Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Into the Labyrinth: Time Shades

Here's a rough draft of my first "monster" for the Labyrinths of Psi-Wars: the Time Shade.  If this gets enough approval, it'll eventually move to the Wiki.

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Time Shades

The Labyrinth wends its way through time as well as space, and certain “time-lost” beings within it walk just beyond the dimensional edges “between” timelines. Akashic documents refer to these beings as “in the walls” or “in between.” They represent possibilities, things that could exist, but don’t, and they can only operate within the confines of the unique geometries of the Labyrinth, where the possibilities of alternate timelines have a whisper of more reality than in the rest of the Galaxy.

Time Shadows aren’t actually insubstantial or invisible. Rather, they occupy a space on another “level,” an “upside down” plane of existence which follows its own rules. This alternate reality only exists within the Labyrinth: time shadows cannot leave! Furthermore, while they may seem to pass through walls or others, they cannot pass through the walls or being that exist “on their plane.” As a result, they tend to be constrained by natural labyrinthine caverns or ancient artificial tunnels, but not newer construction. They might ignore an ancient door closed by someone recently, but be unable to pass through a door opened by someone in the real world.

Time Shadows can be anything. The stats below are a convenience measure for a generic shade. But their actual stats should reflect what they would be if they were back in normal, mundane reality. Thus, the stats can be altered to represent a “time-lost” person of any sort.

Shades of Hunger

The primary desire of the Labyrinthine Shade is to exist. The most certain way to do this is to “align the timeline.” If certain events take place, the shade has the option of enforcing a broader reality, changing the past the reflect the events of the present, and inserting themselves into the timeline, thus becoming real. A shade who achieves this loses all ghostly traits and becomes a completely concrete being; they lose all memory of being a shade, or what they did to become real, and instead remember only the details of the newly altered timeline. The specifics of this vary from ghost to ghost. Some examples include:
  • Massacre: the shade is an “only survivor of a massacre.” They can truly manifest only if a party of 10+ people die in the labyrinth at a particular location. If this happens, their physical manifestation will crawl, traumatized and frightened, from the pile of corpses.
  • Archaeological Resurrection: the shade is “a lost king,” who can only manifest if there are sufficient records of him and someone discovers his tomb and releases him, after which, he will only remember the timeline in which he controlled this part of the labyrinth.
  • Marriage: The shade is “the true wife” or “the true husband” of a particular character. They need the character to ceremonially marry them in some way, after which, they will manifest as a real character “and have always been their” partner.
  • I am you”: The shade is some alternate reality version of a character. They must kill that character, and then replace them. After they have killed their target, they will remember always having been that character (others will notice a change in behavior).
Some shades have powers that let them immediately “trade places” with a target, forcing them into this inbetween state and then occupying the real world in their place, or absorbing sufficient temporal energy from victims that they can materialize fully as a concrete being. These tend to require the touch of a manifest ghost, or eye contact with the victim.

Shades of Defeat

Temporal shades have several weaknesses. First, they can only exist and operate from within the Labyrinth. When they near what, in the physical world, would be the entrance of the labyrinth, they see only endless tunnels that continue on into the labyrinth. Second, they’re not actually insubstantial, but simply occupy a different plane, and most operate by the geometry of that plane. The alternate labyrinths generally follow the same layout as the physical labyrinth, but there may be differences, places where a shade cannot go, and places where shades can ignore walls and doors.

Shades are invisible to all visual senses and generally silent, but they give away their presence in a few ways. First, they are not invisible to psychic senses: characters with True Sight can see them, as can characters with Awareness, Mind Scan or Detect Life (though these latter two suffer a -3 penalty). They’ve also visible in reflections, and when they pass through sheer cloth, such as those used to curtain Akashic Temples, the cloth moves as though on a wind.

Time Shades have no unusual invulnerabilities or resistances beyond their intangibility. If struck by a weapon that can strike insubstantial targets, or struck by a weapon while materialized or manifest, they suffer the usual effects of their damage. If something on their same plane attacks them, they’re affected as normal.

Temporal shades are unique in that they only exist as a possibility of a single timeline. As long as that timeline remains possible, they can manipulate the real world in some way. When that timeline becomes impossible, or so improbable as to move the ghost away from the current timeline, it effectively ceases to exist. Examples, based on the above timeline examples,might include:
  • Massacre: the shade expects to be a survivor of a massacre in a particular place. If that place is walled of and people prevented from entering it, then this effectively locks away the ghost.
  • Archaeological Resurrection: if all records of the “lost king” are destroyed, such that the “memory” of the non-existent “lost king” is completely lost, it effectively ceases to be.
  • Marriage: If the character marries another, then this seals their timeline and prevents the shade from entering it.
  • I am you”: The shade probably can’t exist in a timeline where the character has already died. Thus, the death of the character effectively ends the possibility of the alternate version from happening.

“But they’re really ghosts, right?”

Time Shades are technically the echoes of alternate timelines; they’re not the spirits of the departed, nor manifestations of Broken Communion. However, a campaign might be too broad to support the sort of niche abilities necessary to defeat them.

ESP and Anti-Psi should treat ghosts, time shades and hyperdimensional beings as effectively the same as far as True Sight is concerned. In regard to the Powers of Communion, whether or not Time Shades are affected by the Miracles of the Path of Death is up to GM discretion. While not literally the dead, they could fall under the same symbolic umbrella as those of ghosts, and the Path of Death could govern (summon, exorcise, etc) Time Shades just as well as ghosts. If the GM prefers, the Path of Madness might be a better path, but in such a case, the Path of Madness should then gain access to miracles that work as the Ghost-summoning/manipulating miracles of Death, but only on Time Shades.

Necrokinesis abilities do not work on Time Shades.

The GM should decide if the exorcism traditions focused on ghosts (such as the Morathi rites of the Witch Cats, or the exorcisms of Domen Khemet, the Ranathim Death Cult) will work on Time Shades. If so, it’s likely only fair that the exorcism traditions of the Akashic Order also work on ghosts.  As a compromise, consider applying a -2 for ghost-based traditions to exorcise Time Shades, or for the Akashic tradition to exorcise ghosts.

Shades of Hell

Time shades occupy a plane of existence just “sideways” of the physical world. The physics of these “sideways” worlds might vary, which is especially interesting if the shades are “castling” with living targets. GMs can introduce this little bit of extra detail to make Castling more interesting, or to add additional flavor (and weaknesses) to shades. Different shades might be in different “hells,” and would be mutually insubstantial and invisible to one another, only able to interact with one another via manifestations in the physical world.

All “Hells” are suffused with a faint, omnipresent glow that obviates all darkness penalties. This is the source of the shade’s “darkvision.”
  • White Hell: the glow here is a pale white. This parallel is cold, and the closer the labyrinth is to the light of the surface or to the warmth of a flame, the colder it gets, while the deeper and darker in the Labyrinth the ghost is, the warmer. If the ghost is in direct sunlight or within a yard of an open fire, it takes 1 point of fatigue (cold) damage per second. In places with any natural light, the ghost must roll HT or lose fatigue to the cold once per hour. In places of total darkness or “deep” in the labyrinth, the ghost is “warm” enough not roll or lose fatigue. Shades in the white hell manifests its presence as cold spots in the physical world.
  • Red Hell: the glow here is a dull red or violet. This parallel is totally soundless. No sound will carry. The shade cannot speak, nor hear, anything that happens in the physical world or in the parallel. However, specific, loud sounds in the physical world can carry into the Red Hell, shattering the silence with a roaring cacophony of agony. In the presence of temple bells tuned to specific frequencies, the shade must roll HT-5 or suffer Terrible Pain (or Agony if it fails by more than 5) for a number of minutes equal to its margin of failure.
  • Black Hell: the glow here is an inversion of color. This parallel has no walls. In place of the tunnels of the labyrinth, the Black Hell has platforms floating in the void. The shade can “pass through walls” by jumping from one platform to another. If it misses, it will fall until it hits another platform (shades never seem to fall forever, and will always fall on some platform, though typically much deeper in the labyrinth).
     

Time Shades

Time Shades should use the stats of whatever creature (typically, but not necessarily, a Skairos) they actually are. The stats below are a simple “grab and go” example of a time shade, and not definitive of what all time shades should be.

ST: 10 HP: 20 Speed: 7
DX: 12 Will: 14 Move: 6
IQ: 10-15 Per: 10

HT: 12 FP: 20 SM: +0
Dodge: 10
Parry: NA
DR: 0

Skills: Stealth-14; One of Diplomacy, Intimidation or Savoir-Faire, all at 14.

Traits: Darkvision; Divine Curse (Cannot Leave the Labyrinth); Insubstantial (Not to things on its plane; no vertical movement; ghost air); Invisible (Only to substantial; Affects Machines; Visible Reflections) Supernatural Features (Eyeless; Flickering transparency); Mute (Substantial Only)

Fright Check: +0

 

Powers

Time Shades can have one or more of the following powers. All time shade powers are psionic, and can be prevented with Anti-Psi, as normal.

Castling: The time shade “switches places” with a target. The manifested time shade must touch the target or the target must make eye-contact with the visible shade. If so, the shade can spend 5 fatigue to make a contest of Wills with the target. On a success, the shade materializes as a fully physical being (it loses the Insubstantiability trait and the Invisibility trait) and the target becomes a Time Shade, and follows all the rules for a time shade (including the rules for “Shades of Hell” above). The death of the manifest time shade will generally “bring back” the exiled target, but a successful contest of Exorcism with the shades Will will also generally work to restore the exiled target. At the GM’s discretion, the target might also gain the powers of the ghost for the duration of their Castling exile.

Dark Fate: The Time Shade dooms the character to make changes in the world that will bring the Shade’s desired timeline into being. This requires a touch from the manifested time shade, or eye contact with the visible shade; the shade spends 5 fatigue and rolls a contest of Wills. If the shade wins, the character gains a disadvantageous Destiny to bring about the events necessary for the time shade to fully materialize. This Destiny can be worth -5 to -15; -5 is the most common and most subtle, but at -15, treat it as a variation of Weirdness Magnet, where the character is regularly plagued by weirdness that pushes the character towards the desired set of events (a discarded knife keeps showing up in their inventory, gibbering minions hail the character as their messiah, etc).

Devour: The time shade “steals” the temporal energy of the target. The manifested time shade must touch the target and spend 1 fatigue per 3 dice of burn damage that ignores DR (with no upper limit). This damage is all or nothing. Either the target takes sufficient damage to die in one attack, in which case they simply vanish, or they take 1 point of burn damage from where the ghost touched them. If the target dies, the ghost is able to materialize a fully physical body. For the duration of the effect they are no longer insubstantial or invisible. The GM determines how long this lasts: 1 hour is a good duration, though it might be as short as a minute near the surface of the labyrinth, and days in the deep labyrinth. The shade can extend the time they remain manifest by using their power gain and again.

Illusion of Time: The ghost can manifest visions of its expected timeline or reality, or of the “Hell” that it currently occupies (see Shades of Hell). This can be as subtle as changing the words of a text to as dramatic and totally engrossing all the senses of the target with visions of hell. This requires a contest of Wills between the shade and their target. On a success, the character might roll IQ to “disbelieve” the illusion if they have any cause to disbelieve. While caught up in the illusion, they can suffer “real” damage, but if they realize the reality of it with a successful IQ roll, convert all of this damage to fatigue damage instead. The effect lasts for 1 minute per margin of the Shade’s success, and costs 1 fatigue per minute to maintain.

Manifestation: The time shade can manifest an ectoplasmic presence. This costs 1 fatigue per minute and grants them a “body” with DR 0, HP 1 and Injury Tolerance (Homogenous, No Blood). If destroyed, any “excess” damage applies their own actual HP totals (but still apply the benefits of Injury Tolerance for this attack) and their manifestation is destroyed. This typically Stuns the shade for 1d seconds, after which it might manifest again, but all manifestations after being destroyed thus cost 2 fatigue until at least an hour has passed.

Power of Fear/Friendship: The shade can undermine a target’s defenses by provoking an emotional response of fear or trust. In the case of the former, the ghost must find some way to invoke its intimidation skill against the target (appearing in a terrifying way, pronouncing doom upon the part, or manipulating their environment in a frightening way). In the latter case, the shade must ask the target if they trust it and then reveal a secret to the target (generally the shade’s name), make an agreement, or otherwise assist the target. In both cases, the shade rolls their requisite skill (Intimidation for Fear and one of Diplomacy or Savoir-Faire for trust) and the target resists with Will. If the shade wins, it may apply a bonus equal to its margin of victory to any use of any of its powers against the target once, to a maximum of +5; the ghost may automatically apply the full +5 bonus against a target that has failed a Fright Check against the shade.

Presence: If the manifest shade touches a target, or the target makes eye-contact with the visible shade, then the Time Shade can spend 1 fatigue to roll a Contest of Wills with the target. If the win, they “haunt” the target. They may appear before the target whenever they wish, for free, but nobody else will see them. They may also use their powers on the target at will. The target counts as “the labyrinth” for the purposes of the shade’s traits, and thus they can “ride” the target out of the Labyrinth. Shades often do this if they need something done outside of the Labyrinth. This sort of haunting can be undone with an exorcism: roll the exorcists’ Exorcism skill in a contest with the Shade’s Will.

Probability Alteration: The shade can push probability more in line with their desired timeline. This manifests as a blanket -1 to all rolls that would negate the shades desired outcome. The ghost can only affect one target at a time with this power. More powerful ghosts can also spend 5 fatigue to turn a failure into a critical failure.

Revelation: The shade can reveal themselves without the risks associated with Manifestation. This costs them one fatigue per second. They can attempt to pass themselves off as a living person, but they look transparent in bright light, and they must hide their eyeless appearance. If a power requires them to make eye contact, Revelation can substitute for Manifestation for allowing the target to see the shades’ eyes.

Terror: If the shade is visible, it may spend 1 fatigue to make its gaze terrifying. Anyone who sees its eyes must roll a Fight Check at a penalty determined by the GM (between 0 and -5). Victims who succeed are immune for an hour, and all victims get +1 per Fright Check after the first within 24 hours.

Zap: The shade can damage delicate electronics. The shade must touch the object in question (but an insubstantial touch is sufficient). They spend 1 fatigue and the object rolls its HT or it’s sufficiently damaged to require repairs (which requires, at the very least, a change out of any breakers in the system).

Notes: The powers of a time shade are listed with fatigue costs to give the GM a sense of scale; the GM needn’t actually worry about fatigue totals unless the players face a “boss” time shade. A typical time shade is not much of a challenge to a properly equipped party. Psychic characters will often pick them out fairly easily, and characters who have the ability to attack and destroy intangible targets will easily defeat them. They’re mostly a danger to unsuspecting or unprepared parties while they remain subtle. That said, a Castling or Devouring time shade can be devastating. The GM should allow player characters to use an Impulse Buy point to defeat a Devour attempt, and perhaps use a variation of the Imperial Stormtrooper’s Marksmanship Academy, where characters suddenly find burns materializing on their bodies and realize that they’re under attack before hitting them with the full effect.

Alternatively, hit the party with a legion of time shades. Many time shades manifesting at once represent a great example of a “mook threat” as each manifestation can be easily destroyed, but if paired with Probability Altering shades and Zapping shades, they can bring a party to their knees fairly quickly, enough to let their leader Devour or Castle a target.

 

Character Trait Notes

Veiled Gaze [1]: The character never makes eye contact unintentionally. By default, the GM should assume the character keeps their gaze away from a target’s eyes unless they explicitly say otherwise. The GM may assess a -1 reaction penalty, though, in circumstances where eye contact is expected.

Standard Operating Procedure (Veiled Sanctuary) [1]: Whenever the character “beds down” or sets up a camp in the labyrinth, they always create windbreaks and leave sheer veils around the camp, so they can see if a time shade has passed into the camp, if at all possible. The GM should be lenient in allowing for such a set-up (for example, if the character lacks the resources, the GM might allow a retroactive scrounging roll to see if the character could have set up something similar). The GM should almost always allow the character at least one Perception check to see if they notice an infiltration by a time shade.

Exorcism (Akashic): This is a specialization of Exorcism specific for Time Shades. Any ordained character may use it, or a character with the Licensed Exorcist perk.

Hidden Lore (Labyrinth) or Hidden Lore (Deep Time): Both can be rolled to know something about Time Shades.

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