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Van Richten's Guide to Psionics 
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Evil Genius
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Post Van Richten's Guide to Psionics
Author's Note: Being a first draft I'm hoping for constructive criticism and contributions by other members. Full credit will be given and I hope to make a full conversion of all the psionic powers I have in books to Ravenloft 3.5e. Suggestions should be redirected to the Reader Comments thread.

Editor's Note: While uncle Rudolph did try and write something like this, he never got past mere notes before his disappearance. Much of the book was actually being written by his colleague, Monsieur Alexander Archer. When we invited him over for tea to ask about it, he already had a largely complete book with him. His record for anticipating our wants and needs is flawless. This guide may help explain how he does that. -- G&LWF

Chapter One: Psionic Power

Mesmerism. Mental powers. ESP. Psychic ability. These are just some of the names for the powers manifested by the mind. For the purposes of this guide I'll refer to them collectively as psionics. These are the abilities to alter, shape, or manipulate the physical world using sheer willpower.

By now some are asking what makes psionics different from magic? When you look at the end results they look exactly alike. So let's look at where the two differ most greatly: origin. Magic is a force present throughout the known universe. It's intangible, invisible, and undetectable, yet we accept that it exists without really asking how or why. Sorcerers shape magic using their force of personality and wizards imprint the energy on their minds to be released at a later time. Clerics, druids, and paladins all draw on magic through faith. Be it in a god, an ideal, or something else they are able to harness this external force and turn it to service of their beliefs. In that sense, magic comes from without.

Psionics come entirely from within. Psionicists need no words or gestures to use their abilities, no costly material components or foci. The power of their brain is all that is needed. They will it and the power of the mind takes shape in the form of sights, sounds, smells, or even thoughts in the surrounding people. Indeed, skilled psionicists can even manifest their powers without showing any signs just by concentrating. An unsettling thought, no?

So if the two are different, do they not affect each other? The answer is yes and no. The easiest way to determine this is to look at the end result of a spell or power. A psionic protection from energy will protect you from a wizard's fireball with no problem, and an elf is just as resistant to psionic sleep effects and charms as magic ones. But trying to use dispel magic or protection from spells against psionic powers won't accomplish a thing. Likewise the spell resistance of some creatures is useless against psionic powers, but some have "power resistance" that protects from psionics but not magic. In either case enough resistance to one often entails lesser resistance to the other. Likewise there are specialized spells and powers for dealing with the other. As I said, it's the end result that finally determines whether the two interact or not.

So if psionics are real, why aren't they better known? That can be chalked up to a variety of things. Foremost is misunderstanding of psionic power. I once met a young man from Darkon who could seemingly use magic at will, but had never been able to grasp the magic lessons he received from the University of Il Aluk. In truth the young man's power wasn't magic at all. Once I showed him how to conduct experiments inside his own mind and search his consciousness his powers blossomed. He's asked that I not name him and I will honor that request.

Another major factor in the relative obscurity of psionics is their rarity. The spark of psychic ability is highly random and can show up in anyone at anytime. Some cultures, through generations of breeding psionically active individuals, have a higher incidence. Perhaps the most famous are the yogis of Sri Raji. Their abilities to walk across hot coals without so much as a scald, to sleep on beds of needles without breaking the skin, and to leave their bodies as they project their spirits are psionic powers at work. They understand the differences between magic and psionics well and can easily differentiate between the two. The art of psionics is actually vital to their religion and culture.

Another domain with strong psionic traditions is Kalidnay. There everyone has what's called a hidden talent by psychic scholars. They can manifest a single power until they exhaust their minimal psychic reserves. To not have a hidden talent is considered bizarre there.

In the greater scheme of things the differences are largely unimportant. A psionic weapon will cleave a ghost's incorporeal flesh as readily as a magic one and it's possible to combine the two. Think of psionics as an alternate source of supernatural power from magic.

Psionic Beings
Humanoids are not the only beings capable of psionic power. Animals and plants are sometimes capable of such things. Brain moles are just moles with psychic power and the most irritating ability to drain psionic power from those who are unaware of their presence. Plants called udoroots use psychic compulsions to attract and kill living beings where the decaying flesh fertilizes their roots. These beings aren't any more dangerous than a wild animal or a bloodrose, despite their psionic power.

Other beings are so charged with psionic might that they can use powers at will without running out of energy. Foremost among those found in the Dread Realms are the rare illithids, or mind flayers. When Bluetspur was still a part of the Core there would be one or two half-crazed people who turn up with stories of alien beings with the bodies of men and the face of a four-tentacled octopus. I'm sorry to say those aren't delusions. A mind flayer represents one of the most powerful--if not the most powerful--of psionic creatures. They can blast your mind with psychic power that will leave even the strongest fighter wimpering and excrete an acid from their tentacles that dissolves flesh and bone instantly to help them reach their preferred food: sentient brains. Their natural powers are horrific to behold, but those who formally study psionics are truly terrifying.

Despite these examples, most psionic beings had to train themselves body and mind to unlock their power. They remain constrained by the limits of their resevoirs of psionic power. Just as a magician can run out of spells, a psionicist can exhaust these mental reserves and be unable to use their powers. And just like magic users, often a part of the mind dictates how strong their powers are and how often they can use them by increasing their psionic strength. Thus using magic or powers that damage the mind can greatly aid in a fight against them. I'll go into more detail below.

Psionic professions are often lumped together under the catchall psionicist. This differentiates them from those who use magic or other forms of power. There are many different ways to manifest and use psychic power, just as there are different ways to channel and use magic. Collectively they can be labeled by their general abilities, but psionics are so unique to every individual that little more than a title is often actually shared.

Ardents are somewhat akin to clerics in their devotion to ideals and manifestation of powers based on what beliefs they follow. They manifest psionic distillations of principles found throughout existence. These manifestations are called "mantles." While mantles do grant additional power, the ardent is limited to powers from his chosen mantles only. Like other true psionicists they may learn additional powers through the use of psychic chiurgery. Willpower and tenacity power their abilities, just like clerics.

Divine minds are similar to ardents but are more martially oriented and more limited in their actual psionic power. They, too, draw on mantles and can manifest powers based on what mantles they choose, though these abilities are different from those of ardents and often geared for combat. They are also limited only to the sixth tier at maximum. Their will is what provides their power.

Lurks are psionic rogues, capable of using their power not only to manifest powers but to do things others can't. Where a mundane rogue can't sneak attack the undead, lurks can if sufficiently powerful and they have enough psychic power to do so. They also grow more swift based on their raw intellect, and that's what powers them. They have access to unique powers that greatly aid them in the arts of stealth and subterfuge as well. Because their powers are largely based on psionic power, they must be careful not to exhaust their power or they are left helpless.

Psions are not unlike wizards in that they are studious, bookish, and even have psionic companions known as psicrystals, though anyone with the ability to manifest powers can attain such. Psions often specialize in one discipline: Clairsentience, Metacreativity, Psychometabolism, Psychokinesis, Psychoportation, or Telepathy. Others, called erudites, are not as specialized and more flexible. This is not that different from how a wizard may specialize in a school, though a psion's chosen discipline is a bit more exclusive. There are powers that only psions of the discipline can learn without outside intervention, often a psychic chiurgery power to "teach" the power to another psionicist. Both psions and erudites draw power from raw intellect, the reasoning portion of the brain.

Psychic warriors are essentially just that, warriors that augment their martial prowess with psionic power. They have access to unique powers, but are limited to the sixth tier at maximum and often have less psionic power than others. They draw power from will and tenacity, much like clerics, and learn many combat abilities similar to those of fighters.

Those known as soulknives, which is one half of my path, are not so much concerned with powers as with their ability to create a blade out of pure psionic force. We wield our mind blades much like any physical weapon, though because it's an extension of us we are capable of so much more. We can charge them with psychic power to increase the damage we do to foes, throw them like spears, splinter them into multiple blades that attack at once, and most of all, our blades grow in strength as we do. Soulknives can also add abilities to our mind blades, much like enchantments such as flaming weapons. This requires nothing more than time and concentration to change. This profession, though psionic, is often overlooked and disregarded as inferior. I hope to prove soulknives can be just as potent in psionics as the most powerful psion.

Wilders, the second half of my path, are those who rely less on study and more on intuition and sheer force of personality to manifest psionic power. We can augment our own psychic abilities but at the cost of being drained afterwards. Some create an intangible shield around themselves that deflects the touch of incorporeal creatures and even touch-based spells. Others, like myself, sacrifice that ability to manifest a barrier of psionic force that absorbs attacks at the cost of our psionic reserves after so much has been taken. Wilders draw on emotion and creativity like sorcerers, and are often just as charismatic.

Touch of Darkness
I am an outlander. Where I'm from things work differently than they do here. Just as magic is changed, so are psionics. Some are more potent but carry very real spiritual risks. Others carry hidden dangers that aren't present in most worlds. Some even just don't work here. None can override the whims of, or control, the Mists. As many powers are analogous to magic--and carry the same risks--it's actually easy for a scholar of the arcane and divine to predict the changes wrought to psionics as well. The one exception regards the power of astral construct. By drawing on the raw stuff of the Astral Plane we can create temporary constructs to fight for us, though more powerful version require more power and sometimes specific training. Regardless of how skilled or powerful a psionicist is, there is always a chance that the construct will coalesce into a Mist elemental when the power is dismissed. Ectopic adepts, those who specialize in astral constructs and are skilled at creating variants, report that other Dread elementals form based on the "element" that the construct represented. As an example, one wilder I met created an anathemic carapace, a beetle-like construct that can explode in a burst of fire. She used it to great effect against a mob of zombies, but much to her dismay a pyre elemental manifested when she dismissed it.

There are also powers that are innately evil or draw on negative energy. Here they are more powerful and more dangerous to use. Powers such as Stygian Conflagration that draw on the Negative Energy Plane are more potent, but carry the same spiritual risks as dark magic. In that sense the two are not that different. Evil is evil, no matter the form it takes. This will be discusses further when I go into the details of psionic mantles, some of which are more dangerous to use than others.

Powers that draw on good are not affected in and of themselves, but the creatures here seem to be more resistant to their effect. My amulet actually sends out jolts of positive energy to any undead or negative energy beein that touches me--a fact I found out quite by accident some years ago when my a ghoul sliced my neck and blood dripped onto it. The resulting bolts are no different from a power called celestial conduit, though seemingly augmented a bit. On other worlds the undead take extra damage from this power. But this wasn't the case for my attacker; in fact it looked like the creature was able to more easily able resist the attack.

To wrap this up, I say this: what applies to magic often applies to psionics regarding how they do or do not function. I know it sounds complicated and I won't lie. It is. But over the next few chapters I hope to clarify what I've touched on here. First regarding the "disciplines" of psionic power and moving onto the more esoteric topics of "psionic mantles," psionic paths that deviate from those listed above, and of course, psionic monsters.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:45 pm
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Chapter Two: Manifestations of the Mind

As I explained in the first chapter, there are many ways to use psionics. Most are analogous to the spells used by wizards and clerics. Others are unique to mentalism. But all require a reserve of mental strength that is inside everyone. Those who have active access to these reserves are said to be "psionically active" or just "psionic," even if they can't actually use any powers. They remain able to do many other things and are also subject to a few unique problems. Psionic power requires eight hours of uninterrupted rest and fifteen minutes of meditation to recover, much like a bard or sorcerer readies their spells. Magic and psionic items can help reduce the time of rest, though even beings that need only four hours of sleep--like elves--still need eight full hours of rest to regain their strength.

To begin, I must explain what psionic focus is since it's central to many psionic abilities. Psionic beings can, simply by concentrating, achieve a mental state of focus unlike any other. Some learned abilities require one to be focused or to expend their focus to activate supernatural abilities, as do certain soulknife abilities. The focus, once achieved, remains unless expended or the psionic being is rendered unconscious. Examples of its use include the ability to cause iron to shatter as if it were glass to running up walls or the activation of metapsionic techniques (ways of augmenting psionic powers). Some, such as the illumine soul can, with training, use their psionic focus to cause a burst of energy--in this case, positive energy that is deadly to the undead but harmless to the living.

Just like spells, using powers requires concentration. Distractions that affect arcane and divine casters equally affect the psionicist. The need for concentration is what makes us targets in battle despite not having any fancy vocal or somatic components; we're just as distracted. Manifesting on the defensive, like spellcasters, is an option and many do so if only because they're lousy in a one-on-one fight. But unlike with spells, our concentration can go a step further: it can hide any displays a power might have.

Many powers have visual, auditory, or even mental or olfactory cues just as spells have words, gestures, or items that give them away. Unlike spells, where special training is necessary, psionicists can simply will their powers not to show anything except the end result. As an example, an energy power doesn't appear to travel anywhere and just shows up at the target point. People might seem to spontaneously combust or their flesh might melt from their bones. Sometimes the displays are there but it's impossible tell they came from the psionicist. Either form of hiding powers requires discipline to pull off successfully, and even doing this in combat will draw attacks--unless also done defensively. Understandably this is not an easy task and becomes harder when using higher tier powers. It's also something of a prankster's trick, since it allows a psionicist to use their powers in public without giving themselves away.

Now we come to the down sides of psionics. Most of the problems unique to psionics tend to be more irritating than dangerous. Because we can be detected as being such, we're vulnerable to divinations that detect for psionic power or psionic creatures. Another is that, as a distinct kind of creature, we can be targeted by bane weapons or made the studied foes of rangers. The latter don't often come into play and I mention them just to be complete. More problematic are a pair of maladies known as ability and brain burn. The former is a result of using certain powers or learned abilities and is manifested by physical or mental weakening that cannot be recovered by magic or psionic powers; it must heal on its own. Brain burn is what happens if a psionicist messes up when using a power stone--the psionic equivalent of spell scrolls--and they can't control the power. There may or may not be other, more severe consequences depending on the power in question. It's the psionic equivalent of having a magic item blow up in one's face.

Then there are things that feed on psionic power. The ethereal thought eaters and their more powerful thought slayer cousins can become problems. These creatures drain psionic beings of their power or the non-psionic of their very intellects, often without ever having to leave the Ethereal Plane. It's because of these two parasites that wise psionicists ward their homes against ethereal intrusion. Less dangerous but just as irritating is the brain mole, a psionic mole that burrows underground and saps psionic power from sleeping minds. These pests make camping a problem for psionicists where they range. So long as the climate is temperate enough and there's sufficient "food" to be had, brain moles will spread. They're also carriers of cascade flu, literally a sickness where a psionicist's powers will "cascade" out of control when they try to use them unless they can rein in the power. Worse is that these cascades drain our psionic power and can leave us high and dry, like a wizard who has cast all her prepared spells and can't use magic anymore until she rests and studies her spellbook.

Finally we come to the biggest limit of psionics: how many powers any psionicist can know. With the exception of generalist psions called erudites, psionicists can't really learn powers unless they grow in strength and experience or undertake intense training. There are ways around this, the most common being the use of psychic chiurgery, a telepathic power that can literally copy another's psionic powers and imprint them into the mind of another. This takes time and energy to perform, and a psionicist must contact a mind that knows the power in question. To help spread knowledge around, many psionic guilds have created an artificial mind, a sort of psionic spellbook where new powers can be "scribed" and later learned using psychic chiurgery. They tend to be crystals, usually orbs or natural formations that have been polished and refract light quite brightly. Like a wizard's spellbook, a psionicist can copy to an artificial mind from another source, though this process takes roughly the same time and resources to accomplish as scribing a spell. They're greater value is as a way for psionicists to develop new powers even when they're at their nominal limits by undertaking mental research very much like spell research. Once a viable power has been designed it can then be put into the AM where it's stored and can be learned as if the AM were a psionicist itself. Artificial minds are effectively infinite in their storage capacity regardless of their size and shape because they're no different from an enchanted spellbook with unlimited pages.

Of course it's possible to swap known powers for new ones, but you can't really be called the best without knowing the big and the small stuff. Those of us who take the time and effort to learn every power we can find outstrip even arch-mages in ability simply because we have similar versatility of choice but also the ability to manifest any known power without preparing it ahead of time.

Editor's Note: Although Monsieur Archer is gloating, he has a right to. Accounts of other psionicists raining down fire and acid one moment and then healing companions the next are recorded in numerous journals our Uncle Rudolph collected and even wrote himself. By all accounts it's a long, difficult approach, but those willing to pay the price can reap awesome rewards. -- Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove

Psionic Powers
Because psionic power comes entirely from within it's not subject to the need for gestures, material components or foci, or even vocalization. They can and do have unique appearances that can give away the manifester if one knows what to look for. Powers often have visual properties, though some might be auditory, olfactory, or mental in nature. Some always manifest the same cues to the same people, while others will change from time to time and person to person. One person might smell wildflowers while another smells baked bread, for example. Unlike magic it's easier to hide such displays and requires no special training, just intense focus. If a psionicist can control the power enough they can effectively manifest a power without anyone realizing it. But again this takes intense training, and much like casting spells it leaves one open to attacks unless done in a defensive way.

Psi-like Abilities
Where some monsters can call upon abilities that mimic spells, others can call on abilities that mimic powers. These are labeled psi-like so as to differentiate them and to clarify that they're subject to psionic rules, not magic ones. Much like spell-like abilities they can be disrupted and leave the user open to attack unless done defensively. Many psionic races possess psi-like abilities, often drawn from the first tier. Some are learned only when the being becomes powerful enough and may resemble greater powers. I, myself, possess a small number of such--the most potent of which is dream travel, the ability to step outside normal reality and into the Region of Dreams that coexists with "reality" literally everywhere. The main use of this power is to greatly speed travel; ten minutes spent travelling in the Region of Dreams equals an hour's march worth of distance in the waking world. This is not without risks, which I'll discuss in later chapters.

This term is actually confusing unless taken in context--abilities usable at will and that require no more effort than lifting a finger. These are supernatural powers, sometimes passive, that cannot be disrupted and are not subject to any normal limits. If a creature is inside a null psionics field then these abilities are useless, but that is the only real limitation. Some may need to "recharge" before being used again but this is just a matter of seconds. The most infamous example is the mind blast ability of the illithids (see chapter four), a wave of pure mental force that causes intelligent minds to collapse in pain unless it's strong enough to resist. Another would be the psiliches aura of madness, as Rudolph van Richten described in his Guide to Liches and which I'll expand on. The soulknife's mind blade is also classified as such because it's an ability we can do without effort. The only real reason scholars even use this seperate term is because these powers are still active in antimagic fields but not areas that nullify psionics.

Psionic Disciplines
In psionics, the term "discipline" is used in lieu of "school" because psionics are entirely within the self. Similar powers may manifest differently from user to user, but the end effects remain much the same and thus can be categorized for ease of reference. This is also important because the psion is required to specialize unless they follow the path of the erudite. This specialization grants access to unique powers in each discipline, but again nothing prevents others from learning these powers if they have the right resources.

Clairsentience is equivalent in many ways to the Divination school of magic, including scrying as well as augmenting existing senses and even attempting to part the veil of time to predict the future. They're known as seers among psionicists and are extremely hard to keep a secret from.

Metacreativity focuses on the creation of objects and matter from ectoplasm, the raw stuff of the Astral Plane and the Plane of Thought (more on that in another chapter). Their powers are akin to Abjuration, the Creation sub-school of Conjuration, and others. Their primary focus is on creating something from this raw matter by shaping it. Thus they're known as shapers.

Psychokinesis is something of a foil to metacreativity. The latter creates matter and energy, but the former manipulates and transforms it. Their abilities are analogous to the Evocation school in that both tend to focus on flashy, elemental-based attacks. A kineticist can unleash a fireball any sorcerer would be proud of.

Psychometabolism is the art of mind-over-matter. Literally the change of the body by thought. As their powers are often self-targeted, psionicists of this discipline are called egoists in reference to the fallacy of them having egos too big to share the power. In truth they can heal and transform others just as readily as themselves, mimicking the Healing sub-school of Conjuration and often the entire school of Transmutation.

Psychoportation focuses on powers that transport through space and/or time. Most of their powers resemble those of the Teleportation sub-school of Conjuration as well as aspects of both the Abjuration and Evocation schools, speeding up subjects or defending them by taking them a mere fraction out of synch with reality. Their name, nomads, needs no explanation.

Telepathy is the art of contacting and controlling the minds of others. Telepaths use powers not unlike those of the Enchantment school, though their control is more profound. Some can destroy the minds of others just by willing it. In the Land of Mists this discipline is dangerous to both the psionicist and the subject when one or the other has an "alien mind." Two humanoids could easily contact each other without harm--so long as neither one is mentally disturbed. Animals and fey are also safe to contact, as are monstrous humanoids. The "types" of creatures that have alien minds are aberrations, constructs, elementals, oozes, outsiders, and plants. The insane and certain, powerful people I won't name are also capable of driving a telepath insane via mental contact. The only caveats are that druids and clerics with the Plant domain can contact intelligent plants safely.

The undead, while not dangerous, present an all too unique challenge: they can protect their minds at will by projecting false thoughts. Unless they are caught off-guard, telepathy often fails against them. Plus most telepathic powers are mind-affecting in nature and the undead are outright immune to such.

Perhaps defensively I decided to expound on the nature of the soulknife in detail here. Another reason is that soulknife abilities are not what scholars would call "psionic powers." Rather they tend towards psi-like abilities and psionics using the definitions above. Thus they fit better here than in the next chapter where I expound on psionic powers specifically.

I am both a psionicist and a soulknife, and I know how the two differ and relate to each other. All too often we're disregarded as fighters who never need weapons since we can always create mind blades. That's missing the point, I feel. Yes, we're martially-oriented persons who can rival a professional soldier in combat, but that's hardly the beginning.

To start, the mind blade that defines us. Although often called a blade, this can be shaped into any other weapon but remains largely the same. Only the type of damage--crushing, cutting, slashing--is changed at first. The blades grow in power and capability with us, and become more damaging at a fairly early point--taking on the characteristics of a heavy mace or longsword, or even a bastard sword. Others learn to shape their mind blades into exotic weapons like dire flails and double axes. This is in addition to innate enhancements that grow in power with the wielder, just like magic weapons. At a certain point a soulknife can even begin applying abilities similar to those of flaming weapons or other weapon enchantments; the more powerful the wielder, the more power the mind blade has and the more powerful the abilities it can use.

But just what is a mind blade? In essence it's an extension of the wielder's mind, energy taking on a solid form. Without the soulknife's grip the blade can't maintain itself and it disappears instantly. A mind blade's cosmetic appearance varies, from short swords to maces to rapiers to anything the soulknife wants it. Even the color can be changed, though the glow of the energy is too dim to use as a light source in most cases. Essentially a mind blade is a part of the soulknife, like a hand or a foot. Its our psionic power made manifest.

One of the first abilities we learn is to throw our mind blades a short distance, often thirty feet. This gives us a ranged attack (but see the soulbow below) that never runs out of ammunition. Another of our attacks is what's called a psychic strike. Literally we use psychic energy to strike deeper into our foes much as a rogue can inflict grievous wounds on the unwary, though in our case we can attack any creature with an intellect. This in turn gives way to another power dubbed Knife to the Soul by previous scholars, but a more apt name is Mental Sever. Literally the same energies that a psychic strike uses can damage, albeit temporarily, the mental abilities of others. Against psionic and magic users these attacks can be devastating as they weaken their very powers and often the tiers they can use. It's not uncommon for foes of multiple strikes to lose all abilities, rendering them much less of a threat.

Those of us trained in two-weapon fighting can also split our mind blades after some experience, a blade in each hand. Both are no better than a short sword in actual power and they lose some of the ability given to them. Again there is a technique to counter this and even allow one blade to be larger and more powerful. This can come as quite a surprise to would-be foes.

Perhaps the most feared attack is the bladewind--a momentary shattering of the mind blade into numerous copies of itself that then attack all nearby foes. This ability takes some time to use and is only truly useful when facing groups of enemies.

Of the diverging paths of power, I know of only two that are unique to soulknives. The first is the illumine soul, a soulknife that has forged a connection with the Positive Energy Plane and gained powers to fight the undead. The first ability gained is to make psychic strikes against all undead, even mindless ones that would otherwise be immune. Along the way we gain the ability to project rays of positive energy that burn the undead, the ability to ward ourselves against negative energy, innate healing, a permanent undead bane power to our mind blades, and finally the ability to unleash a burst of positive energy that is baleful to beings of negative energy. These are in addition to a strengthening of our basic soulknife abilities.

The path of the soulbow is one I undertook less because of want and more because of need. A soulbow uses their mind like a bow and arrow, unleashing bolts of energy called mind arrows that can be used in many of the same ways as physical projectiles. Although thought of as ranged specialists, any soulbow worth their salt will keep their soulknife training up as well since the two are often complementary. Psychic strikes and Mental Sever can be used via mind arrows, even in multiple arrows fired at the same time. This would make it sound like every soulknife would want to walk the path of a soulbow as well, but the truth is this takes away heavily from our training and is a path taken very rarely. Even I was already a master soulknife when I first became a soulbow, the art of melee combat more appealing to me in my youth. Only in age have I seen the wisdom of fighting a foe from a distance.

Now that a basic primer on aspects unique to psionics is out of the way, we'll move on to powers in the next chapter.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Sun Mar 29, 2009 1:19 pm
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Chapter Three: Psionic Powers

Some powers work differently in the Land of Mists, while others don't work at all or are altered in bizarre manners. The following is a basic list of known psionic powers and how they differ. If a power is not listed then it functions normally. The entry for Ectoplasm is quoted from the Ravenloft Dungeon Master's Guide and updated for 3.5 D&D.

In Ravenloft, creatures formed out of ectoplasm, such as astral constructs, have the Mists subtype (see the Ravenloft Player's Handbook, Chapter Three, "Altered Magic," Conjuration). When ectoplasm is created in the Realm of Dread, it appears as wisps of white vapor before it coalesces into the usual tranluscent jelly. When an ectoplasmic creation dissipates, you must make a Will Save against your own power. If you fail this saving throw, a Mist elemental (see Denizens of Dread) is created where each ectoplasmic creature dissipated, with Hit Dice equal to the power's effective level. These elementals are always free-willed.

Adapt Body: See Closed Domain Borders.

Affinity Field: If any target has an alien mind then everyone else must make a Madness Save. Note that powers checks are not shared by the others in the field.

Affinity Field, Pain: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Anchored Navigation: While active, the manifester cannot enter the Mists. Also unless augmented, this power does not work across domain borders. Using the mindlink function counts as mental contact for the purposes of prompting Madness Saves.

Animal Affinity: This power functions normally. Note that onlookers might mistake the manifester for a lycanthrope because of the display.

Apopsi: If either creature has an alien mind, the other must make a Madness Save.

Assimilate: Manifesting this power requires a powers check. Also the manifester must make a Madness Save against the power's DC or develop the Multiple Personality Madness effect, based on the assimilated target's original personality. If the assimilated creature had an alien mind then a second Madness Save is called for as if making mental contact.

Astral Caravan: See Closed Domain Borders. This power only allows entrance to the Near Ethereal.

Astral Construct: See Ectoplasm. In addition, those who use the Ectopic Construct feats from CPsi risk summoning other dread elementals based on the construct created.
Agile Loper, Amber Tunneler, Ebony Stinger, Emerald Gyre: Grave
Alabaster Aerial, Regular Astral Construct: Mist
Astral Aquan, Iridescent Serpent: Blood
Anathemic Carapace: Pyre

Astral Seed: If the manifester fails a saving throw against his own power when activated, this power imprisons them in the astral seed. If the seed or manifester are in different domains and one has closed borders, this power fails outright.

Attraction: See Enchantment, Mind-Affecting.

Aura Alteration: This power cannot undo curses of vengeance or failed powers checks.

Aura Sight: See Detecting Alignment.

Aversion: See Enchantment, Mind-Affecting.

Baleful Teleport: A subject under the effects of a soul anchor spell (pg. 119, RPH) is not subject to damage from this spell, the same as a subject of dimensional anchor.

Banishment, Psionic: See Extraplanar.

Bend Reality: As limited wish.

Bestow Power: See Mind-Affecting.

Bite of the Wolf: See Transmutation. This power functions normally, but onlookers may mistake the manifester for a lycanthrope.

Body Equilibrium: See Closed Domain Borders.

Body Purification: This power can be used to reverse the effects of failed Madness saves so long as the manifester still has the requisite ability score.

Bolt: This power cannot create crossbow bolts in domains less than Classical Cultural Level, and doesn't function at all in domains with a CL of Savage.

Brain Lock: See Mind-Affecting. Subjects of this power gain a +4 bonus to Horror and Madness saves while their higher minds are locked away. The mental distance helps buffer the mind.

Breathless: See Closed Domain Borders.

Call Armor: This power can only call armor that is available to the Cultural Level of the domain. The augmented versions cannot be used in any domains below Classical (CuL 4) domains. This power fails utterly in Savage (CuL 0) domains.

Call Weaponry: This power can only call weapons that are available to the Cultural Level of the domain. It fails utterly in Savage (CuL 0) domains.

Celestial Conduit: In Ravenloft this power is less effective. Undead do not suffer additional damage per die and also gain a +2 bonus on their saving throw to halve the damage.

Cerebral Phantasm: The Courage feat applies to the saving throw against this power.

Chaos Fissure: Darklords are immune to the effects of this power and automatically become aware of the precise location where it's manifested.

Charm, Psionic: See Enchantment, Mind-Affecting.

Clairtangent Hand: This power cannot cross domain borders.

Clairvoyant Sense: This power cannot cross domain borders.

Claws of the Beast: See Transmutation. This power functions normally in Ravenloft, but onlookers unaware of the claws' nature must make a Horror save (DC 11) or assume the manifester is some sort of a lycanthrope.

Claws of Darkness: Automatically increase the damage dice level by one in Ravenloft. Otherwise this power functions normally.

Claws of the Vampire: In Ravenloft this power heals damage equal to the total damage, not half the total damage. Victims slain by those using this power must make a Will save (DC 13) or rise as vampire spawn. These spawn are always free-willed.

Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Conceal Thoughts: This power fails utterly against darklords.

Contingency, Psionic: If a power to be activated requires a powers check, roll that check when the psionic contingency is set.

Control Air: See Closed Domain Borders.

Control Body: If the subject is forced to commit an act of evil using this power, it's the psionicist that must make the powers check.

Control Flames: See Closed Domain Borders.

Co-Opt Concentration: See Mind-Affecting.

Correspondence: See Mind-Affecting.

Cranial Deluge: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Crisis of Breath: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Crisis of Life: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Damp Power: See Closed Domain Borders, Darklords.

Dark Despair: This power causes a -4 Will save penalty and 1d6+1 damage in Ravenloft but automatically requires a powers check.

Death Knell, Psionic: As death knell.

Death Urge: Increase the base DC by +2 in Ravenloft. Characters suffering from the Suicidal Thoughts Madness effect suffer an additional -4 penalty to their saving throw. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Deceleration: See Closed Domain Borders.

Decerebrate: Manifesting this power requires a powers check. Also the caster must be a minimum of 10th level in Ravenloft to restore a victim.

Déjà Vu: Forcing a subject to relive a Fear, Horror, or Madness save or other traumatic event calls for a powers check. The subject gets a +1 bonus on this second save.

Demoralize: The Courage feat applies to the saving throw against this power.

Detain Ectoplasm: At the DM's discretion the recycled ectoplasm may have a greater chance of forming a dread elemental.

Detect Hostile Intent: In Ravenloft this power works too well. The subject suffers a -5 Morale penalty due to the omnipresent hostility of the darklords. If manifested in the Mists this penalty doesn't apply.

Detect Remote Viewing: As detect scrying.

Dimension Door, Psionic: As dimension door.

Dimension Slide: This power does not function across domain borders, even if the target is in sight or the borders are open.

Dimension Swap: As dimension slide.

Dimension Twister: If thrust against a closed domain border, the target is subjected to its effects in addition to the normal damage.

Disable: In Ravenloft the base HD affected is raised to 6. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Dismissal: As dismissal.

Dismiss Ectoplasm: This power can negate the chance of a dread elemental forming when used against an ectoplasm power if used before the target power's duration runs out.

Dispelling Buffer: See Darklords.

Divination, Psionic: See Divination and divination.

Dominate, Psionic: See Mind-Affecting, Compulsion.

Dream Travel: Every ten minutes of travel using this power has a cumulative 5% chance of drawing the attention of a dream spawn who then tries to lure the characters into the Nightmare Lands.

Earth Walk: See Closed Domain Borders.

Ecto Protection: If an astral construct under the influence of this power turns into a dread elemental, the bonus remains as Deflection bonuses to the elemental's AC.

Ectoplasmic Form: When the duration expires, the target must make a Will save against the power. If this save fails then the target turns into a Mist elemental for as long as they were in ectoplasmic form. Their alignment becomes Neutral Evil and any actions while in the new form may call for powers checks.

Ectoplasmic Shambler: See Ectoplasm.

Ectoplasmic Swarm: At the end of the duration the manifester must make a Will save against their own power. Failure denotes the swarm going out of control. They're effectively Neutral Evil and have the Mists subtype.

Ego Whip: See Mind-Affecting.

Empathic Feedback: See Mind-Affecting. Manifesting this power requires a powers check unless done in defense or for altruistic means.

Empathic Transfer: This power cannot remove supernatural diseases or disease-like curses such as lycanthropy or mummy rot.

Empathic Transfer, Hostile: See Mind-Affecting. Using this power requires a powers check.

Empathy: As detect thoughts.

Empower Weapon: Storing a power that requires a powers check requires the check be made when the power is stored.

Empty Mind: This power can be used in response to a Fear, Horror, or Madness save.

Eradicate Invisibility: Ghosts gain a morale bonus equal to their magnitude on their saving throw against this power.

Ethereal Agent: The agent is treated as a ghost with a magnitude equal to its manifester's Charisma for the purposes of interaction with Ethereal Resonance.

Ethereal Jaunt See Ethereal.

Etherealness: See Ethereal.

Fate Link: If one target is forced to make a powers check, this only applies to them and not the second target.

Feat Leech: Using this power counts as mental contact.

Fiendish Conduit: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Fission: This power is dangerously altered in Ravenloft. The duplicate is not under the manifester's control and has a moral alignment of evil. If the duplicate kills the manifester, it takes their place and becomes a real being. Any actions the duplicate takes that requires powers checks apply to the manifester.

Fuse Flesh: See Transmutation.

Genesis: Manifesting this power in Ravenloft does not create a demiplane or an anti-genesis wave. Instead the manifester gains a reality wrinkle like an outsider (1,000 ft. per manifester level). They cannot learn domain-based powers but any failed powers checks halve the radius until it disappears and they become subject to powers checks as normal. This power can only ever be used once by any one manifester while in Ravenloft.

Graft Weapon: Grafting an evil intelligent magic weapon immediately calls for Will save against the item's Ego. Failure means the weapon will not fall off at the end of the duration and cannot be removed by manifesting this power again. Grafting an evil-aligned weapon requires a powers check.

Greater Glory: Evil characters and creatures in Ravenloft gain a +2 bonus to their Fortitude save to resist the nausea effect of this power.

Heavy Earth: See Darklords. Darklords are never affected by this power.

Hungry Touch: Manifesting this power requires a powers check. If a humanoid dies as a result of the hit point loss, it rises the next night as a free-willed ghoul or ghast (based on victim's HD) and will likely pursue the manifester in revenge.

Id Insinuation: See Mind-Affecting.

Incarnate: This power calls for a powers check if the power to be made permanent calls for one.

Incite Bravery: This power allows for failed Fear and Horror saves to be rerolled with a +4 bonus. Otherwise it functions normally.

Inconstant Location: See Teleportation.

Inflict Pain: Manifesting this power calls for a powers check.

Insanity: The Open Mind feat applies its bonus to the save against this power. Manifesting this power calls for a powers check.

Intellect Bomb: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Know Direction and Location: This power simply doesn't work inside the Mists.

Larval Flayers: Outside Bleutspur this power simply fails to work (though power points are still used up) and manifesting it requires a powers check. Manifesters with the Entities from the Id feat can summon them in any domain, but such creatures will have the Mist subtype.

Light Beam: The Shadow version of this power suffers no penalty to damage, while the Darkness beam does +2 points of damage per die instead of the usual +1 in areas of shadowy illumination or darkness.

Mental Turmoil: See Mind-Affecting. This power functions at +1 manifester level in Ravenloft and the Open Mind feat grants its bonus to the Will Save.

Metaconcert: If any member of the psionic pool has an alien mind or is suffering a Madness affect, all other participants must make Madness Saves at a DC equal to the mad member's current Madness Save DC to recover or else 10 + half the alien mind's HD + the alien mind's Cha modifier. A maddened, alien mind requires two saves, one against each DC.

Metafaculty: See Detecting Alignment. This potent power puts the manifester square in the sights of the Dark Powers; prolonged and/or extensive use may require a Madness Save or powers check at the DM's discretion.

Metamorphosis and Greater Metamorphosis: See Transmutation.

Microcosm: See Compulsion, Mind-Affecting. Manifesting this power requires a powers check unless done for altruistic reasons.

Mind Probe: See Mind-Affecting.

Mind Seed: See Mind-Affecting. This power functions at +1 manifester level in Ravenloft, but using it requires a powers check.

Mind Switch and True Mind Switch: See Mind-Affecting. These powers have all the drawbacks of the magic jar spell, including the requisite powers check.

Mind Thrust: See Mind-Affecting.

Mind Trap: See Mind-Affecting.

Mindfire: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Mindlink: See Mind-Affecting.

Mindlink, Thieving: See Mind-Affecting. Taking knowledge of a power without permission requires a powers check.

Mindwipe: See Mind-Affecting. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Missive: See Mind-Affecting.

Modify Memory, Psionic: As the spell of the same name.

Object Reading: If the item is the possession of a darklord, or else a darklord possessed it at any point while a darklord, a Madness Save is required. Items that belonged to darklords, but were lost or sold before they became darklords, do not require a save.

Personality Parasite: See Mind-Affecting. Manifesting this power requires a powers check, and the victim effectively suffers the Multiple Personality Madness effect for the power's duration.

Phase Door, Psionic: As the spell of the same name.

Planar Apotheosis: Manifesting the fiendish version of this power requires a powers check. The manifester does not gain a reality wrinkle.

Planar Champion: See Conjuration (Calling). Calling a cerebilith requires a powers check.

Planar Embrace: Manifesting the fiendish version of this power requires a powers check. The manifester does not gain a reality wrinkle.

Plane Shift, Psionic: As the spell of the same name.

Power Leech: This power drains 2d6 power points in Ravenloft. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Power Resistance: The granted power resistance does not protect the target from having to make powers checks.

Power Thief: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Primal Fear: The Courage feat grants its bonus to the save against this power. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Protection From Evil, Psionic: As the spell of the same name.

Protection from Good, Psionic: As the spell of the same name. Manifesting this Evil power does not require a powers check.

Psionic Blast: See Mind-Affecting.

Psionic Revivify: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Psychic Chirurgery: See Mind-Affecting. This power can undo any Fear, Horror, or Madness effect. In the last case, the manifester must make a Madness Save equal to the target's failed Madness Save - 5.

Psychic Containment: See Mind-Affecting.

Psychic Reformation: See Mind-Affecting.

Psychic Vampire: In Ravenloft this power drains 4 power points. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Psychometry: See Divination. If at any point a darklord entered the area being scanned, a Madness Save is required.

Psychoportive Shelter: See Extradimensional Spaces.

Psychotic Break: The Open Mind feat grants its bonus to the save against this power. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Quintessence: By fiat of the Dark Powers, this power functions normally despite Ravenloft being cut off from the astral plane.

Read Thoughts: As the spell detect thoughts.

Reality Revision: As the spell wish.

Recall Agony: In Ravenloft, the initial damage is 3d6 and the augmentation is 2d6--including the increased DC. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Recall Death: If the subject dies, it returns as an undead of the DM's choice under the sway of the manifester if she's present. Otherwise the undead is free-willed and will likely seek revenge. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Remote Viewing: See Scrying.

Retrieve: This power cannot work across domain borders, even if the item is in sight of the manifester.

Schism: In Ravenloft, the manifester must make a Madness save against his own power after it expires or is dismissed. Failure means the manifester suffers Multiple Personalities.

Sense Link: See Mind-Affecting. If the subject(s) see something that would invoke a Fear, Horror, or Madness save, the manifester must make a check as well with a +2 bonus for distance.

Sense Link, Forced: As sense link.

Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions: The manifester may be subject to Fear, Horror, or Madness saves depending on what they view.

Serenity: This power can remove the effects of a failed Fear save.

Shadow Body: The manifester must make a Will save against his own power or else be turned into an undead shadow.

Shadow Walk, Psionic: As the spell shadow walk.

Share Pain: Manifesting this power does not require a powers check as it requires a willing subject.

Share Pain, Forced: Manifesting this power requires a powers check unless done in self-defense. Thus manifesting it on someone attacking you doesn't require a check, but doing so on an innocent bystander or another party member without their consent does.

Speak With Dead, Psionic: As the spell speak with dead.

Stygian Bolt: As the spell enervation. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Conflagration: As the spell energy drain. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Discernment: As the spell detect undead.

Stygian Disruption: As the spell disrupting weapon.

Stygian Dominion: As the spell control undead. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Ray: In Ravenloft the target suffers 2d4 negative levels and the undead gain 10 temporary hit points. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Touch: As the power stygian ray. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Ward: Manifesting this power does not require a powers check. As an additional note, the spell death ward should not require a powers check, either, as it utilizes positive energy, not negative.

Stygian Veil: Upon manifesting this power, the manifester must make a Will save against his own power or permanently become an undead creature of the DM's choosing. Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Stygian Weapon: Manifesting this power requires a powers check.

Suggestion, Psionic: As the spell suggestion.

Suggestion, Implanted: As the spell suggestion.

Supress Schism: This power can temporarily relieve the effects of the Multiple Personalities Madness effect. This power can also end the effects of a Mist elemental's infuse evil ability.

Telempathic Projection: See "Enchantment," "Mind-Affecting."

Teleport, Psionic: See "Teleportation."

Teleport, Psionic Greater: See "Teleportation."

Teleporation Circle, Psionic: See "Teleportation."

Teleport Trigger: See "Teleportation."

Thought Shield: This power offers no protection against Fear, Horror, or Madness saves unless prompted by psionic powers.

Time Regression: If used to warn others of something that will happen, they gain a +2 bonus to any Fear, Horror, and/or Madness saves that will result.

Tower of Iron Will: as thought shield.

Trace Teleport: As the spell detect teleporation.

True Seeing, Psionic: As the spell true seeing.

Vampiric Blade: As claws of the vampire, including the need to make a powers check.

Wall of Ectoplasm: The wall created by this power is completely solid to incorporeal beings.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:46 am
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Post Re: Van Richten's Guide to Psionics
Chapter Four: Psionic Threats
Just as the Land of Mists has a dearth of psionic-gifted people, so too does it lack many psionic creatures that pose a threat to the innocent. Sadly the ones it does have are all the more dangerous because their powers are not well understood or easily countered. A lich who attained their status via magic is susceptible to magic--be it arcane or divine. But a psilich isn't so hampered. Granted it lacks the defenses against magic its more common brethren have, but an intelligent psilich (and sadly most are more intelligent than their hunters) can easily compensate.

Only one creature can truly compete with the psilich for the top spot of psionic threat: the illithid.

Imagine a normal human. Now turn their skin a sickly mauve color and replace their mouth with a four-tentacled octopus with a circular mouth full of sharp teeth at the center. That's what an illithid looks like. Another apt name for them is mind flayers. Their tentacles exhude an enzyme that dissolves flesh and bone on contact and so it appears they can tear a person's skullcap off and suck the brain right out of their heads. The reality is the tentacles aren't strong enough to pierce skin and bone in and of themselves, but it's a moot point. They can do it regardless and it remains one of their most horrific abilities to witness. Unfortunately if you're a witness, chances are good you're also going to be a meal as well.

They're a parasitic species that reproduces literally by implanting their young in the brains of sentient beings and then transforming the body. Sometimes this horrific process--ceremorphosis--results in a nasty hybrid being if the host is incompatible but not so much that they die. These half-illithids are just as nasty as their full-blooded parents and still retain many strengths from their non-illithid heritage. Often these creatures are further augmented by biomancy, the art of transforming living flesh or grafting new parts onto the body. And still some hosts are just completely incompatible and both tadpole and host die; this doesn't stop the illithids from trying out new combinations, though. Sometimes the result is neither an illithid or a half-breed but some awful new creature altogether. Fortunately such monstrosities are rare.

Individually a mind flayer is a potent foe, possessed of a genius intellect and psi-like abilities that give it the ability to turn friends against each other, teleport short distances, and even stun foes with a mental blast that I can only describe as having someone ripping the top layer off your mind. This is their signature ability, the mind blast. It leaves victims stunned for anywhere from thirty or so seconds to nearly three minutes. Either is more than enough time for the creature to feed or to dominate someone to turn them against former allies. It's hard to say which is worse: seeing a friend have their brain extracted or being forced to contend with them as well as a complete monster at the same time. This can be especially bad if the person is a potent warrior or spellcaster with a full repetoire of dangerous spells.

Illithid Anatomy
Full illithids are, for lack of a better term, nothing but giant brains. Their young are tadpoles and the process of ceremorphosis causes that tadpole to replace the host's brain by devouring it and taking its place. This grants them incredible psionic power even as it greatly hinders their functioning. The brain is responsible for the creation and management of so many different chemicals and hormones as well as psychic energy itself that, by replacing the hosts brain, illithids can't produce those very things and must gain them by eating sentient beings. Scholars familiar with illithids speak of them devouring brains and this is certainly their favorite food; brains are high in the chemicals, hormones, and the only source of psychic energy. But illithids can and do eat other organs to gain the former two "nutrients" they need. In effect, an illithid is a bloated parasite in a humanoid body that has the power of a psionic master but lacks the ability to supply its body with essential "humours." Just one needs one brain a month to merely survive, two to stay at moderate strength, and ideally four--one a week--for optimum strength. A lone illithid could, and would, depopulate a small town in a matter of months if left unchecked. But lone illithids are rare.

By their nature, illithids are social creatures and gather in giant hives led by an elder brain, a conglomerate of dead illithid brains. This creature is even more powerful than a hundred of its kind and is always a psionicist of supreme power. Worse, they can command the colony with just a thought and send an army down on anyone foolish enough to attack. Plus, like its lessers, it has the ability to blast your mind. The elder brain also looks over the tadpole pool where mind flayers in immature form spend their first ten (or twenty) years of life. Those not eaten by the elder brain are chosen for ceremorphosis under a survival-of-the-fittest mentality. A colony could contain hundreds of adults, countless more tadpoles, and of course the elder brain. So food becomes one of their biggest priorities and remains a constant struggle.

To eat the illithids engage in so-called "brain raids," attacking towns in the dark of night to take any fresh brains they can and often enslave any survivors to act as meat on the hoof. Others might take to "herding" humanoids, but the slow rate of growth of most humanoids make this hard to do. A humanoid doesn't reach "ripeness" for years and illithids need a brain twice a month or else go on a starvation diet. The math is not hard to do and it explains why illithids often risk their lives to kidnap the sentient brains they need to survive. Tales of entire villages disappearing overnight can be the work of illithids as much as any monster; more so if there are no bodies. Few beings are as intelligent and the sight of corpses with their brains missing would alert their foes. Thus they hide their attacks under cover of darkness and psionic silence. Those taken alive are used as slave labor until it's time to "harvest." Sometimes these slaves are allowed to live and breed, especially if an equilibrium can be maintained. But in those cases we're talking about illithid colonies that rival surface empires.

Fortunately I've not heard of any sizable colonies outside of Bluetspur. In that blasted land came the Thaani of Immol to Barovia centuries ago. Their tales of the "four-fingered masters" match illithid lore and they show signs of biomantic alterations passed down the bloodlines. The Great Upheaval did a wonderful job of ending a persistent if silent threat to the Core. Only now I hear that more and more Mistways lead unwary travelers to Bluetspur, now supposedly adrift in the Mists. If true than they're just as much a threat as ever. The loss of one source of food seems to have been replaced by one other. If you find yourself in a land of twisted rock formations and purple lightning, run. Run fast, run hard, and don't stop until you escape or die. Either one is a preferable fate to becoming an illithid's meal.

The illithilich, or alhoon, is borne of the illithids twisted study of magic or even their psionic powers (but see below for that). Even as masters of the mind, the illithids pursue wizardry with zeal and use it to augment their powers as well as counter their few weaknesses. Clerical magic is rarer as few are able to subsume their egos enough to worship another being, but the most common is a being called Ilsensine--a giant, brain-like entity that seeks utter knowledge. Mind flayers hold it as what a truly ancient, powerful elder brain could and should become. Those who do pursue the path of the divine are sufficiently rare that they almost never become alhoons, and the basic tenets of their "faith" makes the prospect pointless; an undead illithid can't join its brain with the elder brain, after all. And that's precisely what all illithids aspire to when they die. The clerics of Ilsensine even more so.

Sorcery is considered something not so much taboo as distasteful, and the unlucky mind flayer to inherit sorcerous powers with their host body is often shunned for pursuing an art so far removed from their cold, analytical methodology. They are the most likely to become alhoons, simply as a result of being alienated from an already alien race and sometimes exiled to boot. With nothing to lose they pursue the path to lichdom, knowing they're already "dead."

As much as I loathe the illithids, fear them, even hate them, there are things far worse. Psionic mastery brings with it the same power over death and unlife as magic does for those willing to pursue such lore. The process of a psionicist becoming a lich is not dissimilar to that of a magic user in many ways, save perhaps for their phylacteries. The "common" lich creates one by first creating a sealed box containing strips of magical parchment as its first step; the psilich does this last and doesn't create the same kind of device. Rather the prospective lich brews the potion and then begins to ritually "store" its powers in its phylactery, losing access to them until after its transformation. Once it has sealed the last of its powers, it must drink the lethal brew as normal and hope it can make the transition to undeath. Obviously finding a would-be psilich as it's storing its powers away is best, since it will be unable to access all of them and may even be unable to manifest any if it's too far along.

For those that do make it, they appear much as a normal lich: dried, parchment-like skin tight over a skeletal body, sunken eyes with pits of light in the sockets, and the infamous aura. Unlike magical liches, psiliches give off an aura of immense dread that creeps into the minds of its victims and draws out their worst fears to make the victim think they're real. Sometimes it's voices in the head, other times the hallucination of creatures swarming a person, the potential list is far too long to go into here. Suffice to say it's whatever the victim dreads most that is experienced. Van Richten actually did an excellent job of describing this in his Guide to Liches.

The touch of the psilich is not the same chilling touch as magical liches, but one that still causes damage through negative energy. Worse still, it can drain the psionic strength of its foes and use such to refill its own reserves. Against non-psionic foes, there is no further effect. Thus those that are best equipped to counter the creature are also the most vulnerable to its baleful touch. The sole exception is soulknives; mind blades are not reliant on the same psionic reserves as the powers of others, and neither are our other abilities.

Ironically, psionic illithiliches are not that much more dangerous than non-illithid psiliches. In fact it could be argued that they are weaker than magical illithiliches because they do not possess any powers beyond those they already possessed in life and have cultivated to become what they are. Certainly some do go this route, but it remains rare.

Spectral Savant
A form of undeath unique to psionicists is the status of spectral savant, the disembodied mind and power of one willing to undergo the process. These incorporeal psionicists possess a draining touch much like a vampire as well as the ability to drain psionic power as a psilich. The process is also far easier than becoming a psilich, requiring the most potent cognizance crystal--a crystal that can store psionic power--that can be created and a number of mundane crystals as well. In exchange for this corrupted immortality, though, the creature suffers a debilitating weakness for a psionicist:

It loses all of its own psionic strength.

The creature has no innate psionic power to fuel its powers and must siphon such from other psionic beings--even those with psi-like abilities. While its draining touch can be deadly to anyone, against non-psionic foes it is at a distinct disadvantage as it has no way of using any of its own psionic powers unless it has drained such and not used up the power.

Finally the creatures eyes are worth noting. It's said that the eyes are a window to the soul. For an undead being that is, in effect, a soul, the results are more striking and visible. Although rare, on other worlds it was not unheard of for spectral savants to be of good heart; such beings had silver eyes. Morally neutral savants had jade eyes. Evil savants have green eyes, and the only two I've ever encountered here invariably had green glowing eyes. Certain powers can alter the apparent color, as can certain items that bestow illusory changes, but true sight will reveal the facade.

Callers In Darkness
Callers in darkness are undead horrors composed of the insane minds of its victims. They appear as whirlwinds of screaming faces lost to insanity, wild-eyed and unpredictable. Though they have some psionic prowess, they are not individually as dangerous as a psilich or illithid. What makes them worth mentioning is that they are, by far, the most common psionic threat in the Land of Mists. Their genesis lies in the death of someone in the throes of madness who also possesses a spark of psionic power. Death and madness only stoke that spark into a small fire that grows as the creature consumes the minds and bodies of others. The good news is that the ones found in any great numbers are borne of a single mind and quite weak, not even a match for farmers with pitchforks and shovels. The bad news is that, sometimes, they are born in asylums and have no trouble feeding on the disturbed minds of the inmates and growing in power. The Merscher Asylum in Dementlieu is one such case; a patient there, one kept in solitary confinement for what the doctors thought to be sorcerous powers that manifested as telekinetic spells, died suddenly. A caller in darkness was born and began to feed on the insane minds also confined nearby. Then it made its way to other, less secure areas. Orderlies and doctors alike were attacked and only the intervention of an anchorite put the creature down. Twenty people, twelve patients and eight staff, had been killed before it was destroyed. Other cases of asylums suddenly being found abandoned or with people murdered have popped up, but only rarely.

Those "scholars" of the mind sometimes point to the Institute for the Mentally Disturbed in Nova Vaasa as perhaps the most infamous example of such. In a sense they're right; there was mental power of sorts at work, but not a mere caller in darkness. I'll elaborate on this further on in chapter six.

A fiend is a horrific monster on its own. Throw in psionic power and what you get is something far worse. The cerebilith is a chaotic fiend--one of the tanar'ri of the Abyss--that appears to be a hunched humanoid with sickly brown skin and an elongated head with a partially exposed, oversized brain. Aside from its fiendish powers, the creature has psi-like abilities as well and both the intellect and drive to pursue greater psionic power. There is only one here that I am aware of, a beast that calls itself Gaxan. When I first picked up senses of its taint, it was building a cult of followers. Only its lieutenants had been totally mentally enslaved, leaving dozens of others to willingly join its Cult of the Chaotic Mind. I came close to destroying its phylactery--a crystalline child's skull with a cranium shattered by a swollen brain--before my efforts were disrupted by the sudden attack of Kargat agents on its compound. Gaxan appeared just as I was about to strike its phylactery with my mind blade, potentially destroying it. Instead I inflicted a grievous wond on the fiend as it protected its phylactery and teleported away, leaving me to face the Kargat. I berated them with the most venomous words I could muster for destroying the one chance I had at destroying the creature before teleporting away myself.

Since then I've disrupted the Cult of the Chaotic Mind on three different occasions, and fought off attacks by cultists and mentally enslaved pawns countless more times. But I've never been able to come as close to victory as I did that first time. As for the Kargat agents...well, not long after that first encounter I received a letter from Azalin himself, berating me for interfering with a matter of his own. Bah! The lich thinks too much of himself if he considers that something that only concerns him. Gaxan is potentially the greatest psionic threat in the Realms of Dread.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Last edited by High Priest Mikhal on Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:23 pm
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Post Re: Van Richten's Guide to Psionics
Chapter Five: Planes of Power
Some scholars correctly posit the existence of other planes of existence. What many don't know is that there are planes that exist beyond the known ones. I refer to these as side planes because they literally exist "just to the side" of known realities, sometimes coming into such close contact as to be indistinguishable. This has caused a great deal of confusion and I hope to clear some of it up here. These are included because of their connection to psionics and the mind. In fact they're sometimes referred to as the "mind" of the multiverse.

Plane of Thought
Touching all planes but the Ethereal Plane is the Astral Plane. A formless silver void where time is halted. Many psionicists posit that the Astral Plane is where many ectoplasmic powers draw their matter from and they're not entirely wrong. The truth is that another plane coexists so closely as to be nearly impossible to tell apart: the Plane of Thought. Traveling to the Plane of Thought is not easy; only very powerful and specialized spells and powers can reach such a place.

Aesthetically the Plane of Thought is not terribly different from the Astral Plane, though there are no masses of land--the corpses of dead gods--or githyanki citadels. The two share all of the same traits of no gravity, timelessness, etc. The main differences are the visibility of auras and the existence of a luminous violet metal that only responds to psionic beings, ferroplasm. Living and unliving beings alike are limned by light that show their emotional state while within the Plane of Thought. Truly unliving things like constructs lack this aura, while the unliving have dark auras compared to the living. Psionic beings practically radiate light like miniature suns with undead psionicists seeming to be duller in brilliance than living ones.

Metaphysically speaking the Plane of Thought and the Astral Plane are practically existent within the same space. The membrane between planes is thinner here than it is anywhere else and it's not impossible to suddenly leave one and enter the other at key points. When a psionicist calls on ectoplasm part of the substance is from the Plane of Thought with the Astral Plane providing the other half. Those in the know call the Plane of Thought the "conscious mind" of the multiverse. Unlike the Astral Plane, it touches all worlds. Even this one.

Ferroplasm, really the only reason many go through the effort to reach the Plane of Thought proper, is a psionic metal that is as soft and pliable as warm clay for non-psionic beings. But it takes psionic power to shape it into anything useful. For psionic beings it has the properties of adamantine, save that it gives off violet light equal to a candle in brightness. Even if worked into weapons and armor, ferroplasm is useless to non-psionic beings because it loses its rigidity and strength in their hands. Those with the barest hint of psionic power can make full use of it, but it's hard to acquire and thus very costly. Psionic beings often use it as a foil for non-psionic thieves who find their new treasure loses much of its strength in their hands.

Region of Dreams
The Region of Dreams is actually one that almost all planewalkers who have delved the Ethereal Plane have seen. They call it the Wall of Color, the metaphysical border between the Near Ethereal that exists around all planes and demiplanes and the Deep Ethereal that exists just beyond the Wall. It looks much like it sounds, a wall of scintillating colors. Most don't realize the Wall of Color is a plane unto itself as walking through it just deposits one on the other side. In truth the Wall is the visible portion of the Region of Dreams. It takes specialized magic or psionics, such as dream walk, to enter the Region of Dreams physically. Other methods include rare portals that exist in out of the way places and rare physical locations where the Region of Dreams mingles with more physical reality. One such place is discussed further anon.

When intelligent beings sleep their minds travel to this place, one of infinite mutability and highly malleable logic. Each minds forms a crystal sphere known as a dreamscape where the dreamer lives out whatever her unconscious mind has for her. When the dreamer awakens the dreamscape usually simply dissolves back into the substance of the plan. An abrupt awakening can cause these spheres to shatter and leave behind a crystalline substance called dream crystal. In fact, dream crystal is the only real matter in the Region of Dreams aside from the denizens. Natives have developed psionic methods of turning dream crystal into everything from cloth to building materials to weapons and armor. Its usefulness to psionicists, who use crystal for virtually everything, is unparalleled. Artificial minds crafted of pure dream crystal demand the highest prices for their ability to hold an unlimited store of psionic powers. Psionatrices, circles of psionically charged crystal on a leather or wire loop worn like a necklace, are even more potent when made with dream crystal.

But I digress. The Region of Dreams has no gravity and a highly erratic flow of time compared to the waking world. What seems like seconds could be hours or days, while what feels like days could be mere seconds. Very rarely does time outside of stabilized areas follow time as it's known on other planes. The entire place has a faintly violet glow and rainbow shimmers of dreamscapes catching and refracting light. At the "center" of the plane is a realm known as the Dreamheart. This is not a place for outsiders to go, as the path inward subjects one to a torrent of acid, electricity, fire, ice, and sonic bursts. Those who survive and see the Dreamheart come away with very different visions. Why this is even I don't know. But it seems to be a defense against the true secret of the Dreamheart.

At its very core the Dreamheart houses a web-like structure aptly called the Web of Dreams, or just the Dreamweb. All thoughts that were, are, and will be meet here and can be accessed. The potential for madness or worse fates is high and even the natives rightly fear the Dreamweb. But one group of beings, unknown in numbers, have tied themselves to the Dreamweb in body and soul. In doing so they have attained great power and immortality, but also irrevocably tied their essences to the Dreamweb. They are, in effect, imprisoned. They must nurture dream energies to survive lest they wither away. Nurturing positive dreams is one possibility, and there are a few who try, but far easier is nurturing bad dreams and nightmares. Invariably such efforts drive a soul to evil. A group calling themselves the Nightmare Court has set itself up in the Dreamweb and feeds upon and nurtures all manner of bad dreams, often based on a theme they are tied to by dint of their current existence. There is another Nightmare Court that rules over the Nightmare Lands, though any connection between them and the Court outside this world is unknown.

Many scholars who know of the Region of Dreams call it the "unconscious and subconscious" of the multiverse where its dreams play out. For psionicists the native komanie are a race of celestials tied to psionic power on every level of their being. For those pure of heart they can be great teachers of lost and forgotten psionic power. But for the black-hearted they are implacable foes. Sadly, in the Land of Mists, it's impossible to reach them. Entry into the Region of Dreams from this world only lets one travel to a place called the Nightmare Mists that they avoid like a plague. The Nightmare Mists are actually where the Nightmare Lands coexist with the Region. This means the Nightmare Lands are also a great place to scavenge dream crystal if one can avoid the fell attentions of the Nightmare Court. The Abber Nomads, who do not dream and are thus immune to direct influence by the Court, can be excellent guides. Provided one can learn their language and understand their views of reality as has been shaped by a land as mutable as theirs. Dr. Gregorian Illhousen, a respected peer and trusted friend, authored a treatise on both the Nightmare Lands and the Nightmare Court before his disappearance in 740. Copies of this treatise are hard to find and often regarded as hokum by many alienists who have destroyed many copies. Their willful ignorance and disdain for the unknown does their reputations ill. To my eternal horror I can confirm that the things Dr. Illhousen wrote of are all too real.

The Far Realms
If the multiverse is sentient then there this place represents those parts of the mind that should never be explored. The Far Realms is a place of madness incarnate. I cannot adequately describe how truly insane this place is to mortals and other beings alike. One moment one may see seven different planes at once, then turn into a spider with human hands for fangs the next. A darker theory posits that this place, the very edge of known reality, is also the edge of an entirely different reality from the multiverse. That what has been seen is merely a taste of the true horrors that lurk in these realms beyond. I can't say whether one, both, or neither are true. Getting there is, thankfully, extremely hard. Yet it can be reached a bit more easily from the Plane of Shadows.

In truth psionicists have less truck with the Far Realms than arcanists do. The place is realm of maddened magic; psionics work on a discipline that is as alien to the Far Realms as anything can be. But the place does spawn aberrations of nature that can and do display psionic power from time to time. Perhaps the most "well known" are pseudonatural creatures, of which Falkovnia's Green Lady is one. She may have been a Sylvan nymph once, or maybe she was "born" what she is and was called to this reality by a disastrous magical experiment. Her "true form" is that of a maddening mass of tentacles that drive men insane just looking at it. Further, she can infect any form of life with her pseudonatural nature.

What little psionic lore can be had from the Far Realms is that there are places of the mind no one should explore. It's an object example in planar form. I've seen it. Once. Never, never, never will I ever look again of my own free will. I'd sooner exist for eternity in the deepest pits of the Abyss than do so. For there are things far worse than the various hells. The Far Realms are one of them.

The Nightmare Lands
Without going into the detailed metaphysics of the Land of Mists, each domain is effectively a self-contained plane of existence. Never is this more obvious than in the Nightmare Lands where reality butts up against and into the Region of Dreams. The land is ruled by a group that calls itself the Nightmare Court, made up of six members: the Ghost Dancer, a spectral ballerina with a white tutu stained by a small, bloody handprint; Hypnos, a dapper man trapped in a coffin with one eye closed and another behind a monocle open; Morpheus, an imp that embodies absolute chaos; Mullonga, perhaps once an Abber medicine woman who is now a haggard witch; the Nightmare Man, a robed being seemingly made of darkness with numerous dark dreamweavers crawling into and out of his form and the apparent leader; and the Rainbow Serpent, a snake-like entity that may or may not have once been a Couatl--a powerful psionic being for good that looks like a snake but with feathered wings and rainbow-colored scales.

The Nightmare Court of the Nightmare Lands may or may not have connections to the greater Nightmare Court that exists fully in the Region of Dreams. Legends and facts both are sparse to nonexistent. The former seems to be a very recent creation, at least by time as its measured in dreams. Yet they still seem to adhere to an ancient truce known as the Dreaming Pact, struck by the native komanie and the Nightmare Court in time immemorial and empowered by a greater agreement known as the Pact Primeval: law incarnate. The tenets seem simple enough, that the two sides must never harm the other directly or indirectly and can never influence minds already claimed by one, but the reality seems far more complex. Both are capable of shaping the very nature of dreams at will and still seem to snipe at one another in very obtuse manners that don't violate the letter of the Pact. Neither side can violate the Pact knowingly; punishment for unknowing breaks is paralysis that persists until the offender stops trying, even mentally, to do whatever it is that is a violation.

Some of the more distinct features of the Nightmare Lands, which can and do shift wildly from moment to moment, are the City of Nod, the Forest of Everchange, and the Ring of Dreams where all manner of whole and shattered dreamscapes exist. Within the City of Nod are places individual members of the Nightmare Court dwell, save Morpheus who prefers the Forest. Each is also thematic to each member. The Theatre Macabre of the Ghost Dancer, the Spire of Sleep for Hypnos, the Ghettoes for Mullonga, the Grieving Cathedral for the Nightmare Man, and the Park Primeval for the Rainbow Serpent.

What's important to remember regarding the Nightmare Lands is that there are five forms of reality: dreams, dreamscapes, the waking world, hyper-reality (the only known example of which is the dangerous terrain surrounding the Dreamheart), and power domains like the Dreamweb or the domains of the gods that no lesser being can truly comprehend. The first four are all that really concern most travelers; power domains are beyond even the mightiest wizard or psionicist to travel to without divine intervention. To even be able to comprehend such is to move beyond the perceptions of mortal and immortal alike to something...higher.

Dreams are finite and temporary at best; a cut or bruise in a dream is only in the mind and is not translated to a waking body. Dreamscapes, by contrast, can and do translate their effects into the waking world, even death. When one of the Nightmare Court takes interest in a mortal being's dreams their dreams become dreamscapes; the lucky ones die, others are driven mad by very real abuses and tortures. The waking world is reality as we know it when we're awake. Hyper-reality is effectively reality doubled, tripled, or more. Things are sharper, more vibrant, and more intense; as I said, it's rare and I doubt even the Nightmare Court is truly capable of creating such even temporarily.

In between the dreamscapes is what Illhousen called the Terrain Between. This is a realm of chaos as the worlds of dreams and wakefulness merge and is in a constant state of flux, making it all too easy to get lost there. Those skilled in the art of lucid dreaming can, with effort, navigate the Terrain Between safely. Psionicists of all stripes are capable of becoming skilled lucid dreamers thanks to the nature of their powers. The rare few known as oneiromancers are capable of navigating the Terrain Between just as well as any native of the Region of Dreams; they never get lost and can emanate a bubble of stability. This isn't as helpful as it sounds, since stability is quite alien to the land and is sure to attract the attention of the dream spawn or their Nightmare Court masters, especially Morpheus who despises order of any kind. The other downside to being an oneiromancer is that they are much more tightly tied to dreams and thus suffer effects to their physical bodies that their dream forms may take in a dream. They're effectively always in a dreamscape when they dream.

This is not including physical travelers in dreams, or wanderers. Dreamers are those who are present as their dream-selves and possess full corporeal forms in dreamscapes and are large incorporeal in the Terrain Between. The reverse is true for wanderers. Wanderers are in a much greater danger within dreamscapes than dreamers. Since they're not actually dreaming they can't just "wake up" and escape a harmful situation. They have to find a hidden portal out of the dreamscape. There is always one but it's often hidden in the background clutter of the dream and takes skill to locate. Dreamers can use these to escape their own dreams into the Terrain Between. With the attendant drawbacks of being partially unreal as described above.

Both dreamers and wanderers skilled in lucid dreaming can engage in oneiromachy (dream combat). This is the manipulation of the dream or dreamscape to hinder or harm another inside the dream, including the Nightmare Court, other dreamers, wanderers, or dream actors. This isn't easy as it's predicated on one's skill in lucid dreaming and on a reserve of mental energy built up through successful trials within one's own dreams. Only psionicists have an affinity for the skill, and dream creatures, such as the komanie and the Nightmare Court, have such perfect control as to be capable of even the most difficult tricks without fail as well as infinite reserves of energy. Oneiromancers have an affinity for lucid dreaming but cannot learn the sort of perfect lucid dreaming that true dream creatures possess.

While the Nightmare Lands may be of intellectual curiosity to scholarly psionicists, it's the dream crystal that litters the Ring of Dreams that drives many to travel there physically. Unfortunately there are serious issues involved. Perhaps the most obvious is the attention of dream spawn or even the Nightmare Court. The mind of a psionicist practically hums with power and those tied to the Dreamweb reap the most energy from psionic minds. It's risky since psionicists can be quite potent in their dreams, but as often as not they've not developed this area of expertise to truly rival the Nightmare Court and are ripe for the plucking. The skill of autohypnosis offers one defense in the form of "clouding the mind" that makes their minds less visible than those on non-psionic beings. Spells and powers such as nondetection and mind blank offer better, and in the case of the latter, absolute, protection. These can also often be used on others so as to protect them as well. Still such magic or psionics can be expensive due to rarity and the skill needed to use either.

Another issue regarding dream crystal are the Abber nomads themselves, discussed anon.

One final issue is the land itself. Even the most skilled lucid dreamer has to contend with the fact that the Nightmare Lands are literally that. Nightmares given form. If the dream spawn or the Court doesn't interfere, the chaotic reality will. Since only the most puissant lucid dreamers and oneirmancers can impose anything resembling stability for more than a few moments it can be a quest in itself to find the Ring of Dreams. The Terrain Between is obviously difficult to traverse, but other dangers do exist. Nether portals that can lead into a dreamscape or even into any part of the Realms of Dread can appear out of nowhere; where they lead is entirely random. Things other than dream spawn also exist. Arcane heads are the severed heads of dead wanderers that Mullonga then animates to act as her servants. Sometimes the remains of wanderers who died in the Terrain Between or in dreamscapes animate as lost souls. These undead appear zombie-like but try to merge with each other into a tangled mass of rotting corpses that then turn all attention to living wanderers out of faded memories of life and an intense hate of their current lot. Wanderers who die while in an incorporeal state within a dreamscape reanimate as similarly incorporeal lost souls. Other than being incorporeal outside of dreamscapes they're no different from their physical counterparts. Night terrors are the unholy creations of the Nightmare Man created from memories and act as his sentries and spies; each is unique and requires an equally unique method to destroy permanently.

No sane person goes to the Nightmare Lands willingly for something as crass as material gain and the very forces at work in the Lands are anathema to the waking world, to sanity itself. For all the myriad reasons anyone, much less psionicists, would ever want to go there, the reasons not to go are stronger still. All too often, though, those who do go there do not do so out of free will. Mistways to the Nightmare Lands do exist, such as the ruins of the Clinic for the Mentally Distressed in Nova Vaasa. The ruins are haunted by dream spawn who may cause the curious or foolish who go there to fall asleep during a full moon, which then transports them to the Lands. This is the fate that befell Dr. Gregorian Illhousen and his staff during the Great Upheaval. I've been back there since that time and found evidence that Illhousen's compatriot, Dr. Harod Tasker, consorted with the Nightmare Court and thus caused this to happen. Tasker rules an obscene copy of the Clinic as an insane despot while Dr. Illhousen and some of the staff I've not found. The Abber nomads tell me he and a nurse, who have fathered a child, still wander under the protection of a crystal dream catcher (see below) that wards off the Nightmare Court and other horrors. I've searched for them to lead them out, but the Nightmare Court takes great pleasure in frustrating every effort I make--be it mundane or psionic. I pray the three are alive and sane and that one day I will find them.

The Nightmare Court
Dr. Gregorian Illhousen once published his own findings and theories about the Nightmare Court. As I mentioned before many copies have been destroyed. Some still exist and it's my hope to one day make new copies freely available. But until the larger alienist community stops burning them with an inquisition-like zeal that's not going to happen.

One important fact even Illhousen never found is that each is tied to the Dreamweb by a mystical relic of their own creation. It's not impossible to destroy them but this doesn't destroy a given member. It only cuts them off from the Dreamweb, leaving them without their powers and negating their ability to regenerate wounds. This is atypical for creatures normally tied to the Dreamweb, suggesting that their ties are incomplete in the Land of Mists.

The Nightmare Man
De facto head of the Nightmare Court in the Nightmare Lands, the entity known as the Nightmare Man appears to be a shadow clad in robes with dark dreamweavers constantly skittering in and out of the folds. He was apparently an artist but lost his creativity. In despair he tied himself to the Dreamweb, thus gaining an endless source of inspiration. But the catch is that it flees from his mind as fast as it appears. He lost his ability to dream and thus to create. Forever barred from being able to create or recreate something he sees, or even to experience the dreams of others, his artistic hunger is forever denied. He is also the cornerstone of both the Nightmare Lands and the Court itself. Without him, neither would exist.

His dream relic is the altar in his home in a bleak cathedral.

The Ghost Dancer
While the Nightmare Man may appear to be undead, the Ghost Dancer actually is. Based on her preference for dreams of guilt and shame and bloody handprints on her tutu, I can surmise her past is one of violence and personal sins. As a ghost she somehow found herself tied to the Dreamweb instead of the Material Plane. Her dances are quite literally deadly: those chosen as her audience stare in awe as she literally sucks the life out of them. An old, crumbling book I once found in the Theatre Macabre read like a diary. Her diary. It seems that she was the star of the theater, but had earned her top spot by literally being cut throat in competition. This allowed her to rise quickly, but made many enemies. If the marks on her neck are any indication, she was strangled to death. Likely by the loved ones of those she killed. She seems to fully remember this and attempts to communicate it through dance. But like I said, her dance is quite deadly to witness and so she is forever trapped trying to confess through the only means of communication she has left and ends up killing those who would know her story before she can finish. The same guilt and shame she causes dreamers is very likely a part of her curse.

Her dream relic is the chandelier in the theater she dances in.

This is the second-most mysterious member of the Nightmare Court. He appears to be a dapper gentleman in a fine suit with a monocle, arms crossed on his chest, as he "sleeps" in a glass coffin with the eye behind said monocle always open. How he came to become a part of the Dreamweb I can't say, nor what he did to earn his imprisonment. I can surmise that it has to do with his skills in mesmerism, and that the glass coffin is symbolic of trapping the minds of others inside their own bodies. Likely through some sort of domination effect that controlled the bodies but not the minds of his victims. I'm more than familiar with this sort of thing and can attest that it's a form of living hell. Consciously you're aware of what you're doing, but are unable to control your own actions. Hypnos is likewise completely unable to act physically despite his potent mesmerism powers. If that's not the curse under which he labors I'd be surprised. Since his influence is one of helplessness and impotence, it lends credence that this is what he feels as well.

His dream relic is his glass coffin.

Tales of a being very much like Morpheus extend back to the beginning of existence as most know it. When the greater cosmos were still young and divided between the fundamental forces of Law and Chaos, there was a djinn who betrayed the Air Lords of Aaqa--beings of Law--to the ancient obyriths--beings of utter Chaos. Despite his perfidy, the Air Lords were successful in their campaign and the djinn was sentenced to forever dwell in the Abyss with his beloved chaos. But as with so many ancient legends it's hard to separate truth from fiction.

What is known as that Morpheus despises order and revels in chaos and constant change. He finds the idea of order of any kind abhorrent, boring, and depressing. But therein lies the paradox: the idea of pure chaos. True chaos would mean the utter lack of any constant, but true chaos is itself a constant in that nothing is the same from moment to moment. Some religions and philosophies picture this in a taijitu, a circle of two distended drops with a dot of the other's color in the center of each one's main mass. The seed of one exists in the other. It also ties in with a universal law of balance, but that's another subject.

He may have tied himself to the Dreamweb in the mistaken belief that there is no order or logic in dreams. There is always an underlying logic in dreams, even if it's not very apparent. Dr. Illhousen, in his own work, described the dreams of a patient whose wife was an obese glutton. His dreams took on her visage but crueler and more demanding. For a being that revels in chaos I found it odd that Morpheus would use the same sort of dream over and over again. That may well be his curse: once he has found the shock of a victim, he must use the same image over and over again until the victim dies or his victim breaks free. The incessant demand for dream energy his existence requires makes his influence as much his own curse as it is for those he selects. He is forever denied his beloved chaos by the inability to change his nightmares once he's selected a particular victim.

His dream relic is a stone archway in the Forest of Everchange, the only thing that does not change.

Of all the members of the Nightmare Court, this is the one I have the most information on. An old legend states that an Abber woman long pined for arcane magic like the sorcerers of her tribe. But she wasn't a sorcerer and had to find another way. She learned to tap the Dreamweb to learn and memorize spells like a wizard does with a spellbook. To tamper with the Dreamweb is very taboo in Abber society and for her crimes she was nearly killed. Only by becoming part of the Dreamweb did she escape. But not being a true oneiromancer meant her magic was prone to wild changes in dream reality. Mullonga matches key elements of his legend to a one and I suspect it's no legend at all. She is an accomplished wizard, but she craves more and has numerous arcane laboratories set up in the City of Nod. Not all of her experiments work out as she'd planned and for those whose power is defined by precision this is terrifying indeed. So much so she uses dreams based on fear to feed her need for dream energy. She has the magic she sought yet it's unpredictable at best. That is her curse.

Her dream relic is a large black cauldron hidden within one of her workshops.

The Rainbow Serpent
Of all the members of the Nightmare Court, the Rainbow Serpent is definitively the most mysterious. Yet there are hints that this creature is the reflection of a more benevolent entity, revered by an aboriginal people as a bringer of life and harsh punisher of lawbreakers for tens of millennia. The names of the various tribes who revered it were lost when something happened to cut them off from the Region of Dreams. These people were also masters of dreaming and much of their beliefs and society centered around dreams. They revered a spirit-entity known as the Rainbow Serpent and just under five-hundred standard planar years ago something happened to cut off the ties of these Aboriginal peoples. Before all contact was lost they described the arrival of, "pale, white men who brought disease and deception to the land."

What's less known is that their Rainbow Serpent, who was a being of truth, had a shadow of sorts. A deceiver who took great joy in spreading lies and paranoia. Legend has it that the benevolent Rainbow Serpent purged itself of this shadow long before the people it protected ever existed. As a mere shadow this Rainbow Serpent is just a shadow of the original's power. The original was a dream creature and needed no artificial ties to the Dreamweb but its shadow had no such ties. So it joined with the Dreamweb itself in a vain attempt to recapture its original power. How it became a member of the Nightmare Court I can't say; past a certain point the legends suddenly stop for no discernible reason. All I do know is it remains true to its nature of deception and paranoia.

Its dream relic is a rune-covered tree at the center of the Primeval Park in the City of Nod.

Dream Crystal
Though ferroplasm might seem more interesting, the chances of anyone drawing more than a few ounces of it after months or years of preparation is slim to none in the Realms of Dread. Whereas dream crystal literally litters the ground in the Nightmare Lands. The knowledge of how to use it as more than a pretty gem is largely unknown in these lands, though sufficient experimentation can reveal the methods. It's a mineral that is, in its native form, harder than diamond, and spear tips and arrowheads crafted of it are vicious weapons indeed. Properly worked with metacreative powers or alchemical baths it can be woven like silk, crafted like stone and metal, virtually anything one can think of. Clothing made of dream crystal weave is lighter than silk but stronger than steel. Elves compare it to their own mithral creations and the two are virtually identical in terms of strength and lightness. The one difference is that mithral is metal and dream crystal is mineral. This means that druids can wear armor "forged" of dream crystal without violating their vows.

The downsides to dream crystal are largely ones of supply and those skilled in its manipulation. Psionicists are few and far between, much less those who know the proper powers to work with it, and alchemists who know the proper recipes are non-existent here. I can work it, but supply is the problem there. I don't recommend a trip to the Nightmare Lands for any reason, much less one as crass as material gain. Working dream crystal also takes a lot of time. Where a skilled smith may be able to produce a suit of platemail in a couple of months, working dream crystal takes twice as long for all but the komanie who have, through sheer necessity, perfected its use.

Abber nomads also regard dream crystal as a sacred substance and do not take kindly to those who take it without asking permission. Only natives of the Region of Dreams are allowed to take it freely without their express consent. Others are more likely to end up skewered on a spear or shot with arrows so sharp they come out the other side of a body. Part of this attitude is one of practicality, as dream crystal is vital to their culture, but also one of spirituality since shamans use it to "guide" them in ecstactic rituals that open their perceptions to the spirit world. Often this is a bit of crystal worked into a staff or spear, while others have ground it up to ingest or inhale it (I don't recommend either; it's not toxic, but it is unpleasant). Ground up dream crystal in a leather bag, a medicine bag, is also common and acts as a ward against the dream spawn--but only for Abber shamans. For the proper "price," which always involves some sort of dangerous task, Abber nomads can craft dream catchers using dream crystal in lieu of clay and stone beads. Such creations are done only rarely because they never wear out; it is the highest form of honor among them to be given a crystal dream catcher, just as it is for the Canjar Vistani to give giorgio a piece of moon jewelry.

Some experienced psionicists will contest my beginning assertions regarding ferroplasm and its difficulty to obtain in these lands. It is true that the Nightmare Lands are so close to the Plane of Thought that one could theoretically draw ferroplasm in large amounts. The wrinkle is that the Nightmare Court always notices such attempts and is sure to be drawn to someone powerful enough in the mental arts to do so. Without something that can repel them utterly, it's a fool's errand to try. I, myself, was barely able to do so and even then the amount I drew was miniscule. Trust me, you do not want their fell attentions on you.

Editor's Note: We fully believe M. Archer is one of these "komanie" and is speaking largely from experience. Certainly his Journals aren't as coy as this work is. -- Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Last edited by High Priest Mikhal on Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Sun Dec 16, 2012 8:25 pm
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Post Re: Van Richten's Guide to Psionics
Chapter Six: Tools and Tricks of the Mentalist

Spellcasters have their scrolls, wands, staves, even books to supplement and augment their own abilities and learn new spells. So it is with psionicists, albeit in different forms and sometimes with no analogous magical equivalents. I'll touch briefly on what the most common are like and go into detail with the more obscure items. Some of which are unknown to many psionicists that haven't traveled the planes.

Arcanists have familiars, we have psicrystals. They function much like familiars but are not alive per se and grant certain benefits based on what piece of the psionicist's personality is embedded at the time of their creation. They're also constructs and thus do not need the care that living familiars do. They also possess one other benefit:

You can will the damned things off!

For all the benefits a psicrystal provides, they're single-minded to the point of monomania. This is subtle at first but grows as the psionicist does. I haven't yet met a psionicist with a psicrystal that hasn't wanted to smash it into pieces at one point. My own is embedded with a personality archetype known as "The Performer." Try and imagine the most arrogant, self-important actor and you have what my psicrystal is like. Which is largely why I almost never will it back into activity. For all the benefits it provides I've found its constant exhultation of my skills at various types of performance to be irritating to the point of madness.

Because psicrystals are just that, crystals, they develop natural armoring and resilience that familiars don't. This makes them less likely to be destroyed but harder to repair if they become damaged. Only psions and erudites learn how to embed a psicrystals as part of their basic skills. Others have to learn the proper techniques.

Cognizance Crystals
Unlike spellcasters, who often need powerful magical items to increase the number of spells they can cast per day, things are a little easier for psionicists in the form of cognizance crystals. These are a set of crystals linked by silver wire that a psionicist can draw energy from to manifest their powers. Spent energy can also be recharged by using the psionicist's own reserves. There are different versions that can hold more energy up to the amount required to power one tier nine power. Many carry them as emergency backups and while technically not impossible to own more than one, a psionicist cannot draw energy from more than one at a time. Also important to note is that the stored power cannot be drawn into the psionicist's own reserves; it's only used to manifest a power without tapping into their own.

Dorjes and Power Stones
A dorje is essentially a psionic wand made of a sliver of crystal. Power stones are akin to crystal scrolls that must be telepathically addressed before the psionicist can use them, except they can store more than one power. If the power stored is one they know or could learn, and their raw abilities and skill are sufficient to manifest the tier of the power stored, they can be used without trouble. If not, it must be forced much like with a scroll. Failure to force the power, and then subsequent failure to safely channel the energy away, can result in brain burn. This is where raw psionic energy lashes out at the user, with those containing more than one stored power being more damaging. They can be thrown but must be at least one-hundred feet away to escape the continued burn. Anyone nearby will suffer this damage as well.

Like scrolls they can be used to add their stored power(s) to an artificial mind (discussed later) and erudites can learn the power(s) stored as part a reserve of powers separate from their usual repertoire.

A psicrown is, obviously, a crown capable of manifesting a specific set of powers just like a staff. Just like a staff the user's own skill and ability determine the potency of the effects. This makes them extremely versatile. Until their charges are used up, at which point they disintegrate into dust. They cannot be recharged.

Psionic Tattoos
A psionic tattoo is not unlike a regular tattoo, only it can be willed on and off the body, to another, or to a different location. They're one-shot items but up to twenty-one can be worn at any time without requiring any space in a backpack or travel bag. A user doesn't get a choice of what a specific tattoo does; that's determined by the one who creates it.

Artificial Mind
These are not terribly common among those who reside on the worlds of the Material Plane since they're inventions of extraplanar beings. They're large, fairly heavy chunks of crystal shaped into some stylized form--with brains and skulls being fairly popular--that act as a kind of "psionic spellbook." Using one requires the psychic chirurgery power to add a power to them either from one's own mind or from a power stone. They can also be used to research and develop new powers without actually learning said power without sacrificing any energy. Such researched powers are not added to those the psionicist knows automatically nor can they be manifested from the artificial mind; psychic chirurgery must be used to learn those stored. Among those in the know it's not uncommon to lend another psionicist their own artificial mind so others can learn any powers from it. Already known powers can likewise be added with the same power and many do just that either as a precaution against entities that can wipe knowledge of powers from their minds or for posterity's sake as part of a psionic college or guild.

The idea for these was inspired by enchanted talking skulls called mimirs that act like encyclopaedias on specific subjects. As a result they're most common on planar cities such as Sigil and Metropolis.

Philosopher's Stones
The true philosopher's stone is something so rare it's called a minor artifact. Minor because there is more than one in existence. They appear as sooty black rocks that, when cracked open, have a quicksilver center that can alchemically transmute lead into silver and iron into gold, or be added to a cure potion to create a potion of resurrection. Psionicists favor them as they can be used to augment their powers, regenerate their power reserves, and even help reduce the energy costs of powers. But they require a degree of psionic refining first.

When a normal philosopher's stone is steeped in a solution of liquified crystals worth no less than five-thousand gold pieces and subjected to matter manipulation that costs a psionicist some of their own personal energy the resulting brew begins bubbling and must sit for twenty-four hours without being disturbed. Afterwards the stone takes on the shape of a glossy black, flat faceted jewel. Such stones are called Refined or as being in nigredo form by alchemists. While quite useful just as is, they can be further refined in a new, more rarified solution. Refined stones have the same strength as steel.

This second refining requires more liquified crystals worth no less than fifty-thousand gold pieces as well as another matter manipulation and a much higher investment of personal energy. It takes a full week undisturbed to finish. The result is the stone becoming a translucent red in color that is even more potent. This is its Purified or rubedo stage. One last stage can turn it into its most potent form. The stone also becomes stronger, now equivalent to mithral.

Once more a solution of liquified crystals, this time worth five-hundred-thousand gold pieces, must be obtained. The stone is once more immersed and another matter manipulation is manifested on it along with a truly hefty amount of personal energy that only those of truly heroic status can afford. This time the solution must sit for a full lunar month undisturbed. In the end the stone comes out a transparent white color like a diamond. This is its Perfected or albedo stage. Its capacity to amplify psionic powers, regenerate psionic energies, and to reduce the costs is at its peak. It's also as strong as adamantine.

A stone must be in physical contact with the flesh of its user to work, not merely carried. Many turn these into amulets or diadems. Some head wear, such as the battle crown I use, have a slot that the stones can be inserted into. A rare few even have the stones implanted under their skin, though this isn't safe by any means. Besides the stone being toxic in a living body, sooner or later the body itself will reject the stone and it must be removed as the fool is in too much pain to do anything. Corporeal psionic undead can implant it under their skin, if any. While this is a sure way to make sure it's always there, it does cause problems if the undead is engaged in melee combat since the stone can break.

Infused Ferroplasm
I've discussed ferroplasm before, but not a variation that is more appropriate for this chapter. In an attempt to make ferroplasm useful to non-psionic beings, attempts were made to infuse it with various materials. Unfortunately the process of forging goods resulted in the impurities being forced out until it was discovered that dream crystal, ground into a semi-coarse sand, made for an excellent alloy. Thus came infused ferroplasm. The crystals lent it enough rigidity to be useful by those who lack psionic power, no matter how minimal, but it was still inferior in strength when in comparison to a psionic being using it. In its "soft" form it has the same strength and suppleness as mithral, though it appears to be a faintly glowing violet metal with a myriad of sparkles. When used by psionic beings it retains the flexibility of its soft form with a strength equivalent to that of adamantine. In addition, it acts as a mental focus and makes psionic powers harder to resist whether made into a weapon or suit of armor.

But the sheer costs of gathering both materials, coupled with the fact that it takes a psionicist to create the new alloy, makes it very, very expensive. Only in the Region of Dreams is it found in any real quantity since dream crystal and ferroplasm are both much easier to acquire than the rare deposits of mithral and adamantine on the Material Plane. Don't expect to find any anywhere in the Core or beyond with the exception of Bluetspur. The illithids there created a few weapons and the odd piece of armor here and there. By all accounts these items are kept deep inside the heart of their subterranean city in a store room guarded by their elder brain, what they refer to as the Illithid God-Brain.

Skills and Tricks
Autohypnosis: In a land filled with horrors that try one's courage and even sanity the psionic skill of autohypnosis truly shines. It can be used to overcome fear or to stave off the reactionary effects of utter horror for a time. Usually long enough to either escape to destroy the source. But to those who succumb to madness--and for psionicists especially that's a very real possibility--it can take the place of a mesmerist. Essentially, autohypnosis allows one skilled in it to repair their own damaged psyches. The drawbacks are numerous, though. A person whose will is destroyed by madness can't even use their skills, those with a strong mind find it harder to use, it takes twice as long as with another mesmerist, and failure to repair the damage risks driving one deeper into insanity.

There are some tricks that can be learned to help combat or negate horror's effects as well as to automatically recover from madness at a snail's pace. As a matter of course I've learned them but have only ever used the first. The latter is for worst case scenarios.

Hidden Mind
Cost: Two skill points
Effect: Psionicists in the Nightmare Lands can be detected as readily as paladins. This skill trick allows them to increase the Sense Motive DC of the Nightmare Court by their ranks in Autohypnosis. It only works in the Nightmare Lands and multiclass psionicist/paladins cannot attempt to increase the DC for sensing their disruption.

Horror's End
Cost: Three skill points
Effect: The user can make an Autohypnosis roll after failing a Horror save. The result is then reduced from the result of the failed save, lowering the severity of the Horror Effect. If the final result reduces the total to zero or less, then the character does not suffer a Horror Effect.

Regenerative Mind
Cost: Six skill points
Effect: After a failed Madness save, the character's mind automatically recovers one point each in Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma every month. This stacks with the usual monthly roll to recover as well as the efforts of someone using the Hypnotism skill on a weekly basis.

Improved Shape Mind Blade [Psionic]
Prerequisites: Shape mind blade class feature
Benefits: A soulknife with this power can maintain the usual size and damage of their mind blade in their main hand. Further, the two mind blades do not reduce their enhancement bonus.
They may also change the shape of their mind blade into any weapon they are proficient with. The mind blade gains the normal stats of a weapon of that type, including changing the damage type (Bludgeoning/Slashing/Piercing).
Normal: Shaping a mind blade into two weapons creates two short swords and reduces the enhancement bonus of both by one. A soulknife cannot change the type of weapon their mind blade becomes.

Positive Energy Substitution [Psionic]
Prerequisites: Illumine soul level 5th, Positive Energy Burst class feature
Benefits: An illumine soul can turn their usual burst of positive energy into a turning attempt equal to a cleric of their effective soulknife level (levels in soulknife, illumine soul, and soulbow).
Special: This pseudo turning cannot be used to qualify for feats, abilities, or prestige classes that require the ability to turn undead. It does count for activating Domain feats that only require one turning attempt to activate subsequent times a day. It also count for the purpose of creating positoxins (see Libris Mortis).
Special: This turning attempt does not benefit from class levels in a class that can turn undead normally, nor does it augment turning attempts in those classes. Only one type can be performed per round.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Fri Jan 11, 2013 7:17 pm
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Post Re: Van Richten's Guide to Psionics
Chapter Seven: Under A Dark Sun
Psionics are an oddity for many worlds. Some, such as the world known as Krynn, do not even have native psionicists. Others have only a few and are hopelessly muddled with magic in the minds of even the most sage scholars. But on one world, a place turned into a vast desert thanks to the abuse of a style of magic that draws on the life force of the planet, psionics are so fundamental as to be a key part of society. One where not having some innate psionic ability is the mark of an outsider. I speak of the world known as Athas.

Brief History of Athas and Kalidnay
The world of Athas was once home to an advanced race of halflings who harnessed magic by a means of manipulating the life force of the world. For untold eons the Blue Age reigned even as the halflings continued to upset the delicate balance. Their efforts slowly brought about the fall of the Blue Age and the beginning of the Green Age, when races spawned by these halflings first appeared: humans, elves, dwarves, giants, and others. In this Green Age the new races rose to prominence, especially humans. Believing their resources infinite, they began to despoil both the mineral and magical gifts of their world.

In time they discovered the power of psionics thanks to the constant mutations brought about by the continual manipulation of life itself through magic. Ways of combining magic and psionics were discovered and some took these new discoveries as a means of gaining ultimate power. As time passed and the world began to visibly die, some cried out for those in power to stop. Metal was becoming scarce, whole oceans were drying up, and vegetation was turning to ash wherever these defilers took more than the minimal energy needed to work their arcane magic. Those who took only what was needed opposed them and became known as preservers. Druids, hearing the spirits of the land cry out in pain, tried to oppose those defilers who had seized power and control for themselves. But it was too late; the planet of Athas couldn't sustain life as it had. Worse, a pall known as the Gray cut off the world from the gods even as once-vast bodies of water turned to silt and fertile soil eroded into so much sand. Metals of any kind were now gone, lost to wars fought by and against the sorcerer-kings who refused to stop stripping the land in a mad pursuit of power, or else now inaccessible thanks to the changes wrought by the horrors of the new Age.

Once the mightiest and most advanced of races, the halflings became feral xenophobes who broke into tribes. The elves and their half-elf children lost their long lifespans and gifts for magic to the harsh necessities of basic survival. Giants and humans were magically crossbred to create a slave race of half-giants even as humans and dwarves were used to create a sterile race called muls who possessed great strength and endurance to be used as nothing but slaves and pack mules. Then there are the reptilian pterrans and the vulture-like aaracockra. Though I've never seen them here, a mantis-like race called the thri-kreen made their way in the deep deserts away from the warring city-states.

The sorcerer-kings who had glutted on defiler magic and psionic power transformed themselves into dragons and raised an army of divine casters called templars to do their will, equipped with both divine magic and virtually unlimited legal powers. Preservers still walked the land, though now distrusted thanks to their defiler kin. Druids worked tirelessly to restore and maintain what life was left even as clerics found a new source of power in the elemental forces of air, earth, fire, and water. Some clerics turned other, more esoteric forces based on the para-elements--where the elemental planes meet, though their interpretations are faulty or the sources that powered them lied about their true nature three out of four times. Sun (smoke), silt (ooze), magma, and rain (ice); save for Rain clerics, almost all of the para-elemental clerics are devoted to the destruction of the world as their chosen element becomes predominant. Outlander clerics and paladins will find themselves unable to use their spells and supernatural powers unless they are devoted to the ideals of one or more elements. Druids and rangers, because their magic comes from the land and its spirits, are unaffected. While elemental clerics may choose to rebuke or command undead, their own patrons demand their eventual destruction. The elements see the undead as aberrations to be destroyed when they've served their purpose.

Legends of Kalidnay, now an abandoned and haunted ruin on Athas, vary on the details but my own visits to the domain have allowed me to piece together the real story. Kalid-ma, the sorcerer-king of Kalidnay, was little different from others like him. He stripped the land of life for his own arcane arts and pursued psionics with an eye towards transformation into a dragon. There was actually nothing stopping him from his final goal. Ironically it would be his most loyal Templar who would damn him and the people of Kalidnay.

Thakok-an, a lovely half-elf woman, was the chief templar for Kalid-ma. She also loved him but it was inappropriate for a servant--even a templar--to be taken as a spouse by a sorcerer-king. She worked tirelessly to somehow win his affections. Ruthless enforcement of the law, sniffing out any hint of rebellion, and unswerving loyalty all earned his favor. But not his heart. Such was her love that even her family came a distant second. And love can drive people to extreme acts of the most righteous or heinous.

On the night that Kalid-ma prepared his transformation into a dragon, preparing the obsidian orbs filled with the life force of animals, plants, and people alike he had to ingest to complete the ritual, Thakok-an rounded up her family. For each orb he ingested, she slew a member of her family and channeled their life into it. Her plan was to accelerate his growth in power by using the blood of her own kin. Instead it overloaded the obsidian orbs and Kalid-ma was unable to contain the excess energies. What happened before his transformation and loss of control diverges from what is told on Athas and what is believed to have happened in Kalidnay.

On Athas, Kalid-ma's transformation went out of control and he began to vomit up the obsidian orbs even as he became a dragon. He razed the city-state of Kalidnay with his fiery breath before going on a rampage that took the combined armies of several other city-states to finally put him down. When folks headed to Kalidnay they found it ruined and utterly abandoned. To this day it's a mystery that no one can solve.

Thakok-an was enveloped in the Mists before Kalid-ma transformed and ran wild. Kalidnay was made into an isolated land in the Realms of Dread with Thakok-an the de facto ruler but her beloved Kalid-ma now comatose atop the ziggurat. Her love for her ruler is soured by the fact she no longer has even his favor. Since it's a matter of record that Kalid-ma was killed on Athas, I can only assume the person on the ziggurat is nothing but an inert pile of meat. Her reward for aiding him in his pursuit is to forever be denied the love and supreme power as co-ruler she sought. If it weren't for her atrocities I could sympathize.

In a world where water is precious, and metal even more so, it shouldn't come as a surprise that a person's life is worth less than either. To cry is the ultimate expression of sadness while to spit is the ultimate insult; both rob the body of precious moisture. Weapons are made of bone, flint, or obsidian, as is armor, unless someone was lucky enough to find iron or steel. A pie-slice shaped piece of a ceramic coin was the currency of most where copper is used in other places, and actual precious metals could make a king out of commoners so easily. It will also draw the attention of thieves intent on stealing such valuables or even the templars acting on the orders of a sorcerer-king or just for their own use. Might makes right in this culture, be it physical, supernatural, or political; Falkovnia's treatment of its commoners and the power held by soldiers, and Talons especially, are good comparisons. The upper-class and templars, respectively, are almost analogous.

Wood is likewise rarer than normal, but not so much as to be unheard of. Wood is less a fuel than a material used to craft weapons, armor, and tools. Burnt wood is often deadwood or species too soft to be put to practical use. Various animal, mineral, and vegetable oils, fats, animal dung, and even coal are used in place of wood for lighting and industrial uses of fire. Some plants are themselves so dry and numerous they can be used to fuel a fire. Since sand doesn't hold in the heat of day well, the nights can drop well below freezing and thus a fire is vital to survive. Rock holds in heat better and putting stones into fires all day to heat homes at night is quite common. Buildings are likewise built of fired clay or simple adobe bricks as a result of the scarcity of wood. They also have the benefit of keeping the heat out in the day and keeping it in at night. Actual stone blocks are too expensive for the lower-classes and are sometimes out of the reach of the upper-classes. A city's mandatory ziggurat and palace of the sorcerer-king always use real stone whenever possible; even if it means taxing the poor to death.

A lack of metal might imply inferior weapons. In some cases this is true; using a sword made of obsidian is more likely to shatter if it hits armor, while bone is both likely to shatter and is often too light to be as effective. Stone weapons generally suffer from excessive weight and inferior performance as well as a tendency to shatter if they hit too hard. But never let it be said that Athasians weren't clever enough to design weapons that overcame such. Wooden weapons like javelins, quarterstaffs, and bows and crossbows are unaffected. Others make ingenious use of the available materials in designs that compensate for a lack of metal. The parts of various animals, such as large fangs or claws, can be just as hard or even harder than iron. The drawback of such items are they aren't so easily repaired when damaged.

Armor is likewise forced to adapt. The druid spell ironwood is invaluable, though few of their numbers are willing to aid crafters. Wood and wood shavings, chitin and shells, and the oldest forms of armor, leather and hides, are the armor materials of choice. Studded leather is often made with bone or stone studs instead of metal, for example, while chitin can easily be reinforced with natural resins to something almost as strong as steel. Bones may be used to weave forms of armor, though the natural gaps between the bones make them vulnerable to precise strikes and bone finds greater use in creating tools. Choice pieces of animal shells can be used to make plate armors. More importantly, they don't absorb the heat as readily as metal does.

Given a choice, however, Athasians find iron and steel preferable. It's not prone to the same failures, it can be made lighter and stronger, and can cleave through or block outright some materials. More importantly, however, is that it's a symbol. Of power, wealth, and cunning. Outlanders who visit Athas, and Kalidnay, using metal weapons or armor can find themselves the subjects of awe and fear. Such regalia will likewise draw the attention of templars quite keen on figuring out what these strangers are up to or even acquiring the valuable metal for themselves or their sorcerer-king. Native Kalidnayans, however, are subject to a strange and frustrating effect if they bring metal items from outside back to Kalidnay. This is discussed further anon.

Literacy is illegal in many city-states as a form of social control. Only templars are allowed to legally learn to read and write. Others, especially wizards, must feign illiteracy or risk being arrested, tried, and even executed. Others rarely have any need to learn and the realities of survival take precedent. To be able to read and write is to possess power that the sorcerer-kings and their templars fear. Even Athasian bards, who are more akin to thieves and assassins than the bards we know, rely on oral records more than the written word. This also extends to owning books, scrolls, or other forms of written medium even if one is illiterate. Possession of any such goods is illegal. Most such items are written on parchment or vellum since the cost of wood pulp-based paper is astronomic. Both also holds up better to the searing sun, lashing sands, and other hazards of the desert.

The city-states are the sole bastions of anything resembling civilization. Most (but not all) are held under the iron fist of a sorcerer-king who hoards precious iron and water. Armies of the templars under their command see their will done and cow the masses. Freemen toil to earn enough ceramic pieces to live while slaves perform the dirtiest, most loathsome jobs. Trade is conducted by roving merchants who travel from city to city, peddling everything from tools and weapons to slaves and vital water, all protected by highly-trained, heavily armed guards who won't hesitate to kill would-be thieves.

Outside the city-states dwell tribes of elves, half-elves, and others who trade the relative security for a life free from the templars and the sorcerer-kings. Food and water are harder to come by, and attacks by wild beasts, brigands, and slavers are constant threats, but freedom is worth it to some. Many such tribes rely on clerics and druids to supplement what they can hunt and gather. Defilers are even less tolerated and are often killed on sight. Other times a tribe is made up entirely of defilers and their servants, remaining nomadic out of sheer necessity both to avoid justice and find places where enough plant life exists to power their vile magic.

Life, while hellish, continues and even thrives despite all the hardships.

Most people are poor and get by doing whatever they can. All do their best to avoid drawing the attention of the templars, though. Templars are tricky since they are the ultimate arm of the sorcerer-kings. Their legal powers are sweeping and they're notoriously corrupt; it is well within their rights to enslave or kill someone if they can justify it. In practice I've seen these men and women take the comeliest folks to be ravaged and then killed or enslaved for the templars' use themselves, and any who dare stand up to them are often arrested and sent to die in slave labor camps, often along with their entire family. And as if their legal powers weren't enough, templars command divine magic that emanates from their sorcerer-king. If necessary they can raise an army of the undead, sap a person's vitality, or even slay them with a touch. Understandably, few even dare think of opposing them. So few are pure of heart after they taste the secular power that many are morally neutral at best. Most are as evil as their masters. A tiny number are righteous and take no joy in enforcing the laws of their city-state, but they are a true minority and walk a fine line between enacting the will of those in power and being seen as rebellious and having their powers--secular and magical--stripped away. Others do as they're ordered, enforcing the laws and dictates without undue cruelty but also without mercy. They take loyalty very seriously and only the most glib could sway them from their sworn duties.

Equally idolized and reviled are gladiators. Blood sports are a popular diversion for the masses and thus gladiatorial matches are held daily. People cheer for these warriors who are often armed and armored in such a way as to be the polar opposites of their foes: poorly armed but heavily armored fighters face off against the heavily armed but poorly armored. Being a gladiator is to be a slave, but sometimes a gladiator can win their freedom with a truly impressive display of prowess that causes the sorcerer-king--or a representative--to release them. This is a fate aspired to by many, and greatly feared by the slave-masters who feed and train the warriors; to lose a gladiator is to lose a very expensive investment. But to object is to risk the ire of the one who freed them and few dare do so. The majority of those gladiators who become adventurers were freed this way. Some were born free and trained as such, though freemen becoming gladiators is seen as gauche at best.

On the very bottom rung of Kalidnay society are the slaves. These can be debt-slaves who work until their debts are paid, those arrested and sentenced to slavery by the templars, and those born into slavery like a great many muls and half-giants. Slaves carry out every possible function from the most vile and disgusting drudge work to being kept entertainers and concubines, artists and smiths, and of course laborers who work in the quarries and mines. A slave's life can be very harsh and short, or long and filled with luxury. Slavery as an institution is so ingrained in Kalidnayan society that few folks even think anything of it; some of the more righteous despise it, but to speak out against slavery is to become a slave yourself if the wrong people hear. And plenty of people are concerned enough with basic survival that they will make sure the wrong people do hear about it, especially if the reward is water or metal. This isn't to say all people of Kalidnay are untrustworthy; just that survival is foremost on most people's minds. Mercy is a luxury most can't afford.

Existing outside the hierarchy of the city are nomadic elves and half-elves. Others of all races can be nomads, but the elves are truly the most numerous nomads. With magic and centuries of life lost to them, they are instead fleet of foot and especially graceful in combat. Their society is highly insular and I can't comment much on it. Suffice to say they hold their own customs in very high regard and are very mistrustful of outsiders until they have proven themselves to be friends of the tribe.

In the wildest, most unforgiving areas lurk the halflings. Superficially similar to the halflings of the Core and other places, these beings were once lofty and proud and have fallen farther than any other. Their culture is violent, bloodthirsty, and sometimes cannibalistic. They will just as gladly eat anyone who trespasses on their territory--sometimes without even killing them first--as parley with them. Some reject the savage ways, but many are too far gone. It would be easy to assume the common madness among them is a supernatural curse, but my own studies done long before I ever entered the Land of Mists shows otherwise. Those who are cannibals but do not eat the brains of their victims retain more lucidity than those who do. I've seen this kind of thing in other cases. Eating the brain infects them with a disease that causes their own minds to degenerate. Those who remain sane mark the borders of their territories with skulls and bones lashed together with sinew and plant-fiber ropes. Sometimes wooden pikes are used as mounts, but as I said earlier, wood is simply too valuable to waste. This is also a warning to outsiders and those with any modicum of self-preservation wisely heed them and avoid any areas beyond.

Although I speak of the sorcerer-kings as evil, self-serving defilers, this is not always the case on Athas. A ruthless streak coupled with a will to power aids greatly in seizing power, but the rare benevolent sorcerer-kings can be found. Those lucky enough to dwell in such places are protected by templars who must temper their own greed lest they be stripped of all power. If the sorcerer-king is also a preserver and psionicist, they may be avangions as well. These few are legendary at best, malicious lies at worst. Such a city-state would be blessed by plentiful crops and herds, abundant water, and protection from the warring tyrants of other city-states as well as the work of malicious para-elemental clerics and defilers. Sadly such remain mere myths at best.

As a final note I must address the funerary rituals. One's corpse is rarely, if ever, interred or buried. Rather through means both mundane and mystic a body is stripped of its moisture to be distilled into potable water. Only the wealthiest, those who die far from anyone else, or who die in a way that denies such salvage, escape this fate. As repulsive as this to most people, even those of other desert lands, it's a necessity of survival in a land with literally no standing water. Stills can capture what little ambient moisture is in the air, magic and psionics can create water, but to the Athasians--and Kalidnayans by extension--only a fool wastes such a valuable resource.

Actual bodies, once thoroughly desiccated, are treated reverently by most and usually cremated so their ashes can fuel new life. Obviously the same cannot be said of non-halflings who fall to the cannibalistic halfling tribes (discussed anon).

Races of Athas
The changes wrought by the despoiling of Athas has affected the races as much as the land. In some cases the races are familiar enough if somewhat different in overall culture. Others are so vastly different it's hard to think of them as the same as those on other worlds. Then there are a few that are unique to Athas. Humans are not detailed since they're too varied to say all that much about with any certainty.

These vulture-like humanoids are not unique to Athas, but are rare on other worlds. As their appearance might suggest they can fly and have skeletal structures similar to birds: hollow if stiff bones that are light but relatively weak. They tend to be ungainly on the ground but are capable of high-speed flight. They disdain cities for open spaces and are infamous for having a racial form of claustrophobia. They also possess a bony breastplate that protects them from physical attacks but not by much.

I haven't seen any in Kalidnay but that doesn't mean they don't exist. If you do spot one then I would advise you stay back. They value their personal space highly and can become violent if it's violated. They're aerial creatures and prefer to fly rather than walk and prefer windows to doors. If stuck in an enclosed space they are prone to panic. Violently.

Athasian dwarves are little different from the dwarves of the Core. The only distinction is the Life Focus. Athasian dwarves are stubborn to a fault and tend to make some project the focus of their existence. Nothing will dissuade them from this task and those who fail to finish the focus have a disturbingly high chance of returning as ghosts who won't rest until the focus has been completed for them. In Kalidnay they're craftsmen at best, skilled slaves at worst. Since they're so grounded in the material I've not seen many practice any sort of magic; clerics who devote themselves to earth are perhaps the most common. Arcane magic is mistrusted in the extreme and can make an enemy of an Athasian dwarf unless they're certain the user follows the preserver path.

Sylvan. Fey. Ethereal. Enchanting. Those are words I've heard used for the High Elves of the Core. Athasian elves are nothing of the sort. Magic is lost to them, as is their long lives and all their magical resistances. Instead they're possessed of speed, resistance to extreme climes, a capacity to run for days on end, and an affinity for more roguish careers than wizardry. Life as nomads demands a far different skill set. They tend to distrust strangers unless they are able to get to know them. Those they pledge loyalty to, though, find few allies more stalwart.

As nomads in Kalidnay they live as herders, raiders, or traders. The second is rare as the land has little to raid and those areas that do are under strict supervision by the templars. For traders there is little difference between "trade" and "thievery." If one isn't able to protect a loose purse or item, they clearly didn't deserve it. Herders fiercely defend grazing lands since they're rare. Druids and preservers help create and/or maintain these areas and are not at all hesitant to turn their magic against unwanted visitors or others who might cause trouble.

Much like half-elves of the core, Athasian half-elves are caught between two worlds. They do live a bit longer than humans, but not as long as elves (which is only a few decades more). As descendants of elves they do have some affinity for the land, favoring a specific terrain they excel in and an affinity for animals. They favor the paths of the druid and ranger but can excel in any career they choose. Those from Kalidnay are either exploring the world or escaping the same prejudices that most half-elves face.

Half-giants are a magical crossbreed of humans and giants. They were meant to be slaves but as a result of their genesis they possess an innate affinity for psionics. This has allowed many to break free of bondage. They are stronger and tougher than humans but clumsy. As they are no more or less capable mentally than humans they can and do learn magic and psionics. The martial path of the psychic warrior is a favored path. Their large builds also allow them to act as if they were larger, wielding heavier weapons with ease and being harder to grapple or trip in combat as well. This makes them favored as gladiators in Kalidnay, where they remain largely slaves.

Though not much different physically from the halflings of the Core, they're culturally worlds apart. Once the ascendant race on Athas, they used and abused magic during the Blue Age. As a result they also gave rise to all other Athasian races, who abused magic more than them. To survive the death of their world they became xenophobic in the extreme, even cannibalistic in the more degenerate tribes--though they never eat other halflings. To their credit they don't care much about material goods but about what their actions will do to their race. As a result the sane tribes shun arcane magic and hunt the cannibalistic halflings with great zeal. They're still a violent race, though, and are not adverse to marking the borders of their territories with grisly totems of severed heads on spikes.

I've not seen halflings in Kalidnay, but stories are too persistent for them not to be there. The unlucky tribes caught there are likely even more clannish and secretive than usual.

Half-breeds of humans and dwarves, muls are bred for strength and endurance as a precursor to a life of slavery. They're also sterile and thus can't raise their numbers to dangerous levels as well. Those on Athas and in Kalidnay both tend towards either laborers or gladiators as few are ever born free. Those that do earn freedom are rare and usually do so in the gladiatorial pits. What they gain in strength and endurance comes at a cost in empathy. Slave life is harsh and uncaring so the muls were bred to be so as well. More as a result of culture than natural talents they have a hard time learning psionics. Those that do use their powers to break free or earn favor and a degree of power over other slaves.

Those muls I've seen in Kalidnay are often slaves. Some have become free while others took their freedom by force. Many of the latter will flee Kalidnay, where only the points of their ears and hairless bodies betray their non-human nature. But such things are easy to hide or at least explain away.

These reptilian humanoids may look fierce and powerful, but they're true strength lies in the mental pursuits of druidism and psionics. Most choose a life path that guides them until they die. The three paths are that of the warrior, the druid, and the mind. Warriors obviously seek a career in the martial arts as barbarians, fighters, and rangers. Druids take great interest in the plants and animals they meet, protecting them ferociously. Those who take on the path of the mind are psionicists par excellence. Many are telepath psions but this is not a requirement. They particularly enjoy mental pursuits such as puzzles, learning all about others, and otherwise using their brains over brawn. Their hearing, regardless of path, is poor at best due to physiology.

Few pterrans exist in Kalidnay. Maybe two or three dozen at most. Even before Kalidnay was pulled into the Land of Mist the pterrans were a fairly recent arrival and I've never heard of a pterran slave in Kalidnay. I imagine they're more adventurous than the other races but so far I also haven't heard of anyone outside Kalidnay encountering them.

Magic and Psionics on Athas
Influencing everyone, aside from the harsh sun, scarcity of water, and near-non existence of metal, are psionics, the Way. Everyone in Kalidnay is born with some measure of psionic power and the use of one power--albeit the weakest known powers. Among the commoners these hidden talents are measured by their utility. One that can manifest a ray of fire or a concussive shock might not use such powers much, but the ability to skate on the ground as though it were ice or to control objects often defines a person's niche. A commoner who manifests a power that has any kind of combative use may well be killed, so many who do keep their abilities a secret. Others turn that power to use in a craft or to aid survival.

Among the upper classes such powers are seen as parlor tricks or secret weapons to be used to their advantage. For them, psionics are about how they can be used to better their lot in life. The truly brutal politics of Kalidnay demand an edge of any sort to stay ahead of one's foes. Those who do study and refine their powers are all the more dangerous and their peers know it. However, even they must ultimately answer to the templars and thus few openly try to oppose them.

Among slaves, the use of their psionic powers is often punished severely. Those who can afford it keep their slaves in null psionics zones. Others, perhaps even worse off, find their powers only make them more desirable as slaves. A concubine that can arouse their master's passions with a thought or an artist that can manipulate even hard clay into soft pliability is very much a slave worth owning. Of course, some slaves use their innate powers to rebel and even escape. Those who show promise--and loyalty--can be raised up to more tolerable circumstances as guards for merchants, advisors, or just entertainment. They're still slaves but not treated even half as badly as others.

Some, but not many, find true psionicists to study under and further hone these abilities. As many lack the necessary materials for true education or philosophical study, wilders predominate among slaves and lower classes who somehow learn. Psions are more numerous among those of the upper classes as they have access to better education. Psychic warriors are found in fairly large numbers and are prized as soldiers, bodyguards, and even gladiators. Sometimes those raised as clerics take to the path of the ardent or divine mind, while some "bards" aren't bards at all and rely on psionic power in lieu of poison, often as lurks. Soulknives are an interesting case since they can manifest a weapon superior to the non-metal equivalents others use, at will, with no easy way to disarm them. More worldly merchants prefer them to even psychic warriors as guards. Those that can create weapons at will and that grow in power even as the wielder does is an investment worth its weight in water. Obviously a slave who manifests their powers as a soulknife is either killed or given an improved station in the hopes of keeping them loyal. The latter instance works often enough that nobles continue this practice, but slightly more play along until they can escape.

Magic, in stark contrast, is both rare and highly mistrusted for good reasons. It was the abuse of magic that turned the original Athas into a dusty, barren world by stripping the life force of the planet away faster than it could renew itself. Today what little life still exists can be snuffed out just by a wizard pulling in enough power to cast spells, especially if that wizard is a defiler. Such practitioners take more power than is necessary to make their spells more potent, but at the cost of killing the land under their feet. Worse still is that they literally grow addicted to the rush of power. As they grow in power, it becomes harder and harder to resist this addiction to the point that it's impossible. They're thankfully rare even in Kalidnay, and I've noticed that even their most innocuous spells invite spiritual corruption because their magic does just what their name implies--it defiles. Few tolerate defilers and unless Kalid-Ma states otherwise, all templars are ordered to kill defilers on the spot. Many masquerade as preservers until they either can no longer deny their addictions or find a patron that can protect them. It is actually quite easy to spot a defiler; the nature of their magic denies them the use of organic materials in enchanting, such as vegetable matter. A defiler casting a spell is likewise easy to spot; they leave infertile ash around them when they cast even the simplest cantrip, with more potent spells affecting very large areas.

Preservers, on the other hand, only take the minimum power necessary to cast their spells. They differ little from the wizards of the Core, only in that their style draws on life force to power their magic. The drain is infinitesimal and of no real consequence unless the spell they cast draws on powers that would normally invite corruption. In Kalidnay, a known preserver can expect to be at least tolerated by most people. Preservers are always watched closely by templars, often since a preserver is one of the few people who has both the will and the power to stand up to the sorcerer-kings who are, by definition, defilers themselves. Preservers can use organic materials in enchanting and many do so almost exclusively to show they are not defilers. Defilers destroy life and their magic doesn't work with organic items.

Kalidnayan magic of both kinds is heavily affected by the land itself. Simply put, the more life there is, the more powerful the magic is. The opposite is true as well and trying to pull magic out of truly barren landscapes like deserts and salt flats results in weaker spells. Thus outside Kalidnay, both types can be more powerful than many wizards if the landscape is truly rich in life. Most of the time they are no more or less powerful, as greater power requires truly verdant surroundings. Old growth forests and jungles are prime; grasslands and most forests are a minor boost at best. In cities and along many roads and trails it balances out. Without plant life they can't use their magic. Because defilers strip the life out of the land around them they often earn a great degree of antipathy outside Kalidnay. Assuming they aren't executed just for being arcanists.

Regardless of path, most Athasians are well and truly terrified of wizards. Just being accused of being a wizard is often a death sentence as mob justice takes the law into its own hands. It actually isn't that different from many countries in the Core. The only major difference is that if an accused wizard can prove they're a preserver, they might--might--be let go. Using organic magical items is the most obvious way since defilers must use the same tricks rogues do to use organic magic items. They have no affinity for such tricks and as often as not can barely use the simplest items before a mishap blows their cover. Because they're unable to not defile, defilers must take extra pains to hide their true path.

Combining psionics with magic is an age old art and one that leads to both immense power and a metamorphosis. Druids can become the very nature spirits they revere, clerics turn into the same elements they worship, and arcanists are most (in)famous of all for their transformations. Those of the preserver path turn into beings called avangions, spirit-like entities that are tied to the preservation and restoration of life. They remain rare as the ritual of transformation is difficult to find, and requires the potential ritualist to be already superhuman in power. The sorcerer-kings and templars, and dragons especially, hunt them down mercilessly if found. It would be too much to ask for even one avangion in Kalidnay. Not even rumors of such exist.

Defilers, though, can turn into Athasian dragons as the ultimate form of destruction and defilement. Any true sorcerer-king aspires to such and tales of those who weren't yet dragons having their city-states attacked by the armies of those who had already transformed are too numerous to detail. Athasian dragons are so utterly devoted to destroying life that they can use the life force of animals in addition to that of plants to power their spells. Much like avangions, however, no Athasian dragons exist in Kalidnay. Even on Athas they remain a rarity as the nature of defiler magic eventually destroys all but the most careful.

Clerics can turn themselves into elemental lords of their chosen element. Depending on the individual, they can easily be revered or reviled as they either control the elements to help those around them or let the elements run loose and wild. Druids turn into spirits of the land and become the ultimate guardians thereof. Again, there are not even rumors of either in the lands of Kalidnay. So few have the power to necessitate such transformations as to be unheard of, much less the knowledge of how.

Interestingly Athasian clerics do not have the same access to spells that others do, nor do the majority learn to wear heavy armor. Their "holy symbols" are also items associated with their patron element. An earth cleric uses a chunk of rock, a pouch of sand, or some other item of the earth. Fire clerics may use obsidian and water clerics a vial of water. Air clerics need only a breath. The para-elemental clerics usually use symbolic items since it's hard to find items of their chosen elements. With the exception of magma, silt, and sun clerics, training as a defiler is antithetical to the elements and those clerics who do lose their divine powers and spells. Athasian mysticism associates magma, silt, and sun with destruction as opposed to the cycles of rejuvenation and for obvious reasons. A volcanic eruption destroys lives and land, in place of water is silt that can swallow even a small giant and suffocate them, and the sun is the ultimate taskmaster who cares nothing for life. Those who worship gods of the sun would be well-advised not to advertise such if they ever travel to Kalidnay. The locals may think them destroyers of life instead of destroyers of unlife.

Bards as they're known in the Core, and paladins, do not exist in Kalidnay. A bard will quickly be branded a potential spy and assassin, while their minor arcane talents could draw ire from those who don't differentiate between defilers and preservers. Paladins lose all their powers and spells thanks to the Gray and those who still espouse the tenets of righteousness are seen as madmen at best, insurgents at worst. Worse still is the sheer danger of wearing metal armor, especially heavy forms, in the heat. Simple methods like metallic fins to vent heat out help, but sooner or later heatstroke will hit. Those who can afford one should carry a wand of hydration with them. It's a simple spell (and psionic power) but it's utility for those who insist on heavy metal armor in a desert cannot be overstated.

Monks likewise don't exist in Kalidnay, but some of the more martial professions follow very similar paths. These "psionic monks" share some of the same traits and abilities as monks of the Core and elsewhere do but share little in common. Instead they grew out of attempts to use unarmed attacks to counter the lack of metal weapons augmented by psionic power. They aren't highly disciplined, ascetic warriors so much as mercenaries who use their ability to turn their bodies into living weapons. That said, some do follow monastic ways and end up as shrine guardians or hermits living away from the harsh realities of city-state life. Finding one is as rare as rain.

Sorcerers do not exist among the natives of Athas or Kalidnay. Arcane magic must be taken. Outlander sorcerers who do find themselves in Kalidnay face the same risks that native defilers and preservers do from the people and the templars. Further, any bard, sorcerer, or wizard from outside who finds their way to Kalidnay functions as preservers. It may be possible to learn defiler magic, but this is an egregious violation of life and invites spiritual corruption just by attempting to learn, much less using any spell as a defiler. Of more material concern is a wizard studying their spellbook. As I said, literacy is illegal for all but the templars and a select few. Being seen reading can be punished in a wide variety of ways, perhaps the least of which is the destruction of their spellbook. Being sent into the gladiatorial pits to die is the most common punishment. I'm not a wizard so I'm not as versed in the techniques used by Athasian wizards to bypass using books or to hide them as I would like to be.

It was much to my consternation and dread that, when a particular Mistway was found, it led to this place. Having experienced firsthand the harsh realities, and harsher rule of the sorcerer-kings, on Athas, I wasn't sure how we'd survive this place. It took my willingness to become the sole criminal to ensure that Rudolph van Richten and others escaped safely. But here, to become a criminal is as simple as speaking out against the ruler.

Much of Kalidnay's geography is taken up by the Sea of Silt to the west. Rocky outcroppings to the east provide much of the stone used in construction and weapons, given the lack of metal. A small satellite town called Artan-Ak supplies the larger city-state of Kalidnay to the north with all of its food, leaving the people of Artan-Ak to face hunger when harvests are poor. The actual city of Kalidnay is dominated in the center by a massive ziggurat where Thakok-An speaks on the behalf of the sorcerer-king, Kalid-Ma. The rest of the city is made up of a market center, large and even luxurious homes for the upper class, and squalid hovels for the lower class. There is precious little in the way of a middle class, made up mostly of ruthless merchants and equally ruthless "bards." An Athasian bard would fit right in with the poisonous--figurative and literal--politics of Borca's nobles.

Those few Kalidnayans who escape their land are often awed and terrified by what they see. The greenery is so alien as to inspire wonder. Using water for simple cleaning is most confusing to them. Rain and snow can inspire fits of terror as they think the sky is falling. But most of all is the ready availability of metal. Seeing the rest of us conduct trade using metallic coins in lieu of ceramic ones or barter is baffling. Iron tools and steel weapons and armor are often treated as sacred objects, to say nothing of rare metals like gold. For some this can turn into a desire to hoard all the metal they can get their hands on to take back to Kalidnay and use to elevate themselves in society. But whatever powers rule over this world seem to take a sadistic glee in shattering such hopes. Copper, gold, silver, and platinum coins taken into Kalidnay by natives often revert to lesser states; copper to ceramic, silver to copper, etc. Even so the sheer value of even copper makes this a profitable venture. Weapons, armor, and tools are prone to turn into bone, flint, or obsidian if they're made of steel. This isn't guaranteed and I've no statistics to say how frequently it happens. But if something goes into Kalidnay, in the hands of a native, and remains its original material, it will never change; such "proofed" goods are much sought after by Kalidnayan merchants. But such goods are also rare. Many Mistways into Kalidnay are unstable or one-way only. Only after they return will many merchants discover if their purchased goods transform or not. Items that do are major monetary losses, but those that don't are stamped and command extremely high prices in Kalidnay.

The transformations in native hands make forging a stamp outside the land pointless since merchants won't accept such items. Outlanders can sell such items inside Kalidnay but as soon as it's taken out and back in by a native it may well transform. Aside from psionic lore and unique magic spells--and slaves, admittedly--there isn't an awful lot the natives can offer that's more easily acquired from other places. Some may do so just to see if they can con the "primitive, stupid, backward people," to quote a former Boritsi Trading Company merchant, but a bone blade through the heart is just as fatal as a steel one if caught. Said BTC merchant more than repaid the locals when they sapped his corpse of all moisture.

Speaking of merchants, trade with Kalidnay, though scattered, makes up the vast majority of the contact between that land and the outside. Sometimes adventurers make it out, too. Slaves are a close third, as some countries have those in power who will pay--by Kalidnayan standards--a king's ransom for "exotic" slaves. Five silver pieces can buy a lowly laborer, while the most skilled and beautiful concubines are ten gold pieces. Some goodly adventurers have often sought to try and free these slaves by "buying" them and releasing them, but such is often fraught with dangers all its own.

Athasian elves especially do not take kindly to enslavement and will fight tooth and nail against anyone who would dare do so, even their liberators. Others have been so thoroughly conditioned to be slaves by magic, psionics, or more mundane methods that only mesmerism or some sort of psychological "deprogramming" can restore their senses of self and independence; some never had any to begin with, such as those born and raised as slaves. If the slave-master finds that any slaves they sold are now free, they might just try and recapture them to resell them. Killing such opportunistic parasites in cold blood is something even I can't endorse despite how much I truly loathe them and their trade. But then no slave merchant goes anywhere without hired guards, often experienced mercenaries or highly-trained and highly-loyal retainer-slaves. Since most slavers are cowards, they will surrender if their protection is defeated. This doesn't mean there won't be legal or other repercussions if the local authorities find out. Sadly many slavers serve very wealthy and influential clients in the Core who can, and will, have meddlesome heroes attacked, arrested, or dealt with in some unpleasant manner. Make sure a slaver knows their hides will be next if they cause any trouble and liberators usually won't have this problem.

Dealing with freed slaves grateful for liberation comes with its own set of problems. First off is language; dwarves and muls speak Dwarven, and elves and half-elves know Elven, but the rest don't speak any language known to the Core. Magical translation is thus vital. Without it you may be perceived as new slavers and attacked. Even when communication is possible it's not always possible to return them to Kalidnay, nor do many wish to return. Integration into local populations always leads to "culture shock." Water, metal, greenery, the abundance of such can terrify Kalidnayans into panicked frenzies. Strange new customs, old habits, and the odd defiler in the group can lead to myriad other problems. Fortunately there is a society of Kalidnayans and others who understand them to help. The Measure of Water--named for the saying, "Worth his measure in water," as a way of saying someone is truly trustworthy--exists throughout the Core and Islands. Finding them, however, requires a great deal of work. This is a group as much anti-slavery as it is helping Kalidnayans adjust to the outside world. There is a standing bounty on them in places like Falkovnia, Hazlan, and Nova Vaasa, places where the authorities--religious and/or secular--tolerate or even encourage slavery.

One Problem that is truly unique are defilers who leave Kalidnay and find themselves in the more life-rich lands beyond. As I stated before, using defiler magic is spiritually corrupting. It doesn't matter if it was a simple cantrip or the mightiest spells, the result is that they run an even greater risk of spiritual taint than even necromancers! More immediate is that the land around them is left lifeless ash that cannot sustain life for a period of years based on how powerful the spell was. Animals and humanoids are affected by this drain as well, though not to the same extreme. Being near a defiler sucking life from the land is physically painful and it gets worse the more potent the spell. The distractions caused by this pain are also a form of defense for the defiler since foes who cannot resist the effect are crippled. The lifeless lands they leave behind do make them easier to track, and those who are part of the land can feel this drain more acutely than anyone else. Many will either send powerful minions to destroy the defiler or face them themselves with fatal consequences. The last time I saw this was in 744 when Azalin tracked down a defiler and vivisected him in the field when the defiler was unable to explain how he used magic as he did. I don't think the lich king learned much from the experiment. Others will likely find themselves hunted down and killed by clerics of nature gods like Hala, druids, and rangers. Defilers are a blight that should not be allowed to exist and most have hearts as black as pitch, or at best, are evil-tolerant. Some try and change their ways, and I applaud them for it, but many are too far gone to the rush of life that comes when they cast spells to ever change. If sin is sweet, their power is the sweetest of all.

Kalidnayan Horrors
Just as all places, Kalidnay has its share of monsters and horrific beings above and beyond those of the templars and their leader, Thakok-An. Salt mummies, ashen ghosts, and degenerate giants sometimes make their way out of that land and into others. Others are more exotic and require a little more detail.

Stone Bones - These are basically skeletons that have petrified bones harder than granite. Aside from the usual immunities of such walking dead, their bones make them much harder to hurt, much less kill. It takes a truly strong arm wielding a bludgeon to hurt one, but fire has an effect on them. They're not actually hurt by it, but their bones absorb the heat and become prone to shattering if water or weapons enchanted with magical cold strike them afterwards. It's wise to take cover since the shattering can produce a spray of stone shrapnel. Their bones are also vulnerable to magic that manipulates rock and earth; transmute rock to mud will slow them down considerably while a stone to flesh spell transforms them into normal skeletons. A simple soften earth and stone spell makes them as vulnerable to weapons as any other skeleton.
(System: Stone Bones possess Damage Reduction 5/- and +2 Hit Points per Hit Die. Transmute rock to mud will slow them as the spell, stone to flesh turns them into normal skeletons. Soften earth and stone negates their damage reduction, but not their additional hit points)

Obsidian Horrors - The ghosts of wicked individuals encased in some form of obsidian, be it a simple chunk the size of an adult human's fist, or ornate sarcophagi that weigh tons. Compared to normal ghosts they're not particularly powerful or mobile. What makes them truly dangerous is their ability to drain the minds of those who get too close to their obsidian prisons. Psionicists are their favored prey, but any sapient being will do. Those killed by their predations are later found to have their brains turned into obsidian.
(System: Treat as animators but unable to animate their corporeal prisons and with the Psychic Drain ability: psionic characters lose a number of power points per round equal to the horror's HD when within an equal number of yards; non-psionic characters or those with no more power points to lose begin suffering one point of Intelligence damage per round until they either leave the radius or lose all Intelligence. Those that lose all Intelligence die of an apparent stroke, but an autopsy will reveal their brains have been turned into obsidian. Destroying the obsidian prison destroys the spirit. Obsidian horrors cannot drain those protected by a mind blank or similar effect. An obsidian horror's prison is Hardness 8 and 10 HP per inch of thickness)

Desert Zombies - These nasty horrors are not like typical zombies in that they're desiccated and leathery instead of rotten. They also burrow and let loose with a scream whenever they attack, often with corroded weapons or just their nasty claws. Seeing miles of flat sand suddenly seem to swell and burst with these creatures is unnerving at best. Worst of all is that they're pack beings, attacking in threes and fours at a time. They don't possess an intellect of any kind and are mindless, but this pack nature seems to be an inherent part of their being. I'd recommend using a flask of alchemist's fire or other flame-based attacks to quickly take down large groups.
(System: Desert zombies are detailed in Denizens of Dread)

Disembodied - Some psionicists pursue the path of ultimate mental perfection until they are literally beings of pure thought. But this is merely ascension to a race of beings--called the uncarnate elsewhere--that existed long before we had unlocked the lore necessary. They often appear as transparent, disembodied brains and they are naturally incorporeal. All are psionicists and possessed of immense psionic power. I mention them here because they're most often found in Kalidnay. No one I talked to in Kalidnay would admit to having ever seen one, much less knowing of their existence. The templars themselves seem to be keenly interested in them. As for the disembodied themselves, they don't fear the templars since they're wholly incorporeal beings that can escape most forms of imprisonment. They do have a particular dread of obsidian horrors.
(System: Uncarnate are detailed in the Expanded Psionics Handbook)

This is by no means an exhaustive look at Kalidnay, its people, culture, or creatures. I've touched on what I feel is important to know and appraised readers of some of the more sinister things they may find if they travel there.

"Money is the root of all evil...I think I need more money."

Mon Sep 22, 2014 12:04 am
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