Splinter coming on Wednesday

Success! I finished off all the characters for The Splinter of the Machine today, plus the map and relationship chart. Six solid hours of writing really pays off, as it turns out.

I have a little more graphics work to do while I put everything together, so the setting info will post on Wednesday, the r-map on Thursday, and characters will start posting on Friday.

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Another Splinter update

Things have been a little slow this week. On the plus side, my taxes are all done.

Today I added the last of the Capabilities sections, and got a good start on the Demeanor and Supporting Characters sections. My hope is that next week I’ll be able to start posting, but I might take another one just to polish things up and add more setting info. As I mentioned, this one will need it.

In fact, I also dropped one of the NPCs this time in order to make more room for other setting info. There will only be 13 NPCs in this setting instead of the 14 that I usually do. This was a character who fit in well with the others, but wasn’t really important. Including him might have been a nice touch, but probably would just have complicated the story in unnecessary ways. You’ll see him as the last of the “Supporting Characters” for Yushoto Koletta.

Update on the Splinter

For those who don’t know, New England is having the coldest weekend of the year right now. -10° Fahrenheit last night… aaand on Tuesday it’ll be 55°. Such a bizarre winter.

On the plus side, this cold and the three-day weekend means that I have plenty of opportunity to work on characters for The Splinter of the Machine. Instead of completing one at a time and moving on to the next, I’ve been writing all of the Background sections first, then Capabilities. My plan is to do Demeanor afterward, then the stuff that’s easier to fill in, until I’m done. I think that worked fairly well for Athanor, but it doesn’t feel as character-driven as the stuff I did in the early settings.

I also wrote a fair amount of the Splinter’s overview. It’s difficult to know how much to write. The Splinter is basically an alternate-history, steampunk-future version of Creation where Lookshy recently won a war with the Blessed Isle by killing all of the Empire’s gods. I could easily spend dozens of pages on background and setting info alone, let alone rules for playing the Amalgam Champions chosen by the Six Virtuous Beasts of Alchemy. Rules development is definitely not what I want to do right now. I’m looking to put together condensed settings with useful NPCs. I’d rather write three settings at standard length than one setting that’s three times as long. This one just might need a few extra pages.

I’m also hoping to revisit this setting in the future if I can. I’m enjoying the alternate setting, and I have a fair amount of steampunk art still available to use (though, as always, I’d love to have more non-white characters). Maybe that will be setting #9 or so. Before then, I have a political/investigative scenario with lots of spirit court drama planned in the Lakes Province east of Kirighast, a modern-day alternate universe with demon-possessed high-school students fighting with katanas… plenty of stuff to keep me busy.

I’ve paused on putting together the PDF versions for now. I’m still going to do it, but I want to hold off for a little while. I’ll let you know here when I have something that’s ready to see.

Done with Athanor

And that’s it for Athanor Isle!

As usual, there will be a break while I work on the next setting. I don’t have the dramatic into ready yet, so I’ll just give you a few teasers:

A dying continent
A zeppelin crew
A mask that eats souls
Twins raised by the gods of battle
An automation seeking respect
The son of a god out for revenge
Mad inventors
An obsessed general
The Luminous Godkiller Weapon

The Splinter of the Machine

Eight Eyes Ending, Deathlord

Background

A man comes home and finds his favorite jewelry missing. A sultan’s vault is emptied in a night. A child is born without a voice. A circle of the Chosen come to a manse famed for its treasures and discovers it to be empty. A First Age war machine disappears from its silo. Eight Eyes Ending has been here.

Beyond the veil of years, the dead primordals dream and wait for Creation to fall into agony and empty disrepair. When that happens they will finally devour it and retreat to the nothingness of oblivion, and their wretched existence will end. Some of their servants, however, are not content with mere waiting. Eight Eyes Ending takes. She reaches into Creation with her Chosen and her schemes, finds the things that mortals value the most, and drags them through the shadows into her patchwork citadel in the underworld. Her least supplicants might be called thieves; Eight Eyes Ending herself is a plunderer who seeks out the most treasured stocks of valuables and artifacts ever known.

Eyes’ citadel is an artfully arranged collection of the many things she has taken from Creation. A tower from an ancient castle. A gate from the edges of the world. A wall made of silver bullion. A room with a thousand orbs that sing with a thousand stolen voices. A garden of beautiful bonsai, none of which will grow again. And deep beneath, a dragon-shaped war machine that forms a hole where a manse used to be. Eight Eyes Ending loves to behold that which was once someone else’s. She has recruited a handful of deathknights who strike her as good agents and sent them far and wide to bring her more treasures.

Yet, even the things that one loves can become tiresome, and even a deathlord can find a lack of opposition boring. Eight Eyes Ending has hatched a plot that may bring her not only a new deathknight, but many powerful ghosts and great material reward. There is risk, yes – but the potential gain is tremendous. Let the games begin.

Appearance

Eight Eyes Ending 500

Eight Eyes Ending appears as a light-skinned, well-tanned woman with red lips and dark eyes. Her long black hair is in dreadlocks down her back. She wears a brown spider mask on her head, which she pulls down over her face when entering battle or beginning serious works. Her voice is beautiful, taken from a singer hundreds of years ago.

Demeanor

Smiling, enigmatic, languid, and predatory. Eight Eyes Ending enjoys what she does and who she is. Sometimes she’s bored, sometimes she’s intrigued, and she doesn’t take much effort to hide her emotions. When her attention is focused, her eyes never leave her target. She enjoys showmanship when she’s the one putting on the show, and is generally bored by it otherwise.

Eight Eyes Ending knows that there is a great risk inherent in bringing together this many Chosen. In fact, she thrills at it. The possibility that she might actually get to stretch her power is one of the few things that has excited her in the last fifty years.

Intimacies: “All of Creation will be mine before the end” (Defining), “People are just things” (Major), “I need warriors in my battle for dominance” (Major), “My fellow deathlords” (Negative), “Anything interesting” (Positive)

Capabilities

As a deathlord, Eight Eyes Ending is one of the most powerful beings in the underworld. Her authority is recognized by all creatures of death, and while some may deny her, none dare insult her. She has a confidence and a presence born of fifteen hundred years of experience. Her mind is quick and clever. When there are places where her intelligence balks, she is not too proud to command ghostly experts to inform her. Her eight eyes are more than just a figure of speech, as she seems to take in every detail from her surroundings.

Eight Eyes Ending controls a nameless criminal organization that spans the underworld, Creation, and more. She allows her Chosen and the nephwracks who are her tributaries to run the operation. The deathlord herself skims the things that money cannot buy. Mere wealth is plowed back into the organization, or used to upset economies in subtle ways. Investments are made, and then suddenly withdrawn without explanation – ventures fail. Mercenaries are paid, and then the pay is withheld – the mercenaries become bandits. Her nephwracks profit on the chaos.

As with most deathlords, she is a necromancer, and the essence of death serves her in a myriad of ways. Her every breath pulls essence from the living, who find themselves weak in her presence. She can pass through walls, reach into locked containers, take a stone from beneath a house of cards without disturbing it. She can take even things that are ephemeral, for a time: strength, grace, wisdom, sense of self, voices, and more. The stronger someone is in such a thing, the better they are able to resist her. Those trying to steal from her find themselves losing their own belongings quickly, cursed to wander naked with their one stolen treasure.

In battle Eight Eyes Ending is not the most fearsome of the deathlords, yet she is not to be underestimated. She carries a brace of artifact knives, each one different and unique, and they seek the heart unerringly. She can throw them nearly a kilometer. They return in a flash of darkness. The gossamer clothing she wears absorbs blows like the heaviest armor, and her helm makes her proof against magic that might control her mind. On her death, every object she holds will vanish to elsewhere, awaiting her next incarnation.

Eight Eyes Ending brought two creatures from the Labyrinth with her to seal her competitors into their arena. The first is the creature called Unwanted, which watches the combatants and tries to lure them into ambushes together. The second is a stranger thing, a vortex of stale fate and dead stars, which covers the entire island and the nearby sea. It is this spirit that shifts the winds, pulls in the Chosen, and directs their ships onto the jagged reefs.

Supporting Characters

  • Unearned Deception, the deathknight who advised Eight Eyes Ending not to do this. Wary, stealthy, loyal.
  • Jhelam Vir’dan, Eight Eyes Ending’s witless servant at this event. Slow, obedient, strong.
  • Iceheart, one of the nephwracks who runs Eye’s criminal cartel. Subtle, plotting, joyless.

Questions

  • Who does Eight Eyes Ending want to win?
  • Why did she bring Pain here?
  • Is she trespassing on another Deathlord’s territory here, or does she claim this archipelago for her own?
  • How long will it be before Yu-Shan brings greater force against her than just Keymaker?
  • What will she do if the remaining contestants stall or unify rather than killing one another?

Keymaker, Chosen of Secrets

Background

Of all his lives, Keymaker remembers his most recent one the best. He died at fourteen, just a year after being Chosen, as a victim of the Great Contagion. He remembers his final day with perfect, painful clarity.

Reincarnated into the chaos after the Fair Folk invasion, the Keymaster was forced into service by one of the many groups of Raksha who were late to leave Creation. They were not kind to him. His family was stretched into impossible, distressing shapes before his eyes. The Fair Folk fed on his emotions as well as theirs. They told him to build them a massive ziggurat to their majesty. He was beaten when he could not shape the loose sand of the Western shores into stone for them.

Then he was rescued and Chosen in one moment. A riding of the Dragon-Blooded arrived and forced the Fair Folk out, with one other along for the ride: Wekaho, Chosen of Journeys, the woman who would become Keymaker’s mentor. In that one moment the weave of fate opened to him and he saw. He understood the carefully orchestrated, years-long plan that had led to his freedom and the death of his oppressors. It was as if a needle had been threaded with destiny itself. He pledged his life to the cause of the Fivescore Fellowship before he even knew what they were.

Many years later, no longer an apprentice, Keymaker became a mentor to new Sidereals, and occasionally to the few Solars who still reincarnated. The West is his ancestral home. He has concentrated his efforts there (with the blessing of the Bureau of Destiny, of course). His subtle manipulations have encouraged order-reinforcing trade routes to form on the outskirts of the archipelagos, sacrificing a few sailors each year to wind and chaos in order to safeguard the islands themselves. Such plans are the way he works: always a tradeoff, always the greater good, risks amortized over years. His methods were time-consuming and sophisticated. If he lost as many as he saved, still a few were saved, and he was content. A measured retreat is preferable to a mad rush forward – one can always gain ground later.

Still, sometimes he is inspired to step into the maelstrom himself. Not every child can be saved by a plan begun ten years earlier; some need help now. As a case in point, consider Athanor Isle.

The lesser gods of fate reported to him a great and fearsome disturbance in the Tapestry. He came to investigate, and saw, in a manner that is not truly sight, a dark vortex drawing in the light of the Chosen to extinguish them. With little time to weigh his options, he turned to another group of Chosen. They were nearby, but not quite in the storm. A little nudge, a little misdirection, and they were sent into the vortex. Will it prove to be more light than the darkness can consume? He wishes he knew. For now, he stands back, beyond the vortex’s border, and peers inward at what he can only dimly see: the lives of the Chosen locked in battle.

Appearance

Keymaker 500

Keymaker has light skin and brown hair, including a goatee and moustache. Dramatic eyebrows shade eyes that are a vivid green. Cracks run across his face, scars from a battle some four hundred years ago that will carry over even to his next life. In his official capacity he wears charcoal robes with green trim, and a black necklace forged from the heart of a raksha.

Demeanor

Serious, perceptive, and calculating. Keymaker doesn’t joke around. His work long ago consumed his life. He’s used to a phenomenal amount of bureaucracy, and to hiding his work from others so that he can operate without red tape. (He realizes, with a touch of ironic humor, that the rest of the Fellowship does so as well.) He loves the feeling of a plan coming to fruition. On the rare occasion when he losing his grip on the threads of a particular plot, his heart sinks and panic creeps upward from his chest to his eyes.

Keymaker is a member of the Gold Faction, though cautiously so.

Intimacies: “The Good of the Many” (Defining) “Uncover secrets” (Defining), “Don’t give a straight answer” (Major), “The Silver Barbarians” (Negative), “Adolescents” (Positive)

Capabilities

Keymaker’s age makes his expertise wide indeed, but it is only deep in a few specific areas. Wekaho taught Keymaker well – taught him to hide his old name, to predict and prophecize, to wield geometry and iteration as weapons through technique and meditation. He knows how to navigate bureaucracies, analyze trade routes and plans, and see the hidden ambitions in treaties. He speaks all the major languages of Creation, as well as Old Realm. His calligraphy is perfect. He can sail most vessels, and navigate anywhere in Creation, but never learned to ride a horse. His eyes and ears are sharp, as is his mind. When circumstances require he can be quiet as a mouse, evading even the most alert sentries. At some point he stopped being able to make a good cup of tea – he suspects that it may be some petty bit of vengeance from the pattern spiders.

As with many Sidereals, Keymaker is a master of the martial arts. He is the lineage-keeper of Cerulean Mirror of Shapes Style. Practitioners of this style learn to see the patterns in their opponents’ movements, both in space and in time. The longer they observe an opponent, and the more the battle shifts across the terrain, the more certain their victory. They also take advantage of the crystalline nature of reality to reflect themselves across rooms and chasms, striking their foes from impossible angles. Those who try to escape them find themselves back in the fight. Those whose armor covers every inch find the masters of this style striking them from within. Cerulean Mirror of Shapes Form reflects the master back in on himself, resulting in a many-armed, many-legged, many-headed creature that looks in all directions and redirects attacks to nearby targets.

Supporting Characters

  • Fen Thanh, the current incarnation of his old mentor Wekaho. Energetic, outgoing, admonishing.
  • Unending Wave, his opponent in the Silver Pact, who seeks to find his younglings before him. Vicious, clever, unforgiving.
  • Kahaka Mahanu, his servant while he watches the events at Athanor unfold. Graceful, erudite, compassionate.
  • Yellow Flame, an old student whom he has asked to watch his usual duties. Attentive, businesslike, suspicious.

Questions

  • What would make Keymaker join in this fight?
  • Does Keymaker realize that a deathlord is the cause of the events on Athanor? Does he know which one?
  • Is Keymaker doing more harm than good overall?

Unwanted, Creature of the Labyrinth

Background

The Labyrinth is the madhouse of the dead. It lies beneath and around the Underworld, as the Wyld surrounds Creation. It shifts and changes to confuse those within it, and like the Wyld it has natives that are hostile to all living creatures – and to the dead as well.

One of these creatures is called Unwanted. Long ago it was born as the impossible child of ghostly parents, and left outside for the spectres in fear and disgust. Strange, animalistic gods from the Labyrinth found it, took it in, and raised it as one of their own. This may be the truth, or it may be one of a dozen lies that it tells to gain sympathy. Regardless of its accuracy, this tale suits Unwanted. It has all the morals of a vicious child.

Unwanted plays cruel games with its prey. It leads them in circles with its childlike voice, laughing or crying as it thinks will work best. And the end of this path? Pits in the darkness, dangerous animals, ghosts mad with the pain of a thousand years. Its favorite game is to pit mortal enemies against one another, helping first one side, then the other, until both are bleeding to death on the ground.

Some time ago, Eight Eyes Ending fooled Unwanted at its own game. It was furiously embarrassed. Unwanted believes that if any word of this failure were to spread, its fun would be ruined for decades to come. Eight Eyes Ending promised to keep the secret if Unwanted would serve it from time to time. Its tasks here are to keep the battle moving, to ensure that the competitors find one another, and to pick off stragglers before they have the chance to regain their feet.

Appearance

Unwanted 500

Unwanted hides in walls and buildings. It is audible as a child’s voice, always slightly distant, as if just beyond the next corner. It is only visible in the dark, where it peers out from the walls as a pale-skinned child’s face with green eyes. It is most terrifying when in a closed darkened room, where it can appear with a dozen faces on every wall, spread monstrously huge across several walls, or peer in through a window like a giant. This is all illusion. Its true form is, indeed, a small and pale child, with dirty hands and a permanent maniac grin.

Demeanor

Patient, clever, and sadistic. it will build up intricate stories about being a lost child or a trapped ghost – anything that might need rescue. If its victims survive the first trap, it will laugh at them and taunt them onward into the second trap. Unwanted is very good at being shrill and aggravating. At its heart, though, it is a coward, and it wants nothing to do with a fair fight. If forced into material form it will run.

Unwanted would like nothing better than to escape from underneath Eight Eyes Ending’s blackmail. However, the plan will have to be pretty good. Unwanted knows just how powerful a deathlord can be.

Intimacies: “Bright light” (Defining, Negative), “The Joy of Treachery” (Defining, Positive), “Being found out” (Major, Negative), “Those whom my master hates” (Major, Negative), “Messing with people” (Major, Positive), “I wish to be free of Eight Eyes Ending”

Capabilities

Unwanted is naturally immaterial. It can appear during the day in Creation, but only by possessing buildings. It can cast its voice from anywhere within the building, and see everything happening within. It can project its face on the interior walls. It can leap from one structure to another if they are touching, or travel easily through the air at night. Destroying a wall or a door has no effect. Destroying the entire building would force it out in material form.

In the end, Unwanted is just a voice and a spiteful intellect. It has no real skills or talents beyond that. When material, it looks like a child of six or seven years.

Supporting Characters

  • Intaveloa, a spectre who ran across Unwanted years ago in the Labyrinth. Curious, talkative, oh so very hungry.

Questions

  • Would Unwanted bow to necromantic control in order to escape Eight Eyes Ending?
  • Is Unwanted’s story about its origins true? If not, what is it?