Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Fated Symphonies

Bardic magic has always had an allure for the powerful and mad. Unlike other magics, whose powers scale geometrically with the number of casters, bardic magic scales exponentially. A quartet of magic users in any form can unleash hazards dangerous and uncontrollable - a threat to societies and countries, but an orchestra of bards could end the world.

The epitome of bardic music-magic is, and always will be, the choral symphony - scores of bards accompanied by musicians bearing instruments both common and strange.


It's said the Fated Symphonies were composed by the very first person to be cast into Hell - one of the first immortal humans of the prehistorical golden age, before mankind was given its present form, or violence took the earth.

They were cursed by the gods for their transgressive harmonies in their world of their pure monotones. And in the spite of their exile, they crafted songs which must be played - songs which would shake the earth and undo all of creation in due time. There is a prophecy, engraved still upon the mountains of the world, that each Fated Symphony must be played at least once over the course of all creation, and that when the final ring of the final Symphony is concluded the world shall end.


The symphonic requirements of these songs can be waived if the song is played upon the Pipe Organ of Bones, or a similar polyphonic instrument of sufficient power, such as the Balafon of the Sorcerer King, or Danny's Golden Cello. Doing so entails assuming terrible risk, however, and only the most legendary of musicians should even consider attempting such feats.


The Song of Centuries
Requirements: 34 sons and daughters, playing on instruments made of petrified bones. At the symphony's conclusion all of the players are to be sacrificed.

When this symphony is played, all who can hear its entirety will not age for a period of approximately 100 years either by magical or natural means. A well-kept secret to elves' immortality myth. Those sacrificed to the Song are rarely discussed, as any mention of the deceased risks exposing the ritual to those who might attempt to sabotage it.

The Song to Undeafen the Earthen Ear
Requirements: 20 musicians minimum, bearing instruments of stone and glass.

Uncorks the hidden block within the inner ear for all who listen, causing them to hear the unfettered voices of the earth, which constantly mutters ancient curses wide in scope and terrible in time. Humans will be driven to madness mere minutes after having heard the song.

The Song of Creation
Requirements: 88 musicians, each bearing one instrument utilizing one unique naturally occurring atomic element. If anyone fouls up the symphony then the creations made will become monstrous.

Allows the conductor of the arrangement to create from nothing whatever their skill can allow. The symphony creates new matter and energy. It can create riches, magnificent arts, seemingly impossible structures, or even people.

It's rumored that the Dread Conductor Matthol Corvin once attempted to use this Song to make a proto-human of the golden age, but at the symphony's final measure the Cesium player misfired, causing the creation of horrendously warp in its final moments, slaying all present. If that were true, though, then where would the story come from?

The Unremembered Song
Requirements: Three players, one of which must be a demon.

The greatest song in the world. Cannot be remembered or written down. Said to happen spontaneously under duress.

The Song of Freedom From Flesh
Requirements: 8 choral singers and 13 musicians bearing instruments crafted from human bones.

During the first third choral interlude, the singers will strip down to their bones and dance with each other. A similar effect happens at the two-thirds interlude for the musicians.

This song coaxes bones from their prisons of meat, instantly killing all who listen and converting them into skeletons. Foul-ups produces partial exeunt - an excruciatingly painful situation.

The Song to Commune with the Red Planet
Requirements: A band of at least seven members, bearing special stringed instruments made from meteoric metals. Must be performed under an open sky facing the distant Red Planet.

The song contains improvisational sections, which are used by a skilled linguist in planetary languages to project their intention. It has been attempted by many ambitious priest-scholars, who believed that the Red Planet would grant them terrible powers. They were, of course, correct.

The Red Planet will respond in 7 minutes. Strange beams and trumpets like those at the end of the world envelope the priest, transforming them into a monstrous fiend. This form is never the same thing twice, and all of them have acquired terrible names: Tongue Eater, Scrivener of Suffering, Black Day, Demi-Lich.

The Song to Give Nightmares Fear
Requirements: Trio of voices under the moonlight, perfectly synced.

To give fear to the unfearable. To Turn the unturnable. Dreams had when the song is being recited will always be pleasant, and any manifestations of fear will become afraid.

The Song to End the World
Requirements: 66 musicians and 33 choral singers, all of which must be over the age of 99 (having experienced three full 33-year lunar-solar cycles). During the course of the symphony every kind of instrument that has ever been played must be played at least once, and the full range of human voice must be sung.

When the symphony is over, and the final note has ceased its final vibration, the world will end. From the time of the symphony's conclusion this will take approximately 1200 years for the last note to finally die out.

Monday, May 10, 2021

High Level Adventuring Rivals

Tidelock has a need for some rival adventuring parties: some groups that will really work to counteract the Players and keep them on their toes. Each major faction needs one that they can unleash, plus maybe one or two rogue groups to act as wild cards.


The Matriarchs' Daughters

Faction: November, the Twilight City
Institution: Secret Society, Military
Leader: Alilyn Cordov di la Kaisar

A group of six drow women pulled from the six greatest houses of the Republic to serve at the behest of the Offensive Council abroad in defense of the city's interests. Each house sends one of its second-best lieutenants, and in return its matriarch becomes privy to the group's operations. Why send their second best? Because an incompetent would likely die or otherwise fail to influence the agenda of the group, and their best are needed for the House's protection.

The group specializes in strategic operations concerning the various client states of the drow: principally the weaker human kingdoms of the Southlands. To this end, they have a variety of tools well-suited for dominating the weak-minded.

Jynn di la Feybar - Enchantress. Tailor. Loves exploring the intersection between those two facets.

Quo di la Timurin - State Cleric. Her three-pronged flail Purity glows in the presence of sycophants or traitors.

Mimic di la Fingol-Mar - Magical Bureaucrat. Flesh Banker. Maintains a train of debt-slaves for use as numerous and meticulously-categorized resources.

Hydr di la Kordelia - Scryer. Secret Stealer. The reflection in the mirror is the real person. Her here body is a puppet Shade.

Rein di la Grachia - Offensive Specialist. Omniglot. Knows the names and aliases of every Wizard in existence.

Alilyn di la Kaisar is a ranger of great renown in the republic. During the recent civil war she was credited with the kills of no less than 19 of the Royal House's sovereign-clerics with her profane longbow The-Death-Of-States. An olympic marksman, infiltrator, and tactician, she commands considerable respect and cooperation from her comrades without the typical sort of backstabbing and hamstringing, which is really weird (and exceptionally dangerous) for drow.

Modus Operandi
Investigate the target through a convoluted web of various degrees of separation accompanied by false leads and small distractions. Come to know everything that can be known. Then, set up a triple feint. The first is obvious: troop movements, a monster, a plague. The second is subtle, you want them to feel clever for finding it: odorless poison, misinformed double agents, Dominations. The third is where you want them to commit: a personal betrayal, foreign agents, an assault. In that reaction is where they place the true strike.

The Redacted

Faction: Chronulus, Wizard City
Institution: Administrative, Intelligence
Leader: JULIUS

Five elites of the Chronulean Super Secret Police, each having served a tenure as personal assistant to one of the five Archmages. They have exceptional experience with containing ultra-natural disasters and keep a library of ones they've managed to contain and weaponize: frozen hosts of mimetic plagues, vestige gods trapped in relics, impossible beings kept in time stasis.

Codename: Swan - Time Specialist. Terrestrial Cosmonaut. Pioneer of Leap Time, requiring a spacesuit to maintain physical cohesiveness.

Codename: Lilly - Psychoforger. Responsible for the manufactured memories of approximately 5-10% of Wizard City's population.

Codename: Nyx - Veteran of the Infinite Library War. Literally cannot die. Whenever she would, she regenerates out of the nearest significant source of books.

Codename: Avagar - Omni-animator. Has learned how to bestow sentience and speech upon anything and everything. Quite the talent for interrogating doors, chairs, wallets, and spell foci.

JULIUS is his codename, of course. If he is even a man, and not some philosophical notion that's unbeknownst crept its way into the highest halls of secretive power. Nobody has ever seen Julius, and likely nobody ever will: he retains double-blinded separation from the rest of his Grey Stewards, communicating through encrypted notes, telepathy, or dead drop time capsules. He feeds the rest information, of which he appears to be in abundance.

Modus Operandi

One single agent engages with a problem initially, to lure out any real threats. All information is securely relayed to Julius, and coordinated through Julius to the others. Once any main threats are lured out into the open, they all spring on it at once from multiple angles. The Grey Stewards rarely know what the others are doing, they just know they'll run into each other more frequently than not. ONLY TRUST JULIUS. Nobody else.

The Kobara Hunter's Association

Faction: Kobara, the Dragonlands
Institution: Secret Society
Leader: Adama

Some say that there are seven members of the Association. Others say there are fourteen. Some twelve. A few say four. Others eleven. In truth, it depends how one counts. Which is the Association? The Hunters who compose it, or their Dream-quest Dragon Masks whose personalities dominate their physical bodies? It is both?

The Black Spear - Intelligent Magical Spear. Tends to possess the bodies of tall long-armed remorseful newly-weds to steal them away in the night.

Suley - Talking Skull. Only real defense is his clever wit and a sharp bite, and perhaps all the favors he can leverage from various spirits. In life was the greatest hunter of his time, due to the relationships he built.

Boro - Hunter of Hunters. Wielder of the Unseen Blade. Never been seen before, except by his wife and presumably his mother.

Yamma - Buffalo Woman. Master of Riddles and Carnage. Known to take the form of a great horned beast of impenetrable skin. Rumored to be a princess. Those who cannot answer her riddles cannot bring her harm.

Gereh - Wielder of the God-Blessed Bow, the Eyes of the Roc, and the Teeth of the Lion. Destined on the day of his birth to become the "Richest Man on Earth", and has yet to materialize this guaranteed prophecy.

The Swordsman Jombo - Renowned fighter and duelist. A jovial character, outside of combat. "Married" to his four Dancing Swords, who he describes as jealous and petty. Draws them in reverse order of acquisition. His final and first wife/sword, "Scorned Wife", has supposedly only ever been drawn once, resulting in the Massacre of Blades.

Ooroo - The Mask of Gold Love. A charmer and a civilizer. Commands the gold-soaked dracolich by holding his heart hostage.

Cupa -  The Mask of Ended Swords. Authoritarian and Patriarchal. Any weapon that the mask or he touches with his bare hands is instantly destroyed.

Kijoo - The Mask of Stilled Hearts. Cruel and avaricious. Knows the Power Word: Stun, which induces instant heart attack.

Jari - The Mask of Measures. Stern, prone to sometimes rude insight. Innately knows the precise distance of anything in sight, the contents of anything heard, and the value of anything held.

Adama is said to be a direct patrilineal descendant of the very first man, and custodian of that original line of secrets and original names which passed from father to son since the dawn of humanity. He is most certainly one of the most powerful magicians and shapeshifters alive, probably a king in disguise, and quite possibly a dragon.

Modus Operandi

The Hunters themselves tend to be pretty straightforward when approaching problems. The Masks only come out for big threats. The Hunters are keepers of the knowledge of secret societies, many of them serving in multiple organizations, so they can marshal a number of fellow secret societies for their cause: the Bridge Keepers, the Sorcerer-Smiths, the Clerics of the Vengeful Wind, the Rivermen, the Manmakers.

The Hunters will leverage whatever expertise they have and frequently come up with solutions so ridiculously specific to the circumstance that one might think they're cheating.

The Crew of Joule Blackheart

 Deadwind, the Free City
Institution: Pirate Crew
Leader: Joule Blackheart

True freedom only exists at the height of power, so sayeth the prophetess Helen of the Free Tides, priestess of Liberty, scourge of the Warm Sea. Joule's crew take this to heart in the most Deadwindian way possible: by becoming the best darn dread pirates the seas and skies the world has ever known by piloting a massive flying sturgeon.

Quartermaster Brigs - Halberd Connoisseur. Maintains the world's largest collection of polearms and deadly-things-on-poles, such as: the deadly Mold on a Ten Foot Pole, the dangerous Poisonous Sea Urchin on a Ten Foot Pole, or the surprisingly lethal Plagued Dead Rat on a Ten Foot Pole.

Brigmaster Cook - Salty drugmeister. Crafts combat concoctions to keep the crew constantly lively and at their craziest. Has a signature drug called YARRR!, crafted from rare dragons' blood, which supposedly makes one's abilities proportional to one's belief in them. Supposedly keeps a dragon captive for the sole purpose of bleeding.

Cookmaster Mate - The Orc. THE Orc. The Orc's Orc. The Orc's Orc's Orc. The Orc of Orcs. The Orcist Orc. The Orc to End All Orcs. The Quintessential Orc. The Transcendental Orc. Cook.

First Mate Swain - Griot. Insanely smart. Musician, storyteller, keeper of lineages, Blackheart's lifelong bodyguard and administrative assistant. Has a perfect photographic and audible mimicry memory.

Boatswain Quarter - Technically not a bosun by trade. Actually a veterinarian. Holds dual-degrees in Monster Medicine and Transmutation, and has the world's most comprehensive collection of parasites.

Kornax, The Flying Sturgeon - A hearty product of the Deadwind Archipelago, tempered to toughness by the halberd-rains and tested against Tiamat's spawn. Large enough to field two decks and faster than the wind.

Captain Joule Blackheart is a bloody scourge and a royal pain in the ass. The royal part being literal: apparently he is a prince of Kobara, so far down in the line of favor that any chance at becoming Mansa is a virtual impossibility. Having been cut off and penniless, he decided to make his fortune on the waves, and has excelled in this regard.

Modus Operandi

They have a giant flying pirate ship sturgeon - that encompasses most of their tactics right there. Any threats open to the sky can expect any variation of bombardment known to man and wizard alike.

However, this is typically a second resort. It just so happens that the Captain is quite skilled in diplomacy, intimidation, and politics. All of the crew exists to support its captain so that he can make clear executive decisions. His crew tend to focus the captain's skills and power to a fine point - ensuring he's not susceptible to magic, checking sources, protecting his body, et cetera.

The Illuminating Fist

Faction: Independent
Institution: Martial Arts School
Leader: Master Pollux

The Order of the Illuminating Fist has for centuries been a reclusive monastery devoted to achieving true martial, intellectual, and spiritual power. In these distant times, the monastery could indeed have rightfully claimed to have inherited the most potent traditions of power. Their monks trained heroes, kings, defeated demons, became emperors. Their influence was hegemonic, their forms righteous.

But it's been long since then. By the time their lands became subject to desertification, their traditions had long been superseded by those that arose among the nations of the south. Upon discovering their new relative weakness, the masters of the school decided to dissolve the Order and split up in order to part ways - each to study the techniques and societies of their rivals to ascertain the source of their power.

Each Master quests independently of the others, and is highly trained to make one's body a weapon.

Master Small - Diamond-Body. Master of the technique immovable form, allowing one to become an invulnerable Immovable Object. Befriended and trained with the orcs of Shadowmountain. Benefited greatly from the square-cubed law.

Master Ring - Ascetic Philosopher. Specialist of the technique freedom from, allowing one to sin without consequence. Acquired by observation of the various clerics of Deadwind, whose heterodoxic devotions exploit rivalries between the gods.

Master Middle - Drow Psychologist. Student of the technique psychology, allowing one to ascertain the weaknesses of a target by holding conversation with them. Infiltrated the chaos cults of Twilight City.

Master Index - Librarian and Esotericist. Practitioner of the techniques amnesia and allusion, allowing one to investigate mimetic plagues and knowledge-dependent hazards. Daughter of the previous Master Index, after she mysteriously disappeared while investigating a 4th dimensional conspiracy.

Master Pollux was the Grand Master of the Illuminating Fist order. Being the oldest and bravest among the Masters, he decided to take the most dangerous mission for himself: delving into the secrets of sovereignty itself, into Leviathan. This quest has led him into the terrible heart of darkness, to encounter horrors unthought of and languages perilous.

At the heart of Leviathan supposedly lies the Command Language, whose words none may disobey, save those who too know it. Perhaps Master Pollux was successful in his quest, or perhaps he failed and some pretender has taken his place. Either way he has failed to contact the other Masters, leaving the future leadership of the Order uncertain.

Modus Operandi

Use whichever Master's skills work best in the given situation. What one learns the others can learn quickly. Otherwise, they'll go for a direct confrontation.