Friday, September 24, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 5

Episode 5: Heaven Bleeds


Willow (calmly): You hurt Tara. The last one who did that was a God. I made her regret it.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 5 “Heaven Bleeds”



February 2, 2003 Sunday. Imbolc.

Assassins are sent to kill Tara and turn Willow back to evil or kill her as well. Tara and Anya learn more about the truth of why she was allowed to take Exile so easily. They learn that there is more to Tara’s exile than the cast (including Tara) knows and that she and Willow have an important role to play in the final battle with Leviathan. Willow, Tara and Buffy are sent back in time to see the battle Yoln had with a Slayer protecting a weapon powerful enough to kill a god (the Spear of Destiny). Willow and Tara meet themselves in a past life. After threats and physical abuse from D’Hoffryn, Anya leaves the cast.
Story Arc elements: Dawn’s psychic power begins to emerge.  Willow and Tara learn they have a role to play in the final battle (though not yet what that will be).  The Slayer from the past, Morgan calls Buffy "sister" the same thing that she is called by the Mormo demons later in Episode 7.
Game design elements: Cinematic Old Soul and Anamchara spell casting rules.
Quote Runner up: Anya: Demonic lizard tastes like chicken.


Notes and Comments:This one was big. Full of new monsters, spells and characters. We get to see Willow and Tara’s past life hinted at in “The Dark Druid”, though the Liath and Bodhmal of this time have not yet fostered Fionn. The assassins were an idea we kicked around for a few episode ideas, plus we also wanted a tangible threat to Willow and Tara and make sure that Willow did not have to go all black magic to solve it.
This also marks the last time we see Anya for a while. She has work to do and hanging around a bunch of demon hunters in bad for business (plus she was a way too powerful NPC).  Plus I got tired of the whole "Demons are just different kinds of people with funny faces" stuff we saw so much of the last season.  Demons are supposed to be evil, they are supposed to be vile.  D'Hoffryn had become a crazy grandfather type; so we turned him abusive.  If his demons didn't toe the line and kill the cast he would kill them himself.  So Anya, expressing some concern about this, gets beaten by D'Hoffryn for her troubles.

Now normally I have this rule, No Time Travel unless I am playing Doctor Who. But for this one I could not help it. Plus I love the visual of Willow, Tara and Buffy falling into a book and reliving the events in it.
This confronting their previous incarnations gave both girls the "Old Soul" Quality.

If Sass is the quintessential Willow author, then Lisa is the same for Tara. Lisa’s Tara is bold and willing to fight for the woman she loves. And no one does Tara-in-peril better than Lisa. While Lisa’s Tara is not quite the same as my Occult Scholar Tara, or Garner’s more reflective Tara, Lisa does do an excellent Liath; Tara’s past life.
Now we know who all the players are and pieces are all on the board, from here on out it is pushing the plot. It is also the last time (till the end) that Willow and Tara are 100% happy. The stress of what is happening is setting in. Before this they were still on their "honeymoon" with Tara back. Now she is back and she and Willow have some issues that need to work out. After all, Willow killed for her and Tara was considering leaving to go back to Heaven in Episode 1. Thess issues have not been forgotten, and they are coming back up.

Next Time: Love Stinks.

New Spells

Brigit’s Hands of Flame
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: A command word in Gaelic, “Adhain!
Effect: Upon utterance of the command word flames erupt from the hands of the witch causing 4 x caster’s Will of Life Point damage, double to vampires and other undead.
The flame leaves the hands in a fan like pattern. The length of the fan is in yards equal to the Success Levels.

Brigit’s Waves of Flame
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 6 or 7
Requirements: Level 6: Blessed water drawn from Brigit’s well and dung from her fields. Level 7: The blood of a saint or other quasi-divine being replacing the water.
Command words: Latin “Incindar” or Gaelic “Adhain
Effects: Brigit is the Celtic goddess of fire, water and life. To her there can be no greater insult than the undead. This spell is actually a purifying one designed to burn out the offensive creatures. By using her blessed water and dung her witches perform the same ritual they perform to ready the land for growth every Imbolc (Feb. 2). This spell adds the extra kick of turning her sacred water into a wave of flame that will race out 50 feet + 10 feet per SL from the caster. The flames are soundless, and produce no heat unless the affected victim is undead (Vampire, Zombie, Skeletons) then they take fire damage of 2d10 (12) initial damage and additional damage at the rate of 6 +SL life points every turn in the flames. Demons take only the initial damage.
Level 7: The first version of this spell was discovered when Ireland was still Celtic and Pagan. Once the Goddess Brigit was transformed to the Catholic Saint Bridget her followers discovered that using her blood not only increased the casting level, but also increased the effectiveness of this incantation. In addition to the undead taking lasting damage now so did demons. Damage is increased to 3d10 (16) and recurring damage at the rate of 7 + SL LPs every turn.
Note: This was a 1st Ed AD&D spell that my then DM created called Sheets of Flame.  In fact it was his character E'fir Enur tht had "created" it.  I felt it was good to bring back as attribute it to Brigit.

Protection of the Goddess
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 7
Requirements: A chant repeated by two or more witches. Not available to non-witches.
Command words: “Goddess above, ruler of all, protect your humble servant, as love becomes wall.”
Effect: A defensive ritual with an offensive bite, this magic shows that the Goddess protects what is Hers. This ritual once cast and activated will not allow any aggressive action taken upon those within its confines. Melee attacks turn back on the attacker, spells backfire or effect the hostile caster instead. Beneficial spells and magic will continue to work and others, ones not protected nor involved in the casting of the ritual, can effect each other as they please.
Witches and those they choose to protect may not attack others, but they can force out attackers. Anytime during the duration of the ritual the lead witch can say a command word or phrase and all those of hostile intent are removed from the area of effect.
The effects will remain dormant until the first act of violence is committed or until one of the witches present at the original ritual activates it. Often the coven chooses to activate it once the ritual is cast. After that time the effects persist a number of hours equal to the effective Sorcery Level + the total Success Levels.
The effects of the spell appear to be a dome of magical energy large enough to hold all the casters in close quarters, typically 5’ radius per caster.
Note: This spell is presented as an alternate to the Energy Barrier spell from The Magic Box Sourcebook..

New Qualities

Anamchara 
“The only thing more frightening than meeting a Celt in battle is meeting a Celt in battle with his wife at his side.”
- Attributed to Pliny the Elder, 1st Century CE

Variable Point Quality (2 Base Points)
Prerequisites: Love (Romantic or Platonic, but not Tragic), both must take Quality

Anamchara (“on-um-kor-ah”), or soul-mate, is the Gaelic term used to describe a deep and powerful bound shared between two people. This goes beyond mere companionship and even beyond love; the souls of the two people are connected at a deep and fundamental level. Some occult scholars even speculate anamchara share one soul between two physical people.
The anamchara (singular and plural) are often aware of each other on a preternatural level. While this not a full blown telepathy or even empathy it is beyond what the normal senses would allow. This manifests itself in mundane ways as two lovers humming the same song at the same time with no outside influence, husband and wife completing each others sentences, separated twins living parallel lives, or even one sibling knowing her other sibling is about to walk into a room before the event happens.
Anamchara can be, and often are, lovers, but they are not limited to that alone. Some anamchara can also be very close siblings or very deeply devoted friends. Sometimes the connection can be forged in battle, giving rise to a “brothers-in-arms” effect. The Anamchara can also have a deep connection resulting from life times of being together, often both having the Old Soul Quality.
The only prerequisites for this Quality are the two characters must love each other, as represented by the Love drawback (but never Tragic Love).
This quality offers several benefits

Extension of the senses (“I Will Always Find You”). This acts like a mild form of Empathy or a lesser Situational Awareness that extends only to their anamchara. This grants +2 to locate their anamchara via mundane, magic or psychic means. This also gives each anamchara a broad sense of the other’s health and well being.

Boost Morale (“I’ll Stand By You”). When anamchara are together even dire situations do not seem as grim. With a soothing word or even a knowing look a character can grant his anamchara +10 on any one test. Best of all, he can do it after the player has already made this test. The granting character spends his Turn explaining he is doing this to aid his beloved. This can only be done once per game session per character.

These effects cost two (2) Quality Points. In addition the anamchara must choose one or both of the effects below. These are extensions of this quality, but must be trained in order to be used. Training is represented in a point cost and some time devoted to the pursuit.

Combat Effects
The benefits detailed above have some application in combat as well. The Situational Awareness and Empathy translate into making the anamchara a particularly effective fighting team. In order to gain this benefit the anamchara actually need to train together in a fighting style. Players should decide which style (martial arts, medieval weapons or even guns) they will train together in. This training offers a +2 bonus to all attacks of that type and damage for each. Both can also effectively fight against one opponent with out penalty due to room. Anamchara naturally avoid each others weapons.
Cost: 1 Quality or Skill Point

Magic or Psychic Effects
When anamchara cast magic together it is more than mere cooperative casting in the same way an orchestra is more than a few instruments playing the same song.
To use their magic together anamchara must be able to grasp hands and concentrate. It is a simple matter of rolling a normal 1d10 + Perception + Occult roll. If they both roll a 9 or higher they are in synch. Keep track of the average Success Levels as this is their Synchronicity Score. This only needs to be rolled once per magical situation. Such situations like scrying, or lifting a rock together or one session of combat would qualify.

When anamchara cast they can add their Synchronicity Score to the spell’s Success Levels after figuring out all the effects of casting together. This results in a little extra bookkeeping during game play, but also some amazing effects. For Directors that want less bookkeeping, anamchara can roll their Synchronicity score at the beginning of each game session and use it throughout. This could be part of a special ritual used to “tune” each other’s magic.
This is added even to spells where two or more casters is required. As a “side effect” of this magical synchronicity anamchara can use each other’s ritual tools without penalty.
Cost: 2 Quality or Skill Points

Sidebar: Using Ghosts of Albion Magic rules
If you are using the Ghosts of Albion RPG you can opt to use the “William and Tamara Casting Together” rule in this case in place of the rule above.

Note: The Combat and Magic bonus are not cumulative in the case of combat magic.

Roleplaying the Anamchara
Anamchara are best suited as Cast members (PCs) and not a combination of Cast and Guest Stars (NPCs). When playing these characters it is vital to understand that, sages’ hypotheses to the contrary, they are in fact two people. They are subject (maybe even more so) to all the pitfalls of love (the emotion) and Love (the Drawback) as everyone else. Arguments can and do erupt. In fact it is also recorded in the same pages describing the anamchara that a Celtic male expected his wife to be able to stand up to him and speak her mind (though no Celtic couple would argue in public).
Any situation that would turn Love to Tragic Love also would result in the loss of benefits for the Anamchara Quality. Though mythology and history is replete with tales of the extremes one would go through to retrieve their anamchara from the grasps of death.

Old Soul
4-points/level Quality
Prerequisite: Magic/Sorcery (Cinematic)

“Of course! It would have to be you two!” the giant Celt gathered both girls into a giant bear hug.
“Y-You know us?” Tara said.
“Know you? Know you! My dear sweet Liath, I would know you if my eyes had been plucked from my skull! Do you not know me? It is I, Fionn. Your Demne!”
“Fionn. Ok, so who are we then?” asked Willow.
“My dearest Bodhmal! Always with the riddles, ok I will play. You both are my mothers! We must celebrate, your son has returned and our family is one again!” He said as he pulled the two, very confused, girls into another enthusiastic bear hug.
- The Dark Druid

These characters have been reborn many times. As a result, their souls have become stronger. Old Souls tend to be very mature and precocious for their age. It would be nice to believe that age invariably provides wisdom, but Old Souls are equally likely to be depraved or insightful, cruel or kind. Whatever their orientation, it is usually be more extreme, having been refined over several lifetimes.
This Quality can be acquired multiple times during character creation (but it cannot be acquired afterwards, see below). Each “level” represents some 3-5 previous lives lived before the character’s current incarnation. Every level gives one “magical” past life and 2-4 “mundane” ones. The player can determine who these former selves were, where they lived, and what they know, or she can leave such information in the hands of the Director. From a roleplaying point of view, creating a “past lives tree” can be interesting.
Anyone with this quality can call upon the magic of her past lives to aid her in casting spells. They can add 1 sorcery level for every magical past life they have. So every level of Old Soul adds one level to your Sorcery level.
To call on the power of the old soul cost 1 Drama point (or one Essence Point for games that use Essence).
Successive lives tend to increase the character’s overall insights and understanding—for good or ill. For example, Tara has 5 levels of the Old Soul Quality. This gives her 5 more points to put into her mental Attributes (and 30 more Essence Points).
An Old Soul is sometimes able to tap into the knowledge of her previous lives. These attempts require the character to pass a single Test using both Willpower and Intelligence as modifiers, and each attempt drains the character of 1 Drama Point, which is regained normally (via play). When attempting to perform an unskilled Task, the character may receive a flash of knowledge from one of her previous lives. If the player took the time to decide what her character’s previous lives knew, then the character gains, for that one Task, a skill level equivalent to the character’s Old Soul level, but only the skills that the character knew in her previous lives are available. If the previous lives are not known, the character uses only one half of the Old Soul level (rounded down), but virtually any skill might be known. The only exception would be high-tech Skills that a previous life would be unlikely to know. Asking one’s ancestral memories how to hack into a computer system is not likely to work very well .
For example, Tara, with 5 levels of Old Soul, has about 20 past incarnations, six of which were magic users. Tara’s player has figured out that at least half (10) were peasants. These include Belen, a priestess in the Temple of Diana in ancient Greece, Liath, a Celtic warrior woman, Jing Jin a Chinese sorceress, Teamhair a Daughter of the Flame from Christianized Ireland, Fiona Maclay a witch from 18th century England and Tamara of 19th century London.
During an adventure Tara needs to play a game of fidchell against a demon to rescue her friends. Fidchell is an ancient Celtic game similar to chess and Tara does not know how to play. But Liath was an expert. If she passes the Willpower and Intelligence Test, she can play with an effective skill (Wild Card: Fidchell) of 5, at the cost of 1 Drama point. The skill lasts as long as the game lasts. If later in the day she needs to play it again a new Test and an expenditure of Drama Points are required. If Tara had not fleshed out the past incarnations, she would have been able to play fidchell, but with a skill of only 2.
Generally, only human beings can have Old Souls. Long-lived supernatural beings rarely reincarnate, or do so only over spans of millennia.
This quality is not accessible to vampires, demons, zombies or robots (who have no souls), werewolves in werewolf form, and one can argue Slayers. Slayers by their very nature have a bit of the Old Soul quality in the Slayer quality.

Awakening the Old Soul
Not every character will or should have access to this at character creation. There are some circumstances in which the character’s Old Soul can be re-awakened.
When this quality is first added to the game the Director will need to have a good in game or storyline reason for allowing the character access to this. These reasons could also be used for characters that wish to acquire this Quality later, but directors are urged to only limit this to characters during the character creation process.

1. Meeting a past life. The karmic and dharmic energies released when a soul meets a previous or future life is usually enough to jar that soul awake.
2. Exposure to a psychically tainted object related to that old soul. Example if a person picks up a dagger that was used to kill one of her past lives.
3. Psychic regression. No not the type done in less reputable psychiatric offices or even calling Shirley McClain or Ms. Cleo. A real psychic, such as a member of the Cabal of the Psyche, must help with the past life regression.

After this point Old Soul should be limited to character creation only.

For crossovers with other Unisystem games this can be interchanged with the Supernatural Quality “Old Soul”, on which this is based.

New Monsters


Devil
Devils are fiends, similar to demons. Devils though, unlike demons, are ordered and fit into a strict hierarchy of Hell. They are the creations of the original angels that rebelled in Heaven and were cast out into the pits of Hell.

Devil, Barbazu (Barbed Devil)
Motivation: To guard and protect the populace of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Constitution 4, Intelligence 6, Perception 4, Willpower 7
Ability Scores: Muscle 16, Combat 16, Brains 12
Life Points: 50
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 8, Sorcery 4
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -2
Skills: Getting Medieval 3, Kung-fu 4

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw (2) 7 10 Slash/stab
Bite (beard) 7 15 Stab
Punch 7 10 Bash
Dodge 6 - Defense action

Barbed Devils are monsters in the truest sense. Vicious, armed and armored, these devils chief duties are to attack as guards or protectors of other devils. They have two massive claws ending in viscous dagger-like claws. They are covered in terrible spikes, have two large sharp horns, a long tail covered in barbs and a thick leathery hide.
Barbed Devils attack with a claw/claw/bite routine. Any successful hit the Barbazu can cause their victim to experience fear (a Fear Check will be required). Typically they will use this on their first attack to terrify their victims and make them easier targets.
Barabazu can also cast Hold Person and Jet of Flame (from The Magic Box Sourcebook p. 76 and p. 79).

Devil, Osyuth (Bone Devil)
Motivation: Fight for the greater glory of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 7, Dexterity 5, Constitution 7, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 17, Brains 12
Life Points: 71
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 9, Sorcery 5
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -3
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw 8 14 Slash/stab
Kick 7 16 Bash
Bone Hook 9 18 Slash/stab
- Grapple 10 - Capture
Tail 16 21 Poison (Str loss)
Dodge 15 - Defensive

Bone Devils, also known as Osyuth, are a lesser devil employed by the armies of Hell. They look like skeletons with dry leathery skin stretched over their thin frames. What sets them apart from a skeleton is their height, 9' tall and a large scorpion like tail.
They typically attack with their large bone hooks which they wield with deadly effectiveness. If a hit roll has 3 or more Success Levels the victim becomes trapped by the hook. Trapped victims are subject to a tail or kick attack.
The tail of the Bone Devil has a poison that reduces the victim's Strength score. In addition to damage the victim temporary looses 1 point of Strength.
Bone Devils are also capable of the following magics (from The Magic Box Sourcebook) Glamour, Magical Disguise, Quick Illusion (used to make Invisible) and can cause Fear (victims must make a Fear Check).

The devils appear in the "Flashback" sequence.

Umu Demons
Motivation: Guard dogs
Critter Type: Demon (Guardian)
Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 5, Constitution 4, Intelligence 3,Perception 7, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 14, Combat 15, Brains 16
Life Points: 48
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 2, Armor Value 2, Acute Senses
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -4, Honorable (Rigid)
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Big Sword 9 25 Slash/stab, can use one-handed
Bite (2) 8 17 Must Grapple first
Punch 8 8 Bash
Kick 6 10 Bash
Dodge 9 - Defense action
Grapple 8 - Resisted by Dodge

Lower level demons employed by the Uttuki, Umu demons act as guard dogs-a job they are perfectly suited for. Each Umu demon stands 6' to 7' in height. Their skin is covered with a fine dark fur, often black or dark brown. They are very muscular and often dress in ancient Babylonian or Sumerian garb; open toe sandals, papyrus kilts and bare chested. What sets these demons apart are their four heads. The heads most often resemble that of a Doberman, but some have been reported with jackal heads as well. All faces feature prominent snouts with dozens of needle like teeth. Each head faces a different direction, thus the Umu is never surprised. Their senses are as acute of that of a dog's (sharper sight, hearing and smell) only four times over. They are loyal to their demon employers and thus very much in demand by those that have things they want guarded. Each head is independent of the other. So heads can eat, carry on conversations and even sleep separately of the others.

Umu typically kill and eat anyone that comes too close to the thing they are guarding, making no distinction between friend and foe. Only their employer, the demon or witch that bound them are immune to their attacks.

There is also a rumor that there are three-headed varieties that serve the Goddess Hecate.

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