The loam of the forest floor clinging to her bare feet began to harden and a sheen of ice started to creep over the ground. The temperature in the glade plummeted and the water in the air condensed on her limbs, her back, her breasts, droplets running in rivulets down her form before freezing solid in their tracks. Leaves above her head withered and tumbled from now barren branches, silhouetted against a full moon. An icy wind gusted, dragging dried leaves out of the glade and whipping them against trees further on.
The Song of Winter was transitioning from its gentle first movement into the harsh rhythms of its central theme. The blood in Uxinta's veins pounded, her pulse quickening, the color rising in her cheeks. She felt her own bodily cycles merging with the music, pulsating in time, quivering at each staccato breath of wind.
Long clear icicles were forming now off every branch, till one mighty limb snapped like a gunshot, reverberating through the woods. Through the air, ice and snow whirled, a white vortex with Uxinta at the center, singing.
Singing and exulting. As the temperature outside plummeted, her internal heat was building and she belted each note ecstatically, anticipating the incipient crescendo.
Far above the woods, blue jays disturbed from their nests by the unseasonable weather fluttered anxiously about, watching as a blanket of white coated a wider and wider region of the forest, radiating out from the young Prill singer. The cold front passed over a creek turning it instantly to ice. It swallowed a small pond, a thicket of manzanita, families of quail and deer. Animals were waking suddenly and darting in confusion from their beds.
Uxinta inhaled the frigid air deep into her lungs, trembling with the nearness of the climax. She let the powerful final movement of the Song overtake her, lifting her from the ground in a mighty and sudden burst of blizzard. Waves of cold exploded through her body rolling outward like an earthquake to the limit of the zone of winter. In the path of these tremors stones split, trees died, and the whole region was buried in a dozen feet of snow.
The last of the shivers tingled in the soles of her feet as she came gently to rest on the surface of the new snow, without leaving an impression. Steam wafted from her skin and she looked around in heady bliss at the wintry landscape. Buried deep in the snow, damaged beyond repair, and mired in immovable ice were the roiling, smoke belching machines of the Cheldrun loggers. Sadly, Uxinta knew, this would not set them back for long. They would return with new machines and be right back to work ripping apart the forest within a few months, but for now...
Uxinta slipped on her light priestess robes, not bothering to tie them closed, but enjoying the prick of the cold against her skin. She was the guardian of the Song of Winter. She didn't mind a slight chill.
Other than the Zipsum, the Vorax were the most numerous of the Karians in the days of the Dusk Sages. In the past two centuries they have gone from being ubiquitous to being on the verge of extinction. They are a tragic and forlorn species that remembers with exquisite agony a time not so distant when they were the far-ranging lore keepers of Karia.
The Vorax are magnificent, enormous, birds of prey in their animal forms. They have long lifespans (100-125 years), and they mate for life in familial groups called “nests”, which are then organized into flocks. There used to be thousands of flocks all around Karia.
The plight of the Vorax is difficult to explain. The simplest explanation, put forward by Cheldrun biologists, is that the Vorax are extremely vulnerable to toxins in the air. The increase in blackrock burning has poisoned and killed Vorax by the millions. However, even those Vorax far from Cheldrun cities have been mysteriously dying. Sages among the Anakarix and Prill believe that the ancient lore-keepers are bound physically to the health of the planet in a more intimate way than the other races. As the planet itself withers, the Vorax die.
No one knows precisely how many Vorax there are left living, but the number is vanishingly small. In some places it has been so long since the last Vorax sighting that they are simply presumed extinct. No one thinks of them any longer as a society or includes them in discussions of world affairs and this is for the simple reason that in every meaningful sense they have no society left. Their culture and way of life has completely disintegrated under the extreme pressure of impending extinction.
The tragedy of the Vorax is compounded by the fact that by nature they are intensely social. The support and unity of nest and flock is ingrained in every Vorax at an instinctual level so much that it is doubtful any of the survivors have escaped some level of madness. Those that remain are subject to all manner of irrational behaviors, the most common of which being The Search.
The Search makes little sense to outsiders, but it is the only thing keeping some Vorax alive. They depart their nests suddenly and begin flying, thousands of miles over every region calling for others of their kind. It is an ominous and desperate sound to hear a lone Vorax crying his lament overhead. Those who are observant believe The Search has a pattern and a purpose, which the Vorax have not revealed – or perhaps they don’t know themselves. Anyone long enough lived to remember the Vorax in their heyday simply wouldn’t believe that this regal race will disappear entirely, without a sound.
More than anything else it is the situation of the Vorax that is spurring other Karians to take the threat of the Cheldrun seriously.
Players who wish to play a Vorax should take time to consider precisely how the extinction is affecting them. Have they watched their family die? How long has it been since they’ve seen another Vorax? Why are they still alive? How is The Search playing a role in their life? The Vorax are fast and silent predators, who have traveled far and wide and know a great deal about the world. Players should put some thought into the knowledge this Vorax has gained. They should also detail the flock and the nest from which they come as it will shape who they are.
Appearance: Even in their human form the Vorax appear avian. They are fine boned and sharp featured. In place of hair, a cascade of feathers tumbles from their head. They are beautiful in an exotic, alien sort of way. When they take their bird form they are colossal raptors with feathers ranging from deep purple to blood red in color, black talons and a black beak. As birds they can turn invisible for short periods, becoming only a faint shimmer in the air.
Example Flocks: Fushidara Torimure, Ganjou Torimure, Naiya Torimure, Puchi Torimure, Reikoku Torimure, Yukai Torimure
Example Names: Male: Audagei, Aukolon, Aumelix, Austabor, Auvanya
Female: Bafara, Baheila, Bajunei, Bamunas, Baporoo, Batalon
Example Attributes: Aura of Inspiration, Features (Appearance), Flight, Heightened Awareness, Melee Attack (Talons)
Example Skills: Acrobatics, Animal Training, Area Knowledge, Artisan, Cultural Arts, Foreign Culture, Languages, Navigation, Occult, Stealth, Wilderness Tracking
Vorax attitudes towards….
Murderers! Genocidal maniacs bent on the destruction of everything of value. They rained down on us from the sky like a plague from the heavens.
These are the only Cheldrun with any sense of reverence or tradition, but they are blind to the fact that they have inherited a tradition that bends only toward death.
It is a shame that anything living should be gifted with such a mind only to waste it on selfish exploitation.
They can hardly be considered living beings. Rather they are poison-spewing rambling engines of destruction.
We are the beating pulse of Karia. When we cease to be, so will the planet.
The ones with scales are the memory and knowledge of Karia. We admire their insight. To survive they must share it.
The ones with hooves are the strength and vigor of Karia. We admire their valor. To prosper they must unite.
The ones with claws are the temper and passion of Karia. We admire their ferocity. To protect they must eschew caution.
The ones with tails are the empathy and emotions of Karia. We admire their compassion. To preserve they must endure wounds.
We are the ones with wings. We are the joy and flourishing of Karia.
The ones with gills are the flexibility and virility of Karia. We admire their curiosity. To restore they must remember.
Unlike most other Karians the Zipsum barely remember the countless eons under the protection of the Dusk Sages, though they've heard it was a golden age of safety and plenty. Back then, the Zipsum were eager servants of the Sages, running messages, being eyes and ears, receiving gentle strokes and sitting at their feet learning lore. All of that changed just over two centuries ago with the explosive arrival of the Cheldrun and the subsequent, sudden, departure of the Dusk Sages.
With a lifespan of about 20 years, achieving maturity around 3 and bearing children around 5, the Zipsum have been through almost 40 generations since the cataclysm. It is no wonder then, that they have already forgotten most of what the Dusk Sages taught them, but they are aware that they once were wiser and more powerful than they are today.
It is this awareness that has propelled them into their new role as information gatherers, spies, and couriers. Just 10 years ago they realized that the Vorax, the traditional keepers of lore among the Karians, were dying out and other Karians were forgetting the magics of the Dusk Sages just as the Zipsum had. In a rare moment of complete accord the heads of the 21 circles agreed that the Zipsum should learn everything they could. (They argued and were unable to come to complete agreement as to why or how the information should be organized and recorded.)
The Zipsum have excitedly taken over for the Vorax as the keepers of diffuse knowledge among Karians. Endlessly curious and universally underestimated, the Zipsum are perfect information gatherers, though they can rarely distinguish secret lore from really good recipes or exciting stories. By trial and error they learn and absorb a huge amount of information, but it is not very organized and so not all that useful. The 21 Circles (100 member committees from each of the 21 tribes of Zipsum) have yet to come up with any use for the information gathered and in the meantime all Zipsum everywhere are improvising - a normal state of affairs.
Because of this chaotic dispersion Zipsum vary as to their attitudes toward the Cheldrun. There are basically two types of Zipsum: 'domesticated' and 'wild'.
Domesticated Zipsum have decided to submit to servitude (even slavery) among the Cheldrun in order to spy on them. Savvy domesticated Zipsum, jabber to wealthy Cheldrun by the hour, who pay for the privilege of possibly learning absurdly important information that no one else knows. Others have become smugglers, petty thieves, beggars and pranksters. These Zipsums do not consider themselves "owned", though they may appear that way. Nevertheless some of them grow very comfortable in Cheldrun civilization and have a difficult time adapting back to the forest.
Wild Zipsum are impervious to conquest. The Cheldrun have been trying, ceaselessly, since Zipsum enclaves are nearest to the cities among the Karians. However, their speed and disorganization makes them basically impossible to master, corral, or even restrain in large numbers. Some of the tribes have run into more trouble when the Cheldrun descend to slash and burn tactics, but this has led to a fierce resistance among them. Wild Zipsum disdain their domesticated brethren and loathe the Cheldrun. Unable to mount any serious threat to Cheldrun forces they resort to sabotage, and guerrilla tactics, which is a continual annoyance to the Cheldrun.
Players who wish to play a Zipsum should determine whether they will play a domesticated or a wild Zipsum, which of the 21 tribes they will come from, and should discuss in detail their background and travels with the GM to determine what kind of knowledge they may have stored up in their cranium. Zipsum are often skilled martial artists and archers (in human form), though their culture prizes far more the arts of foraging, scouting, exploration, and information gathering.
Appearance: In their human form Zipsum are svelte and beautiful people, with natural allure. They are beguiling brunettes with an aura like a fine mink stoll - inviting and sensual. They do not retain their animal features like ears or tails, but they have an animal magnetism. They are fond of simple clothing made of luxurious materials like silk and satin. They carry themselves with grace, like dancers or martial artists. In their animal form they appear as normal sized squirrels with a small set of gills behind their ears and webbing between their toes. They come in a wide variety of colors, from normal browns and grays, to pink, yellow, green and anything else. Their fur color is affected by what they eat, so they may change color throughout their life.
Example Tribes: the Cascadejumpers, the Cloudclimbers, the Duststorm Tribe, the Lightningstrike Tribe, the Riverswift Tribe, the Thunderrunners, the Windspring tribe etc...
Example Names: Brags-too-Much, Eats-through-Nose, Head-breaks-Rock, Jumps-over-Jevumm, Kills-giant-Frog, Pretty-like-Flower, Smiles-like-Wolf, Wet-behind-Ears, etc...
Example Attributes: Combat Technique, Extra Actions, Extra Defenses, Features (animal empathy & appearance), Heightened Awareness, Heightened Senses, Jumping, Melee Attack (Unarmed), Melee Defense (Unarmed), Mind Shield, Organizational Ties (tribe), Ranged Attack (Bow), Ranged Defense (Dodge), etc...
Example Skills: Acrobatics, Area Knowledge, Burglary, Climbing, Foreign Culture, Forgery, Gaming, Languages, Navigation, Seduction, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Wilderness Survival, Writing, etc...
Domesticated Zipsum attitudes towards….
Oooo! Shiny cities, bright lights, whirring motors, smart peoples. What is not to like about these wonder-workers from the stars?
These are soft and nice people compared with the others. They pay us money and listen to us tell our stories.
Smoothskins are mindsensors, but they cannot read us, so they do not like us. They are dangerous, but they have a lot of information. Treat with caution.
How it hurts when they kick us with their metal feet! They are rough and rude people, who make loud noises and terrible smells.
|We are the people of the past. Cheldrun are shiny and new. We should learn from the new people or we will be dead people.|
They move too slow. The future is fast, fast, fast. They will not make it long, before the future outdistances them too too much.
|Strong, strong, strong and when they are drunk they talk so much. They make good allies if they are willing to work hard for the city people.|
While we are in the city they cannot eat us! They are scared of fire, but the city people use it in everything. Phhhhhbttt!
They are so pretty, but they are only worried all the time about the forest. The future is the city. They should sing city songs.
We miss the Vorax. They were the only people who knew more stories than we do. Too bad they get sick around the Cheldrun.
We are fast and smart and if we learn from the Cheldrun we will become faster and smarter.
Wild Zipsum attitudes towards….
They are stinky and horrible. They think they know everything, but they cannot see and hear everything we can. We will learn all lore to defeat them.
These are the most impotent of the Cheldrun, despised even by their own kind.
These are the ones who know the most, among the Cheldrun and therefore the ones we must really fear.
They look scary, and they’ll hurt you if you let them get close, but they can never catch us.
We are Karia’s emotional expression. Our jubilation is her jubilation. We must grow in happiness for her to grow in happiness.
Boring! They do nothing but sit, sit, sit. If you can get them talking, though, they know so much.
They make us laugh and laugh when they are drunk. They are so stupid, but we like them.
Hiss! We hate them. They eat us and scratch us if we are not careful – but they are easy to scare with fire.
So many rules! They are always following traditions and rituals and talking about the past. They are stuck like ants in tree sap.
Sigh. We miss them so much. They were storytellers before us and they knew so much about far away places.
We are the fastest and smartest people anywhere and it is our job to use our fast and our smart to make Karia happier.
Inari was in trouble.
Of course, that wasn’t exactly anything new. He was always in trouble. But this was a new sort of trouble: the kind of trouble that comes from being surrounded by a whole tribe of angry tiger-people. Yes, a whole tribe. Not that Jevuum tribes tended to be very large, and this one was smaller than most. This one, he knew, had one adult male, who knew how many adult females, and whatever children there might be. That was how it usually was. Territorial creatures and all that. Sometimes they were able to overcome their instincts and live in a more communal sort of setting, but this tribe hadn’t done that. They usually hunted alone. He must have pissed them off a lot more than he’d thought if the whole tribe had come out here after him. Ah well. May as well make the best of it.
“Hello!” he called cheerfully.
He was quite a sight: a handsome if tall and lanky young man, his hair red like a fox, and tousled even more than usual. Two fox-ears poked out near the top of his head, and he was covered, head to toe, in mud, which was the problem really: it had been SACRED mud. Who knew? Still, it was totally unreasonable for them to hold it against him. After all, how was he to know that the well in the middle of their village's temple was considered sacred? And how was he to know that climbing down to the bottom of it and splashing about in the muddy water to find the source of the well’s music would offend the tribe? And how was he to know that the... well, ok, so he did know that the Jevuum were a bit ill-tempered, and tended to take things personally. Setting fire to village priest’s tail as a means of generating a distraction in order to get away may have also contributed to their anger. Idly, he wondered if the priest was out there with the rest of the tribe.
Growls sounded in the forest all around him as the tiger-people moved in, fangs and claws gleaming in the moonlight. He backed against the rock-face they had chased him to. The forest grew right up to the very base of the cliff, and vines streamed down the side of the cliff from far above, with long lengths coiled across the forest floor all around the group.
“Prill,” one of them – the tribe’s alpha male – intoned, “You have desecrated our holy shrine, and for this you must die. Do you have anything to say for yourself before sentence is carried out?”
Inari considered the Jevuum alpha for a moment. Yes, he decided. Yes, those biceps really were as thick as his own chest. “Well yes, actually.”
The Jevuum waited for him to continue about as patiently as could be expected from tiger-people. Which is to say, not very. No small number of snarls and barings of teeth ensued.
“I’ve got a question. Just one, and once you answer it, you’re free to tear me limb from limb or whatever it is you want to do.”
“Speak,” the Jevuum’s leader snapped.
“Why do you think I chose to face you in this particular spot?” Inari asked, now all but radiating what could only be described as an egocentric sense of unstoppableness.
The Jevuum leader didn’t like that at all. Such an attitude didn’t usually go over well, of course, but this particular tiger-person seemed especially offended by it. He allowed his claws to emerge from their sheathes. “Because you are desperate, stupid, and about to die,” he said, and stalked towards the lanky young Prill.
Inari glared at the Jevuum leader. “I’ll have you know, I am neither stupid nor about to die.” He sang the words more than he spoke them, and as he finished, he did not fall silent. The song continued, telling now of growing things, of sap and wood.
The Jevuum charged. Not just their leader: all of them. A good eleven angry tiger-people bounded across the short distance that separated Inari from them, each of them intent on one thing: decorating the whole forest with his insides.
And that was when the forest came to life. The vines uncoiled like serpents and lunged into the onrushing crowd of Jevuum, wrapping around them and hoisting them into the air like animals in a Cheldrun rope-trap. Inari, grinning cheekily, conducted the affair, singing still, miming the movements now of this vine, now of that one, until the whole tribe was swaying back and forth some twenty feet off the ground, bound up as securely as the young Prill could manage.
“You’ll pay for this, Prill!” one of the Jevuum bellowed.
“A thousand deaths is too few for you! May your family be cursed unto the thousandth generation!” another shrieked.
“Right then,” Inari said, allowing the last few notes of the Song of Wood to fall away into ... well, him talking. He never did know when to leave well enough alone. “Since I am apparently not going to be eviscerated today, I think I’ll go ahead and bid you fine people farewell. Farewell! Goodbye! I hate to leave you hanging,” (the tiger-people groaned at that) “But I’m off. Allons-y, and all that.” He brushed at the now mostly dry mud on his cheeks and on his arms to little effect before walking calmly into the forest and out of sight. He’d hoped to learn the Song of Water here, but that was out of the question now. Ah well. Can’t find a new song in every village. It suddenly occurred to him that those Jevuum would probably be pretty pissed when they managed to free themselves. The more Inari considered that thought, the more it bothered him.
Once he was out of sight of the Jevuum, he stopped walking calmly and began running like hell. After all, angry tiger-people are bad news, and vines that can support their weight are hard to come by.
Aumelix alighted on the colossal cliffside nest his powerful wings flapping to slow his descent. Gripping the edge of the mud and straw perch, he folded his wings and permitted himself the time to make the change, a luxury he rarely allowed himself anymore. Moments later he tumbled into the nest exhausted, a creature of tender flesh and muscled limbs. Naked, filthy, and starving he began to weep.
This was the third abandoned nest he'd found in two weeks. This time there were shattered eggs concealed under the down. It was getting too much to bear, the plight of his people. So few, so few of them left, the Vorax were going mad of loneliness. They would depart their nests and fly, shrieking for thousands of miles desperate to encounter even one other of their species. Filled with despair they would leave their eggs unprotected, unable to face bringing children into a world without hope. The moment the eggs were alone, the starlings and blackbirds would move in.
No Vorax remained unaffected by his people's plight, but Aumelix was responding differently than some of his brethren. Whereas most expressed their grief in lamentation and listless wandering, Aumelix was growing more and more enraged by the day.
Here! he boiled. Here, in this nest just a few days ago there were living Vorax children. Here is where the hope for our species lay and it was just abandoned.
Like others he was searching the skies far and wide for his kind. Like others he was nearly insane with loneliness. Unlike the others he was determined to do something about it. He was methodical and relentless. Going days without food, nights without sleep, and rarely stopping for long enough to change his form and rest his wings, Aumelix would not let it go until his body betrayed him to death.
And in the meantime he would kill as many starlings as he could get his talons on.
From the canopy of a towering Sygola tree, hundreds of meters above the forest floor an old Anakarix father and his son observed the distant Cheldrun port-city of Matamos, sharing lore.
The son, close to the age of proving, turned to his father curiously, "Does that mean they don't trust the spirits?"
A few miles from their perch, another ancient tree was felled.
"Yes son, that is what it means."
Koriakalys, ranked Dawn Sage among his people, was a proud grandfather, but even so his heart was heavy as he looked into the future and saw, with certainty, the doom of his tribe. His own son, so promising, perhaps even capable of achieving a distinction in Soul Eloquence during his upcoming trials, would not live long enough to learn the lore of his elders. For nearly three centuries Koriakalys had lived by the maxim of his people that all knowledge is desirable, but now he wished to the depths of his being that he could be ignorant of the doom awaiting all that he loved.
Year after year, dating to shortly after his own trials, Koriakalys had ascended this Sygola tree to his customary perch high on the top branches - a patch of bark rubbed smooth by the scales of his belly. From this place he had observed many things. He'd witnessed the night of bonfire skies - when the Cheldrun irrevocably destroyed the peace of Karia. He'd seen the birth of Matamos as a tiny protected harbor town. He'd studied the alien contours of Cheldrun architecture as Matamos grew from a few dozen bamboo and paper houses, to a heap of gunmetal tenements, jutting into the sky like stubby fingers on a grasping hand. The distant mountains had been unscarred by strip mines when Koriakalys began his watch. The expanses of hydroponic farmland had been forested then. Never had Koriakalys tasted the acrid reek of burning blackrock when he started his vigil.
Now, however, with each flick of his forked tongue he sensed not only the direction of the wind, or the scents of approaching animals, but the life running out of the planet in plumes of dark smoke.
The son looked with admiration at his father's many many dewlap piercings, each one a memento of victory in philosophical debate. "Someday, will I have as many piercings as you father?"
Koriakalys looked away from his son, toward the distant logging activities to hide the sorrow in his eyes. "Of course, my son. Probably more."
“How is she?”
‘God that woman is hot. I would do her again and again.’
‘I wish he wouldn’t look at me like that.’
‘I want an ice cream cone.’
‘I hate this job.’
‘I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU HATE YOU HATE YOU!’
So many voices. So many. On an on. Voices beyond count. It had always been so. She couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t all of those voices.
‘I wonder if she’d go home with me if I asked?’
‘Maybe I should just tell him off.’
‘Here’s how to...’
‘I will always love you.’
‘I wonder what would happen if I cut my finger off. I guess I wouldn't have a finger.’
‘That’s a big...’
‘It’s the thing you hate the most.’
Smooth, clear acrylic surface.
Power humming beneath the surface.
Voices. Her voices, all of them.
‘I’m getting old. Old and fat. Fat and bald and old. I hate my life. I hate my job. I hate my stupid, fat, bald, old face.’
‘Looks like you gained a few pounds, you cow.’
‘Do you often sing or whistle just for fun? What does that mean?’
‘I wonder if the test type has the same problems as the prototype.’
”There’s a specialist on his way.”
‘Specialist? Doesn’t he remember what happened last time? He clawed out his own eyes.’
‘It’s the thing you hate the most.’
‘I HATE YOU HATE YOU HATE YOU HATE YOU...’
‘I should tell her how I feel. Even if she doesn’t like me, she might still be willing to do me.’
‘Maybe I should tell him about my girlfriend. Or would that just turn him on?’
”We’ve tried that before, if you recall.”
‘At least the test type doesn’t have this sort of problem. Still, we might be able to salvage something from the prototype. She’s responding well to her physical training, at least.’
”The last one wasn’t properly trained to deal with her situation. This one is.”
Something new. Barrier. A presence that isn’t her. There was something that wasn’t her?
‘Old, fat, bald, stupid...’
‘She’s not into men? That’s so hot!’
‘Oh God. I knew this was going to happen.’
‘Age is against me. The world is against me. The children here are lucky. They’re young. Not like me.'
Light. She looks up. There is light. The door is open, and a man stands in the hallway, silhouetted against the light. His thoughts are closed. He steps into the room.
They’re gone. They’re gone! The voices are all gone. Gone-gone-gone-horrible-awful-terrifying-wonderful-new-thrill-fear-gone-gone-gone. How can they be gone? This is impossible. Impossible. Possible. Possible?
“I’ve sent them away, Rei-Gouki,” the man said.
Confusion. How could he have sent them away? That’s impossible. Wasn’t it?
Alone with her thoughts for the first time in her life, the girl looked about at her room in wonder, as if she expected the voices to pop out from under the bed, or come flowing back in through the smooth acrylic surfaces that line the walls.
“Where did I go?” she asked.
“The others – the voices – they’re not you, Rei-Gouki. They’ve never been you.”
She shook her head again and again. This was hard. The very idea of such a thing made her shiver. “I don’t understand,” she whispered.
He smiled. “You will. But that’s all for today. I’ll be back again tomorrow.”
He stepped out. The door closed. And for the rest of the day, the young Biomade sat on the floor of her quarters, dumbfounded by this new thing that the man had given her: awful, terrible, horrifying, wonderful silence.
ANAKARIX Perhaps the most intelligent of all Karians, the reptilian Anakarix are known for sitting in trees and philosophizing. Centuries ago they sat in their trees so long that they lost the secret of changing into their humanoid forms. Now they are stuck as lizards, but they use their form to great advantage.
Armour 6 12CP
Features (Long Tongue, Longevity, Camouflage) 3CP
Heightened Awareness 1 2CP
Regeneration (touching trees) 1 5CP
Special movement 5 10CP
(Balance, Fastx2, Light-Footed, Wall Crawling)
Unique Defect - Cold Blooded (slow and groggy when cold) -3CP
GOGAJIN Though others often laugh at the donkey-sons for their clumsiness and gullibility, the Gogajin are among the hardiest and most stubborn of all Karians. The Gogajin are quick to forgive insults and happy to have an excuse for a party, but that does not mean they should not be taken seriously – those hooves are vicious! When in humanoid form the Gogajin retain their donkey ears and tails.
Alternate Form 1(Activation -2, Recovery-2) 5CP
- Enhanced Body +2 20CP
- Decreased Mind -2 -20CP
- Feature (Stability) 1 1CP
- Massive Damage (hooves) 2 8CP
- Impaired Manipulation (No Arms) -9CP
- Weapon “Hooves” 2 10CP
- (Muscle, Penetratingx2)
Easily Distracted (beer or women) -3CP
Heightened Senses (Hearing +6) 2 2CP
Less Capable ( Running Speed -4) -2CP
Marked (Ears & Tail) -2CP
Superstrength 2 16CP
Tough 3 6CP
JEVUMM A capricious and hot-tempered bunch, the tiger shaping Jevumm are nevertheless elegant and graceful. A deep hatred of fire makes them extremely wary of the Cheldrun who they call fire-bearers. Jevumm are usually loners, but they are very sympathetic to the plight of their people and willing to work with other Karians from time to time.
Alternate Form 3 (Activation -2, Recovery -2) 23CP
- Bane (Fire 20dmg/round) -6CP
- Decreased Soul -2 -20CP
- Enhanced Body +2 20CP
- Extra Actions 1 15CP
- Massive Damage (Claws & Teeth) 3 12CP
- Impaired Manipulation (No Arms) -9CP
- Impaired Speech -6CP
- Jump 1 2CP
- Phobia (Fire) -3CP
- Special Movement (Cat-Like, Fast x2) 3 6CP
- Superstrength 1 8CP
- Weapon “Claws & Teeth” 3 10CP
- (Muscle, Penetrating)
Blind Fury -2CP
Heightened Senses 1 (Smell +3) 2CP
PRILL While the Anakarix have forgotten how to become humanoid the Prill have taken a vow to never wear their animal form (fox) until the forests are safe. Although many Karians use various forms of minor magic only the Prill and the Dusk Sages possess true magic. Unfortunately, the Dusk Sages have disappeared from the land. The Prill have recorded the wisdom of the Dusk Sages in a much degraded form through songs. Each Prill child is taught a selection of these songs which it is their task to preserve and pass on to the next generation. Some have theorized that the songs are all part of one massive composition and if properly ordered would unlock the secrets of creation itself.
Energy Bonus 4 8CP
Heightened Senses 2 (Hearing +3, Smell +3) 4CP
Power Flux (minor) 4 20CP
VORAX Magnificent Giant purple birds who transform into humanoids with feathers in place of hair, the Vorax are all but extinct now. Individuals wander the planet with their incredible eyesight searching for others of their kind. As birds they can become invisible at will, but are very vulnerable to the smogs and poisons of the industrial world.
Alternate Form 2(Activation -2, Recovery -2) 14CP
- Combat Technique 1 (Diving Attack) 2CP
- Features 3 3CP
- (Homing Instinct, Low-Light Vision, Animal Empathy)
- Flight 3 24CP
- Heightened Senses 2 (sight +6) 4CP
- Invisibility 2 (sight, Deplete Energy 1/round) 7CP
- Impaired Manipulation (no arms) -9CP
- Impaired Speech (animal sounds) -6CP
- Massive Damage - Focused 1 (Talons +1) 4CP
- Not So Tough (-15 HP) -6CP
- Physical Impairment (ground movement) -3CP
- Ranged Defense 1 (flying +1) 3CP
- Vulnerability (Smog) -3CP
Heightened Awareness 2 4CP
ZIPSUMS Aquatic mammals about the size of a squirrel who are also adapted to land, Zipsums can transform into svelt and beautiful humanoids. Fast and acrobatic in their water-squirrel forms they are easily distracted by candy and tend to gossip. They will change into animal form involuntarily if splashed or submersed in water.
Alternate Form 1 (Activation -2, Recovery -2) 5CP
- Body +1 10CP
- Soul +1 10CP
- Mind -2 -20CP
- Features 2 (Gills, Webbed Paws) 2CP
- Heightened Senses 1 (smell +3 in addition to below) 2CP
- Jump 4 (100x normal) 8CP
- Land Speed 6 (250kph) 12CP
- Special Movement 12CP
- (Balance, Cat-Like, Light Footed, Swinging, Water-walking)
- Water Speed 3 (30kph) 12CP
- Tiny (page 109 – except running speed) -36CP
- Easily Distracted (candy) -2CP
Features 2 (Appearancex2) 2CP
Heightened Senses 2 (smell +3, hearing +3) 4CP
Involuntary Change (water) -3CP
The Original Cheldrun...
The Original Cheldrun...
Since the purpose of the Allskin caste is to be a living safeguard against the eradication of the species, it is natural that over time the identity of this caste came to be tied up with purity, lineage and tradition. In the early days of the Experiment there were some who were very disappointed not to be allowed to participate in the exciting developments that were underway. While the Biomade were developing ever more powerful psychic powers and the Mechifieds were being engineered into a remarkable skilled labor force, the Allskins remained as they had always been. The dissatisfaction this produced in some led to the realization that the protection of the Allskin caste would require affording them certain privileges in recompense for their nonparticipation.
In no time, the Allskin caste became an aristocratic class of landowners, bureaucrats and administrators. Allskin families developed a complex social network where lineage, honor, artistic taste and civility were the marks of a true Cheldrun. At the height of the Cheldrun civilization, before the Flight, the Allskins were wealthy beyond compare, living in lavish palaces with the finest frescoes and the most delicate plasterwork. They wore silk kimonos in their clan colors so everyone would know who they were. They commanded respect because they were nearly sacred in Cheldrun society. That was a time when no Allskin ever fought or risked their lives for anything. They had others to do that for them.
The long Flight changed all that. Although some Allskin families retain a shadow of their former glory, most Allskin families now are in some measure of poverty, though they strive not to show it on the outside. The Biomade and the Mechified feel that the Great Experiment is now over. Biological and mechanical auto-augmentation has been going on for countless centuries. There is no reason to fear a catastrophe. No reason to safeguard the species. Allskins are a relic of a backward time to them. Many Allskins abandoned their sacred status and joined one of the other castes, but some families still hold to the old ways and gravely shake their heads at the deterioration of their race. The vision of the First Minds is being corrupted, they would say.
With the disintegration of the social order and the disgrace of the Allskin caste only one distinction remained to them – and it is perhaps the only thing preserving this beleaguered group. Back when the Great Experiment was begun the First Minds programmed certain artifacts of war to activate only for an Allskin. These ancient relics of Cheldrun history are still in the possession of the remaining Allskins. Venerable families still maintain the towering Mecha, which can only be operated by Allskin pilots, along with long range rifles, armor and other paraphernalia of war. The disintegration of unity that happened shortly after the Cheldrun landed on the surface has meant that they’ve had no shortage of employment. Indeed, adapting their old codes of honor to warfare has resulted in a situation where conflicts between Cheldrun cities are often resolved through Mecha duels between champions from each side. Powerful cities run schools for Allskin Mecha pilots where internal competition is rife because only the deadliest pilots get to be named champion.
Players who wish to play an Allskin character should carefully reconstruct the character’s lineage and clan affiliation. Their wardrobe, speech and demeanor should carry a hint of the old-world feudal society of lordship. Ranks and titles are important to them. Allskins prize skill at the arts, writing, and etiquette as much or more than they value skill at arms or piloting ability. Consider playing an Allskin if you want to play a character with a code of honor.
Appearance: Allskins are the most human characters in the world. Unlike the Biomade their skin is imperfect, their faces aren't perfectly symmetrical, their teeth aren't perfectly straight. Unlike the Karians they have no animal traits. Unlike the Mechified they are not augmented in any way. They are plain, ordinary, people. They tend toward oriental in appearance, and fashion. Indeed, they wear ancient looking kimono's and ceremonial garments to indicate their sacred position - most of which is faded, torn and in poor repair. They give off an aire of faded glory.
Example Clans: Amethyst Swan, Crystal Nightingale, Jade Falcon, Opal Wren, Ruby Hawk
Example Family Names: Chinen, Higa, Hon’inbo, Inoue, Ishikawa, Kato, Kindaichi, Mukainakano, Nakata, Sakonju, Shimabukuro, Shoji
Example Attributes: Aura of Inspiration, Combat Technique, Companion, Extra Actions, Extra Defenses, Features (Appearance), Item, Organizational Ties
Example Skills: Cooking, Cultural Arts, Gaming, Intimidation, Linguistics, Performing Arts, Piloting, Seduction, Visual Arts, Writing
Allskin Technology & Equipment
As the old ways of the Cheldrun disintegrated and the unity of the species was shattered with their arrival on Karia the one thing which the Allskins managed to maintain as their exclusive privilege was access to the ancient technologies of the First Minds. From Mechas to high powered rifles to special military binoculars, the wonders of the old Cheldrun society are many. Only genetic structures matching the loyal families of Allskin will activate the equipment. The secret of cracking this security measure has been extremely well guarded and no Allskin would betray it for fear their people would lose their distinctiveness.
Example Rifle: The following rifle is a typical example of Allskin technology. These rifles are far superior to many other weapons and only usable by someone with Allskin DNA. Their range is exceptional (10km) and they pierce most armor, but they require reloading between each shot and it takes time to set up a shot. They are not therefore, useful in close combat. This rifle was created with the ‘Item’ attribute, level 2, costing 4 Character Points.
Allskin High Powered Rifle (Tenebrous 10k):
Weapon: 4 Variables: Accurate, Range 4, Penetrating 2, Only Allskin, Activation 2, Ammo 3 (1 shot),
Example Mecha: Though the other inherited possessions of the Allskin are remarkable, none of them compare to the Mecha. These powerful machines are 10-15’ tall humanoid battle-suits, which a pilot can enter and direct with devastating effect. They often include arrays of weapons and heavy armor. The pilot usually stands upright in a special compartment in the chest of the Mecha with arms and legs inserted into special sleeves so that their movements control the Mecha. As usual a genetic identity scan prevents anyone who is not an Allskin from piloting one of these machines. Allskins like to design them to look like ornate and terrifying warriors, often utilizing enormous melee weapons in duels as a strange carryover of ancient honor systems. One common remarkable feature of these Mecha is that they can be summoned using special talismans, meaning Mecha pilots can travel from place to place apparently unarmed, but beware…
The Mecha below is an 86 character point item.
Doragon is stored as light in Kenji’s “Key Bracers” and can be summoned out.
Alternate Form: Incorporeal level 3 27CP
Insubstantial 5 (passes through water/paper/flesh/wood/rock)
Activation -4 (perform Kata for 1 full minute to summon)
Deplete -3 (30 energy – ONLY to summon, not to return)
Equipment -1 (Key Bracers)
Object -4 (only affects the mecha, not the pilot)
Armor level 20 (Armor Rating:40) 40CP
Jumping level 2 (10x normal distance) 4CP
Land Speed level 4 (60kph) 8CP
Melee Attack (sword) level 3 9CP
Melee Defense (sword) level 3 9CP
Ranged Attack (energy bow) level 2 6CP
Superstrength level 4 (up to 8 tonnes) 32CP
Weapon (Giant Runic Sword) level 7 14CP
Muscle (adds +4 to damage multiplier for superstrength)
Hands (requires 2 hands to use)
Weapon (Energy Bow) level 10 30CP
Penetrating 10 (ignore 30 Armor)
Hands (requires 2 hands to use)
Range 4 (10km)
Activation -2 (only to summon, not per shot)
Deplete -1 (10 energy per shot)
Awkward Size 1 (3m, 1200kg) -4CP
Allskin attitudes towards….
We are the people of the stars; mighty emperors once who have been reduced to this life in exile on a backwater planet by a horrible tragedy…
Our cultural legacy is in a sad state, but it’s all we have…
Honor and Respect cannot be developed in a lab…
Hearty and Noble workers if a bit rough around the edges…
The people of this planet are strange and primitive, but they show signs of worth. We should treat them cautiously with respect…
Some of these talking lizards are very wise if you can get over their appearance…
Drunken fools, obsessed with machismo. Gogajin are generally too uncouth to bother talking to…
Violent and uncontrollable we must consider the tiger-folk unfit for participation in society…
Somehow these mysterious people are the most like the Cheldrun and yet the most different as well…
A Vorax? I haven’t seen one in years. They’re either ridiculously reclusive or dead…
The friendliest of Karians and probably the most trustworthy, the Zipsum make good servants and messengers…
"She really is exquisite," he said to the technicians running a series of routine checks, knowing that they weren't paying any attention.
The metal beneath his fingers was of a kind not found on Karia - a warm silvery metal with a luster like white gold, so brilliant the eye was led to believe it contained glints of red, blue and green. Set into the otherwise seamless metal plates were veins of stone, likewise not of this world, deep crimson in color and arrayed in the patterns of an ancient mandala. When active the stones would glow with an internal light giving the impression that the Mecha was covered in rivulets of enemy blood.
The technicians inserted various diagnostic tools into the chest cavity of the Mecha and examined the flashing displays.
"You know, they treat us in the media like we're just fancy soldiers and our Mecha are just fancy weapons, but I don't know of a single pilot who feels that way. These, Mecha, they're like us Allskins, sacred relics connecting us to the past. Thousands of years ago the First Minds were probably running diagnostics on Doragon, here," he patted the Mecha's enormous pauldron, "just like the ones you're doing right now. Have you thought about that?"
He waited for only a moment, expecting no reply.
"Doragon isn't just a machine, she's a miracle. I mean, we can't even figure out how the hell she's built and she's been around for longer than, well who knows? Maybe longer than certain geographical features on this continent. She's got history and accomplishments, honor and personality. More than that, you've felt it too haven't you? When she's all powered up? She expands and contracts slightly, like she's breathing."
One of the technicians looked up from his work to shoot an incredulous glance at him.
"Yeah, laugh if you want. I don't care what you think about me. I'm never more alive than when I'm linked to Doragon."
The men in lab coats withdrew their implements and moved to various stations around the room, flipping levers, turning dials.
"You guys ready to test her sympathetic resonators?" Kenji asked. The lead technician nodded.
Kenji slipped off his silk robe revealing a form fitting black suit beneath. On each wrist, antique looking bracers made of the same metal and with the same design in red stones as the Mecha, flashed in the light. He brought his palms together, closing his eyes, and took several deep breaths, stilling his mind. Then he began an elaborate Kata, each movement precise, each limb beginning and ending in an exact position, whirling in a graceful arc of lethality with increasing speed until he was sweating in streams and heaving a mighty kiai with each blow. Soon, the stone creases in his bracers began to glow, subtly at first, but then surprisingly bright. At the speed he was now moving, repeating an ancient pattern, his wrists left trails of red light through the air.
The technicians kept a vigilant eye on their monitors, until one of them spotted the change begin.
Doragon blazed to life in one sudden burst. Fiery red streams of light poured out of every seam and whirled through the air in the changing and mystifying pattern of her personal mandala. She levitated into the air and turned from a prone position to standing, her armored frame - the picture of an ancient warrior - resplendent in vermillion glory. When fully erect she was over 3m tall, filling the entire room.
Kenji finished the last steps in his Kata with a slicing roundhouse that placed him directly in front of his Mecha. The red light emanating from each of them pulsated softly, exactly in time to Kenji's heartbeat. His suit was stained with sweat. His face looked enraptured.
The head technician, examined the monitors for a few seconds and then turned to Kenji, "Looks good, let's see what she does when you put her to bed."
Kenji gave a curt nod, brought his feet together and crossed his arms over his chest.
Doragon trembled gently. Then vibrated vigorously. Then burst without sound into millions of shards of red light. Tiny crimson pin-pricks that tumbled rapidly and in an orderly fashion into the stones in Kenji's bracers. Quite suddenly the Mecha was gone and Kenji looked slightly exhausted.
"She's all good," said the technician.
"I'm telling you, she breathes."
No matter how much he told himself he didn't have to go through with it, he knew he would anyway. He would play their game, partly out of defiance, and partly because he liked the attention. Yep Grim, that's you - one half 'fuck you', and one half 'look at me!'.
So now he was staring down a freshly drilled tunnel in the biggest blackrock mine in the world, preparing to engage in a competition of such ridiculous testosterone fueled idiocy even he was incredulous. At the far end of the tunnel, out of sight around a bend, was a hulking man-machine, a rolling, clanking, smoking, blackrock burning engine of destruction called by his friends "Pile Driver". He was a Mechified built for one purpose - plunging metal spikes through stone, a specialized job requiring plenty of force and apparently not too much in the way of brains. Hell, you're a bit of a blunt instrument yourself, Grim. Which was true. The new tunnel needed rails laid in, and the competition would be to see who could lay the most iron in the shortest span of time. They would start at opposite ends and when the rails met they would measure who had gone the farthest. Grim reached up and tucked his jack-ass ears into a loose coif with his coarse black dreadlocked hair.
Excited miners gathered around and placed bets on Pile Driver, swigged from illicit flasks when the foreman wasn't looking, and generally made asses of themselves. In a sense it was understandable why they would find the spectacle amusing. Ever since Goshi Mining Corp had made the decision to put Karian prisoners of war to forced labor, most of the forest-dwellers had been dying off at a rapid rate. Few Karians were equipped for either the strenuous work, or the noxious fumes. Grim, who had been laboring in the mines for over a year with no sign of slowing, was a complete novelty.
Among members of his tribe, however, Grim was nothing unusual. The Gogajin were known for being able to rip trees out by their roots. Gogajin children are famous for eating whole bushes of poisonous berries and getting only a mild case of gas. If there is a people anywhere on Karia made of sturdier stuff than Gogajin meat and bones no one has heard of them yet.
One of the miners who had replaced most of his face with sensor equipment got right down in front of him and said something obscene and rude. Cheldrun is a harsh, angular language, but coming from an artificial voice box it is even more jagged. Grim, wrapped his fists around the shaft of his sledgehammer and clenched his whole body, the effect was subtle, but awesome.
Fuck you. Look at me.
Inari was always talented, but that was always overshadowed by the fact that he was just so damned good at annoying his fellow Prill. While contemplativeness may be the norm, there is little of it evident in his character. He is something of a scoundrel, often gets in over his head, but is very good at thinking on his feet. Inari is the sort of person who will, without any clear plan, sneak past the guards, confront the big bad, and then just ‘figure something out’ when it comes to it. He delights in improvising his way out of danger, and is, thankfully, resourceful enough that he is able to get away with it most of the time. In any case, he figured he didn’t need to be the respectable one: his twin sister had always been that, and as far as he was concerned, she was welcome to it.
When he was only 16 years of age, the young trickster was given a ‘holy quest’ by his people: he was told that a shadow is growing across the face of the world, and that in order to face this shadow, he must recover the secrets of the ancient magic of the Dusk Sages. Now, while he was somewhat suspicious of the motives of his elders in giving him this task (the fact that they threw a grand party – the kind that lasts all week – just minutes after he actually departed from the village might have had something to do with this), he was also delighted to have the chance to leave the stuffy village elders with their enjoyment of speech-making and their (as he saw it) infinite capacity for pretension behind him.
In any case, now, five years after receiving his ‘holy quest,’ Inari is no closer to reaching the end of it. Still, he’s had all sorts of mad adventures and experiences that he never would have had if he had stayed in his village, and he’s sure that he’ll find the answer eventually. Which brings us to the most recent events in the young Prill’s life: the dreams. One night, about a month after his 21st birthday, a new Song was heard within his dreams. Again and again, every night, in the hour when dreams speak truly, the new Song came to him. It took him several months to discover the source, but now he is sure that he knows: it is the Song of the Cheldrun. So off he went, heading for the big city, searching for the source of the new Song. He is a young man with a purpose now, having made what he believes to be the first real, concrete step on his quest, and there will be no turning back now.
In time, Inari will grow in his convictions. Not that they will replace his current trouble-making ways, but they will give him direction. His lack of foresight will probably be a problem: while he can plan if he has to, he'd much rather just improvise something on the spot. Although he has a deep-rooted sense of right and wrong, and the conviction that it is right to intervene when injustice occurs, his self-assuredness sometimes verges on hubris, and this may yet prove to be his downfall.
Typical Inari plan: "Right, so we'll sneak in past the guards, confront the big bad guy, and then I'll figure something out."
Everyone else: "..."
Inari: "What? You don't look impressed for some reason. What is it?"
--=- Stats -=--
Body 4, Mind 4, Soul 6
--=- Abilities -=--
Power Flux (minor - wood) 3 12CP
- base cost 5CP per level
- detectable (mystic, psychic senses) –1CP
Power Flux (minor – metal) 3 12CP
- base cost 5CP per level
- detectable (mystic, psychic senses) –1CP
Heightened Awareness 3 6CP
Energy Bonus 4 8CP
--=- Skills -=--
Area knowledge: Prill territories 3 3CP
Foreign Culture: Cheldrun 1 2CP
Occult 5 10CP
Sleight of Hand 3 6CP
Wilderness Survival 2 2CP
Wilderness Tracking 2 2CP
--=- Defects -=--
Ism (Inari is not a Cheldrun, after all) –2CP
Marked (Prill) –1CP
Unique Defect: Self-confidence bordering on hubris –1CP
--=- Derived Values -=--
Combat value: 4
Attack combat value: 4
Defense combat value: 4
Damage multiplier: 5