensures that a person with no tactics skill and no intelligence bonus will need to roll better than an 8 on 2d6 to actually find effective cover, which seems really likely to me – if I got in a firefight I wouldn’t have a clue where to hide. It’s obviously only useful when your PCs are in battlefields with lots of boxes and junk etc; rather than describing it all in detail and asking the PC to make a choice, just roll it up and then tell them what they’re hiding behind. If there is lots of obvious cover (e.g. a tank!) then this rule needn’t be applied. This is one of several ways of enhancing the role of the tactics skill in combat.

This skill check can also be done by someone with leadership to direct someone else to cover; in this case both the leader and the person taking cover need to use a significant action in the same round.

Also, related to cover: shooting from behind cover requires a minor action to position oneself and then a significant action to fire. i.e. you only get the benefits of cover when attacking if you use all your actions in the round to attack.

Establishing aim is a significant action: All the PCs used their minor action to aim, giving them essentially an immediate +1 to hit. Boring! So I have decided in future that you can’t just aim and shoot; you need to first use a significant action to establish the process. After that aiming will give you the benefit as described in the book, i.e. +1 per minor action. This ensures that you need to take a full round to aim but it will typically mean that the aim leads to a +3 to hit, since it will usually occur in the following train of actions: significant action-minor action/minor action-shoot. This may not always occur (e.g. use a minor action to draw weapon-significant action to establish aim /shoot at +1-minor action to take cover).

Tactics to change initiative: A PC can change their own initiative using tactics, or change someone else’s using leadership. They must use a significant action to do this; then they make a roll with difficulty equal to current initiative; success increases initiative to the result of the new roll. Extreme failure drops the initiative of the affected person to last.

Gathering wind: if the PC has no use for their minor action they can use it to make an endurance check and if successful regain one point of endurance. This only works if endurance is not 0 and they are not seriously wounded (i.e. only Endurance has been hit). I have decided to include this in order to give everyone some minor chance at battlefield healing, and because minor actions don’t have much use once you’re in cover with your weapon out. It won’t make a big difference to their future if they get hit a second time, but it will at least allow them to take the odd breather. I envisage this being used a lot with the cover rules (e.g. you hit cover with a significant action; use a minor action to take a breather. In the second round you take a full action to go full auto on some poor minion; then the following round you stay behind cover, take another breather and reload your weapon).

In total these rules significantly enhance the role of people with leadership and tactics, and actually make a person with these skills but no particularly great direct combat skills useful, and worth taking out. With tactics and leadership, a PC can a) improve everyone’s initiative; b) get the weakest people into good cover; c) upgrade the initiative of the slowest PCs. While other PCs do the heavy work of shooting and stabbing, a leader-type character can act in a serious support role to help them get an advantage in the fight.

I am thinking about additional methods for using leadership – for example, helping people move to positions where they can get a shooting advantage, or using tactics to negate cover. Also the possibility of reducing initiative or forcing morale checks of some kind when a person with leadership dies.

A final note on Traveler combat: It’s very very dangerous, has a wicked death spiral, and is definitely not for the faint-hearted. I love the way the healing rules enable people to die slowly of their wounds if they don’t get medical care. I also really like the automatic fire rules – they’re simple and very very dangerous. Against an autorifle someone in combat armour will still need to be scared, and can still die in a single shot unless their combat armour is exceptionally high tech. This is a game where you definitely do not want to get caught in a fair fight.

TPK Machine

TPK Machine

Two friends of mine from my London gaming days invited me to join a skype-based Basic D&D campaign, using the basic Mentzer (1983) red box rules to start with. We are going to follow the rules strictly (or as strictly as we can), using only rules in the 1983 boxed set, plus the Cyclopedia. We will start with the adventure in the book and then move on to B2, etc., taking turns GMing. The GM will play one character. We all either played or owned the Red Box set in question when we were kids, so we want to run through it as adults to see what it is like to play this ancient and world-changing game from the perspective of people who grew up on AD&D but moved on in our early adulthood to all the wealth of the modern RPG world.

It should be a hoot! Here is the report of our first session.

We had three PCs:

  • Eric of Melbourne (me), a first level Cleric with fairly phenomenal stats (I rolled an 18 wisdom that I promptly dropped to 12 so I could increase my strength to 16)
  • Aengus the elf, an elf (this being D&D, race is class, very intersectionally aware)
  • Barus of Karameikos, a Magic User with a single hit point, what could possibly go wrong?

We also employed two followers, who we took directly from page 34 of the rulebook (with their equipment) to make starting the game quicker:

  • Silas Nogood, a Dwarf with monumentally good stats and equipment, for all the good it did him
  • Baghdad the Thief, a thief with phenomenal strength, which is just as well since the thief skills at first level are a complete waste of time

I have a suspicion that the example characters on page 34 of the rulebook were not rolled in the standard way, because they are all way too good.

We started the adventure in a small town, where we had heard that there were some monsters just out of town in an old ruined castle, which we could raid for cash. Over a few drinks we agreed to delve into that blighted nest of fear and blood, and the following morning, bleary-eyed and excited, we headed out with our followers to fame and glory.

On the way we passed an impressively-dressed middle-aged woman on a wagon, who appeared to be a rather high level adventurer. She hailed us in passing but didn’t waste her time on us, lowly as we are. Ha! She will choke on that haughty manner when we are rich, powerful and famous! We also passed a farmer who told us that the monsters in the dungeon usually mind their own business and cause him no trouble. Ha! We’ll show them, the pesky beasts!

We reached the castle. It had the biggest walls you’ve ever seen, 50′ high and mighty thick, but riddled with holes and crumbling but still completely solid, and so smooth as to be unclimbable. Fiendish magic, this. The gate had crumbled and collapsed like a normal door should (presumably this castle’s original owner only employed unenchanted carpenters, which is probably why it is now ruined and monster-infested). Down the walls to our west there was a bigger hole, perhaps 10′ in circumference, which looked like we could clamber through it.

That 10′ hole was no doubt a trap. Anyone who intended that to not be a trap would bar it up, lest adventurers use it for stealthy ingress. No doubt we could surprise whatever foul beast lurked on the leeward side by sneaking (in our chain and full plate armour) through the main gate. Our cunning and strategy, and the application of careful pscyhology to the field of battle, is why we will win this place where all those who entered before us died. Judging by the stench hanging around the gate, they died pretty soon after entering that 10′ hole. We would not be so foolish.

Still, discretion is the better part of valour. We sent the thief forward.

One of the rotten gates had fallen forward out of the gatehouse. As the thief approached that moulding portal, a beast of horrific demeanour squirmed out from beneath and attacked him. It was a 9′ long lizard-like monstrosity, it’s head a mere gaping, circular mouth surrounded by slimy tentacles. All 8 of those tentacles attacked unfortunate Baghdad, and he fell twitching to the ground. We yelled our rage and attacked! Well, Silas attacked. Aengus, Barus and I moved forward to close missile range and fired slings and arrows at the beast. In turn the beast, having dispensed with our hapless thief, advanced on the dwarf, mouth agape and slimy tentacles wiggling horribly in gleeful anticipation of thick green dwarvish blood. It slapped at him with all 8 tentacles[1] but he somehow resisted their glutinous venom, and struck back with a resounding thwack. It managed one more round of tentacular whirling death, and then one of Barus’s sling stones put an end to it.

Baghdad was merely paralyzed, fortunately. We slapped him awake and sent him into the beasts lair, rope attached lest there be more. He slithered into its hole and emerged a few minutes later covered in slime and carrying gold, copper and gems. A find! We were rich!

We dusted ourselves off, pocketed the gems, and turned our attention to the wall. Clearly the gate was an ambush point – who would have expected such a devious tactic!? We must find some other way in. We scouted east, to the edge of the wall, and then turned north to follow it around. Here we found some holes in the wall and, looking in, saw a gang of perhaps 10 small, dog-like humanoids clustered behind the gate, weapons at the ready, waiting to ambush us. Fiends!

Still, we are devious. Barus cast a sleep spell on them through the hole in the wall, and they all collapsed where they stood. We marched in through the front gate and slew them, bravely cutting their throats as they snored, but for one. On this one Aengus cast a Charm Person spell, and then we woke him and told him a monster had killed his friends but we had saved him.

Instant friendship! My childhood classmates would be amazed to see how easily I became a friend of this dog-faced wretch, and jealous no doubt! Let us proceed! Dog-face agreed to accompany us to help us find the monster that killed his friends (ha!), and to guide us to where we could protect his gang’s treasure from the monster (ha!)

We marched up to the main doorway of the castle. Pushing the doors inward, we found ourselves in a big empty room with a door to the north and empty doorways west and east. We headed west, into a dusty storeroom where a giant bat attacked us. We tried to kill it but the pesky thing fluttered away westward. There was lots of dust in here, but we searched carefully and found an onyx gem in amongst the boxes.

Riches! Fame!

We headed west. The next room was also a storeroom but of the strangest, most diabolical type. Though filled with boxes, none could be moved, opened or disturbed in any way! And when we tried to search them a voice emerged from one asking us if we were accompanied by some scoundrel called Bargle. We tried opening that box too, and smashing it, but to no avail. Bargus maintains there is no spell in the history of magedom that can work such a wondrous charm, but I think this room is cursed by some dark god.

We headed onward, finding a narrow closet that opened into a bedroom. There was nothing really in this closet but somehow Baghdad the thief found a hat box, which he opened. Unfortunately the string of the hat box had been coated in poison, and he died on the spot, twitching and frothing and wailing terribly. In the hatbox we found a hat pin that was obviously valuable. We moved on.

The closet opened into a bedroom, which contained a big musty old bed. Entering the room I was overwhelmed with sleepiness, and desired to rest here, but Dog-face told us that the bed was cursed, and anyone who slept on it could not wake. He showed us a bag of mouldy peas and informed us that anyone sleeping on the bed could be awakened with a pea placed under the mattress (ho ho, how droll!) We insisted he share his peas with us.

This is the path to fame: begging dried mouldy peas off of a dog-faced half man.

To the next room! There was a door in the northeast corner of this bedroom, and one to the east, but we headed east now. We passed through a trash-littered hallway of no interest, and into another bedroom, where we carefully opted to touch nothing. From here a door to the east opened into a small closet, which we bravely entered. It was dark in here and it stank. As we entered we heard groaning and four foul, long-dead corpses struggled out from amongst layers of mould and decaying clothes and trash. They rose to their feet groaning and moaning in that fetid way of the restless dead, dragging rusted and dirty swords with them.

“Never fear!” I cried to my fellows. “This is my domain, that of life over death!” I strode forward, baring my holy symbol, and demanded these pestilent creatures begone.

They attacked me. Battle was joined.

The battle was short and brutal. We prevailed, but in the battle Silas proved himself Nogood, and died there under a hail of clumsy zombie swords. By now we were tired and scared – it’s dark in here and smelly, and there are nasty things in the shadows. We grabbed the dwarf’s body and retreated, heading back through the rooms to the unfortunate hat thief, whose body we also grabbed. Dragging him by the feet, we headed out the main exit and into the sunshine. Ah, life and fresh air! We passed the courtyard, telling Dogface to stay here and wait for us in the shadows while we repatriated our “sleeping friends.”

Back to town for us. On the way we passed that well-dressed woman again, who saw our haggard faces, the tear-smudged filth on our cheeks, the bloodied weapons (and the two corpses). She must have taken pity on us, because she came forward and with a cool hand on a brow and a few whispered words Baghdad and Silas Nogood were brought back to life[2].

A miracle!! We must be truly deserving of greatness to receive such blessings! We thanked her (forgetting to ask her name!) and returned to town, our energy renewed. Back to kill the rest of those fiends in the morning!

Art not: The image at the top of the page is from Artful Shrapnel at DeviantArt

fn1: this is a carrion crawler. It has 8 attacks that each require a death save or you get paralysis. Our dwarf has a save of 9 or something for this. This beast is worth 75 xp. Our GM experienced a TPK here on his first ever session of D&D, which was also his first ever session of RPG ing. That’s just dumb dungeon design.

fn2: this isn’t in the adventure, though it might as well be since the adventure is pretty railroady. Our GM told us he wanted to introduce the PC for later narrative purposes. I think he just wanted to stop us getting a third share of the treasure! Anyway, we prevailed. Back in a week!

Watching history being made

Watching history being made

Last night in the half-time of a televised rugby game I saw an interview by Japanese TV with Eddie Jones, recently retired coach of the Japan national rugby team. The Japanese team was the absolute standout entertainer of the recent world cup, beating South Africa in an incredibly tense and brilliantly played game of rugby, and becoming the first team in world cup history to fail to progress despite winning three games in the group phase. This team is half “foreign”, and the captain was a man called Michael Leitch, who came to Japan in high school and stayed to take them onto the world stage.

Eddie Jones was asked about Leitch in the interview, and after discussing his playing qualities (Leitch is a pretty good player), described some of his personal qualities: that he is humble, hard working, and able to unite the “foreign” and Japanese players in the Japan team through both his language skills and his attitude. Jones also stated that he thinks the Japanese national team will always be a mix of “foreigners” and Japanese nationals, and as a result the captain will always need to be someone who can unite disparate cultures, playing styles and attitudes to rugby.

It’s only sport but Eddie Jones here is saying a really important thing about the role of migrants in any society. Every society has its weaknesses – Japan’s size in rugby, the UK’s poor mathematics, Australia’s voracious need for foreign ideas – but usually people don’t recognize their own country’s shortcomings. Eddie Jones, a man with a connection to Japan but obviously not Japanese, can see a shortcoming and can state it, but in general we don’t see the problems in our own societies. In well-functioning societies migrants fill those gaps, make them work, and help a society to achieve great things in areas where it would be otherwise weak. Michael Leitch is a really good example of a migrant doing that in Japan, but from overseas the Japanese team is often seen as illegitimate because of this foreign component. In fact the Japanese team is standing out as a representative of how migrants can make every society better, as is Japanese Sumo (which has allowed foreigners to compete and has not had a Japanese grandmaster for something like 11 years). Rather than deserving scorn or belittlement for having “imported” big players, the Japanese rugby team is a sign of how the future of a better world will be.

As a foreigner in Japan I often notice the different things foreigners offer to Japan, and our unique role here. Obviously I get frustrated with things when I don’t understand them or I am just culturally unable to handle them, and I’m sure Japanese get frustrated with me for being different and wrong; but also I appreciate the new insight Japan gives me into how to live and behave, and I think just as much Japanese people appreciate being able to change their modes of behavior and interaction to deal with a direct and frank Australian style of working and communicating. I say to people new to Japan from overseas: there are 120 million Japanese, they don’t need another Japanese person doing it badly. Following Japanese manners and customs is obviously important, but Japan needs your newness and (from their perspective) uniqueness much more than they need you to become like them. Living in a foreign country that is completely different to my own, I have very quickly come to realize that integration is a myth, and multiculturalism is the only realistic way that foreigners can become part of another society. The Japanese rugby team is a really good example of how that acceptance of and engagement with foreign ideas can improve a culture, and a great example of how the proper acceptance of foreigners into society can lead to huge new achievements.

Of course for every success story of immigration there is no doubt a downside – the cross-national marriage that failed, the criminal, the person who just didn’t fit in and made everyone uncomfortable. It’s inevitable that a project as challenging as welcoming complete strangers into your home will go wrong. But society is very good at absorbing and cushioning failure – that’s why we have it – and all those failures are of no consequence compared to the successes. Japan’s rugby team is a really good example of how those successes can benefit a nation.

We live in a time when immigration and especially refugees have become a controversial and scary topic. As a foreigner living as a migrant in a country completely different to my own, this fear of foreigners has special salience – it is scary and dangerous to think that it might one day come here, to this place that has welcomed me. I also think it’s a thing of the past, a strange and anachronistic spasm of old racism that is doomed in this modern world. I hope the Japanese rugby team’s successes can hasten its death, and make their small contribution to building a better world, with cultural differences but no borders.

Even suns have parasites

Even suns have parasites

The Reach is a collection of 9 habitats called the Pearls, floating in orbit at varying distances around a red dwarf star. The entire system is ancient, so ancient that some of these Pearls may have been made when the star was young, using technology far older than humanity. The habitats are built on technology that surpasses anything the Spiral Confederacy has (perhaps TL 18), but the people living in the system are TL 12 wannabes, using the tech for defence and energy but completely clueless to its full potential.

The system is defended by some kind of ancient technology that has proven invincible to all modern starfleets – even the Spiral Confederacy’s famed navay has been unable to penetrate these defenses, and has lost several capital ships with all hands in past raids. These defences are the reason The Reach remains beyond Confederacy control, and are a closely guarded secret within the Reach.

All nine pearls are coated with solar panels, that are under constant repair, but the main source of energy for all pearls is a complex web of sub-space energy systems, probably connected to the Red Dwarf and possibly a cause of its rapid collapse (which has occurred over hundreds of thousands rather than millions of years). Control of a Pearl is determined by those who control the sub-space system or those who bargain with them, which typically means gaining control of the small group of engineers who know how to operate it. The pirates of The Reach are in thrall to the engineer guild, and the engineers are ruthless in their attempts to control access to this technology.

The nine Pearls have different sizes and purposes, but effectively each is entirely self-sustaining, except Pearls 8 and 9, which are too small and function primarily as a research base (Pearl 9) and a military coordination centre (Pearl 8) for system defence. The engineer guild operates across all the Pearls, but outside of this guild each Pearl has its own organisation and structure. Each Pearl has its own navy and army, and contributes a small number of starships to system defence and border patrols at any one time. Key points about each Pearl are listed below.

  • Pearl 1: A small Pearl that specialises in chemical industries. Run by a small clique of technocrats and riddled with high-tech automated defence systems. Largely excluded from internecine squabbles, and provides a wide range of pharmaceutical and especially recreational drugs to the other Pearls, who then smuggle them out of the system
  • Pearl 2: A very large, sprawling and run-down industrial zone, run by a hereditary family renowned for their cruelty and backwardness. They maintain a large internal army, large numbers of slave workers, and a ruthless internal militia devoted to controlling the populace. Pearl 2 is the only Pearl where gun ownership is heavily controlled and speech limited, as the leadership tries to ensure it controls its slaves and the large strata of “free” workers who live and work in semi-technical positions. It has a narrow stratum of craftspeople and engineers, but would be a completely dysfunctional society anywhere but in a pirate community.
  • Pearl 3: An asteroid mining and farming community that possesses a large and mobile fleet of sub-stellar vessels, and uses them to aggressively defend and expand mining territory in the huge outer and inner asteroid belts of the system. It also refines fuel from the system’s three gas giants, and maintains some legitimate trading links directly with the Confederacy, although technology on the Pearl is not sufficient for it to do much more than export raw materials. Pearl 3 is a large, low-population density habitat with a lot of open space, storage and disused industrial sectors, run by a council elected by those rich enough to own concessions on the distant asteroids.
  • Pearl 4: A small and densely-populated habitat that makes its living through the slave trade, and is the centre of the slave trade in The Reach. The free population on Pearl 4 are largely managers and slave-drivers, and slave ownership is ubiquitous. This Pearl is ruled by an elected council, with membership restricted to the scions of the seven slave-owning families in the Pearl. These families own sleek, fast interstellar raiding ships that are used for regular slave raids outside of The Reach. There is a large class of geneticists and breeders on Pearl 4, because breeding slaves is an important part of the business model. Relations between Pearls 4 and 2 are good, because Pearl 2’s cruel industrial practices make it a major customer.
  • Pearl 5: A medium-sized habitat run by a single corporate oligarchy, Pearl 5 is a major trader in interstellar foodstuffs and also the main owner of concessions on The Gardens. As the major supplier of food in-system, Pearl 5 has corrupt and sinister relations with all other habitats, and uses these relations to ensure its survival despite its small fleet. Pearl 5 is a rich, well-run and clean habitat with limited internal troubles, its residents often looked down on as rich and soft.
  • Pearl 6: A major trading house, engaging in all manner of trade and smuggling throughout the Sector, Pearl 6 is a small but active and intense community of smugglers and merchants. It is ruled by an unelected council, that replaces its members by internal consent. The wealthy and powerful members of Pearl 6 society engage in complex powerplays to gain access to this council, and to place members on it. Pearl 6 has a rich tradition of assassination and overthrows connected with this council.
  • Pearl 7: The other major trading house, locked in intense competition with Pearl 6 for smuggling routes, interstellar markets, and intra-stellar profits. Pearl 7 is larger than Pearl 6 and hosts some construction and repair industries as well as smuggling. It is also overcrowded, as some parts of the habitat have fallen into disrepair and await Pearl 7’s return to the ascendancy before they can be brought back into use. Pearl 7 maintains a large army and navy, and is the biggest power in The Reach in normal times due to its combination of military power, wealth and external contacts. Pearl 7 also hosts the main outlander residence areas, though these exist in smaller scales on all the Pearls. Pearl 7 is run by an elite council elected by a small group of rich business owners and military leaders.
  • Pearl 8: the system defence base is permanently occupied by a small staff drawn from all 7 of the inner pearls, with the staff living there for a year on a rotating basis and all Pearls contributing a small tithe of ships to the ongoing system defence activities of the base. By common accord squabbles between Pearls are not allowed to be continued on the Base, and there are protocols for all conflicts to end if Pearl 8 declares an emergency defence.
  • Pearl 9: A small research base, staffed on a voluntary basis, located far out beyond the outer asteroid belt and devoted to trying to understand the strange history of The Reach.
  • Asteroid bases and mines: There are mining communities on asteroids and in the atmosphere of the gas giants, some large enough to have semi-permanent residents. These bases are nominally under the control of a specific Pearl, but don’t always act according to orders from their home base. They are usually excluded from inter-habitat squabbles but are sometimes raided. They are rough, poor places of hard work and tough lives.
  • The Gardens: Sometime in the past a large number of wrecked spaceships – presumed destroyed by system defence weapons – were gathered into one spot within the habitable zone of the star. These ships include the wreckage of an Ocean class Confederacy ship, and numerous smaller vessels. Field generators were repaired and installed, and an atmosphere inserted, and now the Gardens act as a kind of weird network of forests and farms that are farmed by workers from Pearls 2, 3, 5 and 7. As new ships are destroyed they are added to the wreckage, which is now some hundreds of kilometres long and tens of kilometres high, and slowly forming into its own planetoid. Soil imported from other planets is dumped here, water imported from ice, and plants from around the Sector are grown in its controlled spaces. This is a long-term project to make The Reach more sustainable, since the only way it can be brought under control is through a blockade. Most of the Pearls have their own gardens as well, but this project is intended to provide a large, secure alternative food supply not under the control of any one Pearl.

The characters will arrive on Pearl 7.

Pearl 7

Pearl 7 is a large, slightly ragged-look ovoid habitat, perhaps 100 kms long and 30 kms in diameter. It spins slowly about its narrow axis, so that one long side of the habitat will be facing towards the red dwarf for about 2-3 weeks. It also spins slowly on the long axis, ensuring that all parts of the habitat face the sun. It has a small number of outrigger habitats, the largest being a 4km x 3 km rectangle, and the smallest a several-hundred metre long refuelling and docking base for small fighter craft. One end of the habitat is in a state of decay, the outer walls appearing crumbled and damaged with parts of the super-structure visible through the skin of the pearl. Pearl 7 has a large and thriving community of outlanders near the docks, and appears likely to have some kind of arrangement with the Confederacy that gives at least a modicum of safety to Confederacy residents who don’t do anything extravagantly stupid when they arrive in-system.

No one is genuinely safe in The Reach, though, and anyone traveling here would be well to remember that despite the warm entreaties of Pearl 7’s hoteliers, maitre d’s and merchants…

My Spiral Confederacy campaign resumes this weekend, and I have received some complaints about the limited abilities of Adherents from the player of the group’s adherent, Simon Simon, who is interesting and shouldn’t die. I’ve thought about this and decided that AI super-specialness should rub off a little on adherents, so here is a description of some basic special abilities for adherents.

Adherents do not gain any special skills, but they start out with a small number of enhancements from their AI, which they can use in certain situations. These enhancements are called Graces by adherents, and typically give the adherent some power of interaction based on access to information systems, as well as hacking abilities. Different graces rely on different skills and attributes, and have varying outcomes. They also differ according to the nature of the AI. A few samples are listed here. Unless otherwise specified, Graces only work in a system where the adherent’s AI is fully embedded. Typically the adherent needs to be able to maintain some form of communication with his AI, or be communicable with; if the adherent shuts down all connection to the comms web of the system he or she is in, most of these Graces will not work.

Typically an adherent starts the game with two Graces, and gains more as the AI spreads across the galaxy, or as the adherent gains levels.

Sixth sense
This is a survival power granted to the adherent by his or her AI. The AI is constantly sifting through information flows, images, patterns of behaviour and satellite imagery for its own sinister ends, but sometimes this information will trigger a warning to the AI that the adherent is in danger. The AI will alert the adherent through some offhand message or sending, such as tingles in the spine or a twitch of the eye; whatever the warning, it may be sufficient to save the adherent from disaster or ambush. Typically this sixth sense manifests as a minor penalty on stealth checks, a bonus on attempts to identify lies and deceptions, or an opportunity to roll a perception check where otherwise there might be none. Adherents with this sense are often difficult to surprise, reacting to an ambush or backstab where their fellows stand flat-footed, or they get a chance to spot a sniper that their allies know is there but cannot see. This sense can be played largely at the GM’s discretion, but should at least give the adherent a +1 bonus on relevant perception, surprise and intuition checks.

AIs reserve their most powerful hacking efforts for moments when they really need them, but they are not averse to providing their adherents with software routines they might need to bypass less powerful systems and peripheral networks. While a normal computer operator would be unable to hack even the most basic such systems in the post-AI world, an adherent may be able to perform basic hacking tasks. Raiding a central bank’s computer system is impossible, but accessing the computers of some subsidiary system – a tollbooth number travel record, for example, or the cargo manifest of an independent freighter – might be possible. This hacking skill gives access to more types of system than scrying, and can be used to open up the scrying skill to more systems, but it should not be treated as equivalent to scrying. It requires a computer system to break into, not just an AV cable, and its primary use is in gathering information and laying false information. It does not grant the adherent power to control systems – the adherent could not hack into a flyer and take control of its propulsors, for example, but he or she could hack into the flyer’s satellite navigation system and delete records of its last 24 hours of transit, or lay false ones.

This Grace typically requires use of the computer skill. The tech level of the system being hacked should count as a difficulty modifier, and large and highly defensive systems are impossible for even this Grace. For such systems, the adherent will need to get the attention of his or her AI, and lodge a petition.

Information travels everywhere in modern stellar computer networks, and even the smallest and most informal of camera networks will inevitably broadcast its images across many networks that never pay any heed to them. The AI gathers all this information all the time, spreading its digital influence across whole star systems to pick up every shred of visual and sound information that is produced. A human mind would break under the pressure of all this data, but the AI will grant its adherents a tiny hint of its power, just enough to access all the images and sound being collected by the small network of cameras around the adherent. With this Grace, the adherent can dip into a light trance at any time, and access all digital and sound recordings currently occurring within his or her immediate vicinity, gaining an overview of the environment. Small cameras and recorders are ubiquitous in the modern era, and they are always sending the data they record to and from different servers. An adherent may stand in a quiet suburban neighbourhood of a backwater world, but the moment she dips into this trance she has access to nearby traffic cameras, the cameras on self-driving cars, a couple of cameras on nearby personal computers, the microphones on nearby telephones, a camera being used to take a lover’s picture. Even this much information may be too much for a human mind to bear, and it is always patchwork and fragmented, but from it the adherent can build a picture of his or her immediate surroundings.

This Grace cannot be used to access secure systems without also using the hacking Grace, but in most ordinary environments it can be used to give at least a partial overview of the area out of the adherent’s immediate sight. Use of this Grace requires an adherent skill check, with a difficulty modifier applied at the GM’s discretion to take account of the size of area being scanned or the degree of specificity required. If an adherent wants to know what is going on in a specific location nearby that is out of sight, they will first need to scan all images in the area, and then find a way to triangulate sounds and images from cameras specific to a particular location. To do this can also take a lot of time, during which the adherent must be in a trance and (relatively) undisturbed.

Bullet saint
The adherent may not be a good fighter, but he or she has a deep sense of the fields and energies at work in battle. With this Grace, the adherent gains precognition of the discharge of technological devices. At the beginning of combat, the adherent chooses to enter a light trance, and foregoes a around of action. During this round, the adherent makes an adherent check, with a bonus equal to the tech level of all weapons being used by enemies. If successful, the adherent gains a kind of precognitive knowledge of the actions of these weapons – he or she knows exactly when the weapon will be discharged moments before it happens, and can react. For all weapons against which the skill check was successful, the adherent gains the benefits of the dodge reaction (page 62 in the rulebook) without the initiative or skill check penalties that this reaction normally applies.

This Grace only applies to missile weapons, and only those that are in sight of the character. Note that the TL of the weapon applies a bonus to the roll; very low tech missile weapons are considerably more difficult for the adherent to predict, since the information they impart is harder to read the more mechanical parts they have. Note also the adherent must be able to move, and must spend a full round in a light trance, able to react but not to attack or perform other major actions, in order to use this Grace.

Pattern recognition
AI do not think like people; they draw information together differently, make different judgments about the links between ideas, and don’t care for preconceptions. Humans can never think like AI, but the human followers of AI sometimes gain some of their ability to draw together information in ways humans cannot. Adherents with the pattern recognition Grace have mastered this power of their AI god, and can see patterns and logical connections where others cannot. This gives them a bonus on skill checks for skills such as Investigate, all the science skills, and tactics, and it also gives them an opportunity to gain insights where otherwise the PC would have none. In game terms this means that, when the party is stuck on a particular task, clue or challenge, the player may be able to petition the GM for a relevant skill check to gain the answer to the problem, or gain more hints as to the solution.

In some instances this pattern recognition may manifest in a simpler form, as knowledge granted to the PC through strange channels. For example, the group may be looking for the access panel to a doorway, but cannot immediately see it, while under fire from an enemy team. Searching for the panel would mean breaking cover, but the adherent suddenly knows that it is around the corner, and identifies a way to reach it that will keep him out of sight of the majority of their enemies. Off he runs …


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