Monday, August 21, 2017

House Elegans, Part 1

Early on, I had realized I couldn't make every house a major power house.  After all, the Empire had gutted many Houses, so I needed at least one example of a house that was circling the drain, trying desperately to gain allies in its fight to regain its estates, or trying to borrow money from the more accomplished houses (I also had the idea for a dead house, one that had been wiped out, as things long gone can be as interesting in a game as things still present, and I still think that's a good idea, but I ran out of room).

I originally conceived of this House as useless courtiers who used plots, machinations and marriage to achieve success, but then I saw Afro-Samurai and thought "Psi-Wars needs that."  The idea of tragic samurai have long appealed to me, and Afro-Samurai represented an alternative take on that, which blends the cultural fusion I'm going for in Psi-Wars.  His tragedy made him a natural candidate to be the inspiration for the House that had lost everything, and so I chose this house.

Empathy and Telepathy make a lot of sense for a house that's all about persuading others to help them, but it's also a great choice for the anime-esque samurai who stares down his opponents and knows an attack is coming moments before it does, so I shifted Empathy from Grimshaw to this house.

Once I knew I was going to use an African character as inspiration, I could dig into one of my favorite characters, Eshu Elegba, as further inspiration (hence the name "Esau Elegans"), as my handle here is "Mailanka" which is a reference to a Changeling Eshu, which was my favorite game (and story within the game) of my youth.  Thus, the House gained a tradition of trickery (appropriate to a house with telepathy!) and with trying things other houses would not, seeking solutions where other houses would not, becoming the "left handed" house.  I also gave them this tradition because I wanted to have at least one house that had stepped away from the Oracular Order, and the house that had lost all of its territory to the Empire would reasonably be far from the center of the Oracular Order, which means they would be the best candidate for joining the philosophy of True Communion.

This makes them a complex house, one that seeks the assistance from traditional houses despite having a tradition of violating those traditions, a house of warriors whose greatest asset is political manipulation, a house who must cling to the last of their aristocratic heritage, yet knows well the struggle of the common man.

The Cadet Branch Afolayan is a reference to Lady Maya Afolayan, a character by Kelly Pedersen.

The House Elegans

Cadet Branches: Afolayan, Wilderbane

Controversy and contradiction dog House Elegans. It stands amongst the most prestigious of houses, but it has no power or wealth. Effete courtiers fill the House, but it produced some of the finest knights to ever walk among the Nobility. It began on Maradon and serves the Alliance still, but it may have abandoned the Golden Path in favor of True Communion, and one of its members may have killed the last Alexian Emperor.

House Elegans began with Esau Elegans, childhood companion to Alexus. He joined him on his crusade to bring the stars to heel, and was richly rewarded for his service with worlds and domains in the wealthy galactic core, including the treacherous Tangled Expanse, which bordered the most ancient parts of the Galaxy, the birthplace of True Communion. Elegans continued their rise through the Eternal Empire, but when True Communion began to sweep across the Galactic center, Elegans developed a convoluted relationship with the faith. As masters of that part of the Galaxy, they were tasked with its suppression, and many took their failure as proof of their collusion with True Communion. When the Last Alexian Emperor fell, the Knight of Communion Jax Elegans almost certainly struck the death blow. The modern house of Elegans hotly denies this, naturally, but their House’s interwoven relationship with heretical philosophy is well documented.

When the Empire rose, the nobility of the galactic core lost their holdings. Many Elegans died in the Imperial purges, and the remaining few fled to the welcoming embrace of the Alliance. There, the now penniless House accepts the generosity of other houses, while advocating for strikes against the Empire that would liberate their worlds, allowing them to regain their foundries, their populations and their wealth. The house has divided between those who use what lingering mystique their house has to enchant the nobility and those who have tired of the games of the Alliance, who study the force sword and the arts of war, and move among the Empire even now, raising up insurgencies and seeking vengeance against the officers and soldiers that callously gunned down their parents.

House Elegans have dark skin, broad noses and long, thick, black or golden-brown hair that forms thick curls or ringlets. They often have brown or, sometimes, golden eyes (the latter is especially true of the purest Elegans) that burn when they use their psionic powers. They tend to be thin, quick with both hand and eye, and fierce. They hide their ferocity when they engage in politics behind broad, toothy smiles and rich laughter, but they’re not a House easily broken. They have the power of Empathy, and can turn people’s feelings to their needs. Their courtiers and spies use their power to ferret out lies and to create a sense of trust, but their warriors become stalking nightmares, able to drive men mad with terror. They pay a terrible price for their power: many members of house Elegans have a rich “mindscape” which haunts them with false images and “imaginary friends.” If members of House Elegans did step away from the Golden Path, it might have been to find solace or answers about the illusory phantoms that haunted them. With the tragedies that have befallen house Elegans, the madness grows worse...

Elegans Titles

House Elegans’ highest title is the Marquis of the Tangled Expanse, the part of the Galaxy that birthed the philosophy of True Communion. The master of the House always bears this title. The House also bears a variety of lesser titles, including the Viscountess of Karina, a world not far from the Alliance only recently captured by the Empire in a brutal, bloody defeat, one that Elegans would very much like to reclaim. A few minor cadet branches have managed to escape Imperial notice and retain their holdings, such as the Afolayan House and its control of Adebola's Diamond.

Elegans traditionally carries the title of Imperial Knight (or Knight Protector), as they often served as bodyguards for the Alexian dynasty, and Blademaster, as they founded one of the four knightly styles practiced in the Alliance: the Blademaster of the Swift Form is always a member of House Elegans.

Notable members of House Elegans

As with most houses, the eldest male inherits, unless none remain. Thus, the fact that House Elegans is ruled by the Marchessa Anna Elegans speaks volumes for how greatly the house has suffered under the Empire’s assault. Anna tirelessly advocates for war against the Empire, especially to liberate her homeworld of Karina. When it comes to populist or elitist positions, Anna and her house find themselves divided. They must retain their titles and privilege, as they’re literally all Elegans has left. At the same time, their trials have led them on paths usually walked by the common man, and they’ve seen the plight of the people of the Alliance in starker relief than most aristocrats, and so their conscience pushes them to vote Populist. They currently balance the positions of Bale Grimshaw and Nova Sabine in an effort to remain allies with both, but increasingly, they find themselves forced to choose and they lean towards an Alliance with Bale Grimshaw.

Tyro Elegans lived during the apex of the Federation, during an era of peace and prosperity that sat poorly with his warrior heart. He regularly practiced force swordsmanship and tested himself in duel after duel, but found the styles available to him to be too cumbersome, unwieldy and ritualistic. He pushed for simplicity and speed and created the Swift Form. Interest in his style grew as he bested more and more duelists with greater ease, and his exploits made dueling more popular, leading directly to the creation of the Threefold Brotherhood, with himself as its first master.

Jax Elegans, the Kingslayer, certainly lived during the fall of the Alexian Empire, but mystery shrouds his precise role in that fall. He certainly served as a Knight of Communion and advocated against the slaughter the citizenry that the Alexian Emperor engaged in, as well as the suppression of True Communion. He abdicated his aristocracy and raised an army against the Emperor, and almost certainly killed him. Because Jax Elegans ended the mad reign of the last Alexian Empire and paved the way for the Federation, most modern aristocrats turn a blind eye to House Elegan’s hand in the fall of the last Emperor (after all, he technically had abdicated) and prefer to pin the blame on Shio Daijin, who makes a better villain. Nonetheless, as the Alliance faces yet another murderous Empire, some have begun whispering of resurrecting Jax’s legacy.

Esau Elegans, the founder of the House, grew up with the future Emperor Alexus. According to legend, a story almost certainly inflated by the Oracular Order, Esau pushed for mischief where Alexus’ mentors pushed for caution. Esau dragged Alexus off on ill-advised adventures that inevitably required the wise and patient Alexus to rescue him, and show him the right way. Whatever the stories, Esau certainly used unconventional tactics to help his friend and master to build his empire, and because of this, House Elegans remains known as the “Left Hand of Alexus” to this day.

Elegans Eugenic Legacy

Elegans Eugenic Power-Up 50 points

Advantages: Elegans Bloodline [1]; Spend up to 49 points on Classic Appearance (Aristocratic) [1] or on the following packages:

Eleganian Beauty [5]

Eleganian Speed [21]

Eleganian Will [11]

Eleganian Regeneration [11]

Disadvantages: Replace any of your template disadvantages with the following disadvantages (If you have Bloodline Purity 2 or higher, you may choose an additional -5 points worth of the following disadvantages, increasing your disadvantage limit by -5 points!): HP -1 or -2 [-2/level], Bad Temper [-10*], Curious [-5*], Distinctive Feature (Golden Eyes), Mental Instability [Varies], Nightmares [-5*], Skinny [-5], Stubborness [-5].

Features: Many Elegans are Left-Handed [0].

Eleganian Beauty 5

Advantages: Appearance (Attractive) [4], Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Eleganian Speed 21

Secondary Characteristics: Basic Speed +1 [20]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Features: Basic Speed may be increased +3.00 [0]

Eleganian Will 11

Secondary Characteristics: Will +2 [10]

Advantages: Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Features: Will may be increased to 25 [0]

Eleganian Regeneration 11

Advantages: Regeneration (Slow) [10]. Bloodline Purity 1 [1]

Mental Instability

Mental Instability is a secret disadvantage (B120), a lurking “trap” in the genetics that the GM can spring upon a player whenever he, provided she takes the Mental Instability disadvantage. Allow the player to take up to between -10 and -20 points, and then assign a disadvantage worth at least five points less.

The most common mental instabilities for House Elegans are Berserk [-10*], Delusion (Imaginary Companion) [-5], Flashbacks (Severe) [-10], Split Personality[-15].

Eleganian Psionic Legacy

House Elegans has latent Telepathy Abilities. If the character has the Elegans Bloodline perk and the requisite Bloodline Purity levels, he may take the following abilities and talents whenever he wishes:

Bloodline Purity 0: Auric Squint (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1], Avatar (PP 64) [1], Deep Study (PP 64) [1], Emotion Sense (PP 58) [varies], Instill Fear (PP 64) [18+3/level], I Feel Them Watching Me (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1], I Know What You Mean (PP 64) [1], Intimidation Factor (PP 64) [1], Mind Shield [4/level], Over There! (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1], Presence (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1], The Buzz (Pyramid #3-69 p7) [1]

Blood Purity 1: Aspect (PP 61) [4/level], Mind Clouding [6/level]

Blood Purity 3: Emotion Control [Varies].

Blood Purity 4: Telepathy Talent +1 to +4 [5/level]

Sample Elegans Psionic Power Packages

Eleganian Intimidation 25 points

Prerequisite: Elegans Bloodline

The most direct use of Eleganian empathy is as a blunt weapon of naked fear. Many Eleganian warriors study this and use it in duels, fixing their gaze on their opponent and opening up all of their target’s fears of the coming duel. Roll a quick contest of Instill Fear vs the target’s will, provided the target is no more than 5 yards away. Success means the target must roll on the fright check table at a penalty equal to your margin of victory.

Advantages: Instill Terror 3 [24]

Skills: Instill Terror (H) Will-2 [1];

Eleganian Mindscape 25 points

Prerequisite: Elegans Bloodline

The Eleganian bloodline tend to have unusual psyches. Delusions, imaginary friends and strange influences often haunt the purist of the Elegans, who have thus learned to carefully tune out unwelcome mental influences, and they can even use these unusual mindscapes to defeat their opponents (for example, calling upon “imaginary friends” to help defend them from intrusion). In many cases, this traps those who would intrude in a mental cage. They have +4 to will to defeat mental intrusion, and may roll against Mind Shield with a +4 to prevent someone from detecting their mind. They may halve these penalties and and roll against mind trap to trap anyone making mental contact with them.

Advantages: Mind Shield 4 [16]

Skills: Mind Shield (H) IQ [4];

Techniques: Mind Trap (H) Mind Shield-1 [5]

Eleganian Empathy 25 points

Prerequisite: Elegans Bloodline

Elegans understand the emotions of others. They may roll Emotion Sense to detect the emotions of others, and gain all bonuses associated with Empathy.

Advantages: Emotion Sense [20]

Skills: Emotion Sense (H) IQ-1 [2];

Techniques: Animalism (H) Emotion Sense-2 [3]

Eleganian Charisma 25 points

Prerequisite: Elegans Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

The Elegans can manipulate the emotions of others in a more nuanced fashion than used in Eleganian Intimidation. Everyone you wish to affect must roll Will vs your Aspect skill. If you fail, your target notices you, at least. If you succeed, your target feels fear, respect or adoration (your choice) and rolls in the Reaction Table with a +6, or you can apply a +6 to an influence skill of your choice.

Advantages: Aspect 6 [24]

Skills: Aspect (H) Will-2 [1];

Eleganian Deception 25 points

Prerequisite: Elegans Bloodline, Bloodline Purity 1

The Elegans can make others not wish to see him, mentally editing out his presence. So long as the Elegans Concentrates, anyone who might hear or see you must resist your Mind Clouding Skill with Will. If you succeed, you gain a +4 to stealth rolls (+8 if you stand perfectly still). Halve the bonus if you have light encumbrance or higher.

Advantages: Mind Clouding 4 [24]

Skills: Mind Clouding (H) IQ-2 [1];

Eleganian Influence 25 points

Prerequisite: Eleganian Bloodline, Blood Purity 3

If the Elegans can touch someone (any touch will do), they may roll Emotion Control vs the target’s will. Success means you can dictate what emotion the target feels (and, if necessary, the target of that emotion, ie “You’re so angry at your brother” or “You’re in love with me.”) On a failure, the target senses the emotion coming from you and gains a +3 for detecting psi! With Independent, this emotion persists for a number of minutes equal to the margin of success after you’ve stopped touching your target.

Advantages: Emotion Control 2 [15]

Skills: Emotion Control (H) IQ [4];

Technique: Independent (H) Emotion Control-2 [6];

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