Godbound

For those who might be interested in other games in the general vein of Exalted, there’s a game called Godbound that’s kickstarting right now. It’s the same folks who made the highly-esteemed Stars Without Number, among other things. It’s done with old-school D&D-style rules, but altered substantially – which is a lot like saying that Exalted 3rd uses the same rules as Vampire: the Masquerade, but altered substantially.

Quick excerpt from the beta PDF:

Godbound drive back the creatures of night. They defeat monsters and renegade gods that no mortal could hope to overcome. They dare the terrible Night Roads to reach the broken shards of Heaven or the seething flames of Hell, there to mend the damaged engines that support their home realm or plunder its riches out from under the shadow of angelic wings.

…Even as novice Godbound, even as a hero new to your powers, you can stand against the mightiest mortal heroes of your realm. You can work miracles by your raw will, or mold the natural laws around you in obedience to your divine Words. There is no greater authority to command you. There is no God on the Throne to tell you what is right and what is wrong. There is only your will, and your choice, and the world you wish to make. Together with your allies you will shape a realm fit to your desires, or you will be destroyed by the unnumbered legions that rise up to thwart your holy will.

So, uh, yeah, I kind of like high-powered gaming, and they can count me in.

Now, for the really cool part: the characters on Stranger Creations are going to be dual-statted. When you finally see their stats, (some are done, but I’m waiting for Certain Events before putting them out), you’ll see not only blocks for Exalted 3rd, but also for Godbound. Godbound characters are roughly on par with 100-XP Solars (and well above where one usually sees Dragon-Blooded), so this will often include some advice as to how to adjust either the character or their place in the setting to properly fit a different power level.

I’m pretty psyched to be able to support two different game lines, and I hope you enjoy it.

Character Contact Sheet

If you’re curious as to what might be coming up after Pearl of the Realm, here’s a sneak peek at the 124 pieces of beautiful stock art I’ve managed to find over the last few months.

Click for a substantially larger version (though still low-res, because I’m not trying to give away stock art here).

Contact Sheet

The descriptions given in this sheet are subject to change. Many of these I just grabbed because they looked cool, or because I thought the photo was particularly good, so the odds are good that they’ll end up as something other than what I initially thought. Others, though, I have specific plans for. I’m looking at you, Undercover Elemental Dragon and Fair Folk Tribunal.

Done with the Splinter

…and that’s it for the Splinter of the Machine!

I hope you enjoyed reading these characters. I intend to return to this setting in the future, a few months or a year from now. I even have some stock art specifically set aside for it. For now, we turn back to more traditional Exalted fare:

The Pearl of the Realm

Southeastern Threshold is a mosaic of sultanates and satrapies. Nestled between its lakes is a land known as the Pearl of the Realm. This dominion has been a tributary of the Empire for centuries with little complaint. From pearls and rare medicines to sticky rice and dried fish, they provide the Great Houses with things both beautiful and necessary. Their people are peaceful. Their gods are orderly.

All of that stopped this year.

No tribute came. No pearls, no rice. Not even worship. The region’s dragon lines, once coursing with prayer and the lifeblood of the world, thinned to a trickle. Suddenly, this nation finds itself under scrutiny from all sides. Are the land’s rulers turning against the Realm? Are the gods warring with one another? Is corruption spreading? And what of the dark shapes seen swimming in the lakes? There is nothing here but opportunity – if you have the power to take it.

Will you seize the pearl?

Jek Eikar, Mad Inventor

Background

Jek Eikar has The Knack. He’s not a Technologist, but he’s an inventor and a bit of a madman. He builds things that could not work, and yet do – lens arrays that see through metal, knives that cut flesh but not hair, vials that slowly fill themselves with oil. He does this constantly. He genuinely doesn’t know how or when to stop. Jek has no specific area of interest; he’ll build anything that pops into his mind.

Years ago Jek worked with Cynis Operations, in their gun-running days. He provided unusual weapons that they then sold to both sides in the war. In return, they provided him with unusual materials that he couldn’t get elsewhere. When they stopped taking that sort of work, Jek’s supplies dried up. He was furious. He didn’t care what he reason was. They stopped coming by after he threw a fit at them. He regretted it later, but he was never the sort to apologize.

His current abode in the Badlands has been his since the Behemoth died. It’s particularly effective for his work, and it took him years to finally understands why. This is a place poor in the alchemical elements, and rich in the Five Exiguous Compounds – earth, air, fire, water, and wood. They provide a resonance for his magical creations that is unique in all his experience. Moreover, the resonance has been increasing over time, and skyrocketed when the Weapon slew the gods. Jek long suspected that these elements were connected to the World Before.

Jek’s mind is filled with swirling thoughts of what might be and what must have been long ago. He seeks out information about the World Before, most of which ends up feeding his fireplace. (He has no patience for “unreliable drivel.”) He also conducts experiments to determine why the Five Exiguous Compounds are so different from the alchemical elements. If he hasn’t discovered them yet, he’s about to find out about shallow spots between the Splinter and Creation… and how to create them. He won’t be able to keep his mouth shut about this, which will probably bring Yushoto Koletta and the Karal family’s soldiers straight to his door. Luckily, Starsight is a step ahead of them.

Appearance

The Mad Inventor 500

Wild-eyed and fast-moving with mussed hair. Jek is usually wearing a leather apron and a magnifying eyepiece, and occasionally gloves as well. His skin is a medium pink, but usually dirty, with a variety of scars and markings. His experiments end up burning off his beard before it gets too long.

Jek blew off his own legs in an explosion when he was younger. Luckily he had others around to save him. Since then he’s built himself a dozen different replacement legs, with varying looks and special features. Most work.

Demeanor

Erratic, arrogant, and distractable. Jek treats everyone as if they’re here specifically to hear his latest theory, see his greatest invention, and borrow his precious devices. He skips between those so often that he rarely finishes explaining, showing, or refusing to lend anything. He’s suspicious of everything people say, and insists on testing them. Once he trusts someone, though, he’ll listen to them carefully. It’s almost as if a switch gets turned, and he goes from belligerent professor to helpfully belligerent professor.

Intimacies: “I must create” (Defining), “I must investigate” (Major), “My dog” (Major, Positive) “Starsight” (Positive), “Cynis Operations” (Negative, but can’t remember why)

Capabilities

Jek has a wide variety of devices that he keeps scattered around his workshop… and his house… and his yard… and in his pockets. You need to cut bronze or drill a hole in steel? Third shelf behind you. You need a riveter? It’s the thing right in front of you. Looks like a screwdriver. You need a socket wrench extender with a 60-degree bend? Probably somewhere in the back yard, if the dog didn’t bury it. You need your tea heated up? Blowtorch in his front pocket, or the flamethrower in the basement. No one likes lukewarm tea.

The more unusual and exotic devices are typically “almost ready”, which means he needs to pull the parts from three or four other devices. Most of them aren’t intended as weapons. That’s just a side effect. The flashlight that you can turn up until it blisters skin. The compass that acts as the homing controls for the saw blade launcher. The self-heating teapot that you can seal and turn into a grenade. No one likes lukewarm tea.

Jek is undeniably brilliant. He’s creative, he grasps new concepts instantly, and he’s especially good at finding loopholes and exploiting them. He won’t notice something unless it’s staring him in the face, but as far as he’s concerned every scientific concept in the world is continuously staring him in the face. He can deal with people, he’d just rather not when there are other things in the world that are much more important and interesting. His specialties are geomancy, electrodynamics, and the transmutation of one element to another.

Fighting Jek is like trying to ambush an alchemy shop with a temper. Luckily for his opponents, he has little grasp of tactics, and he tires quickly. His mechanical legs take more energy from him than his original legs did.

Supporting Characters

  • Nellens Ezola, his supplier for unusual materials before the Holocaust of the Gods. Fearless, talkative, profiteering.
  • Serila of Upriver, his apprentice and chef. Bumbling, determined, friendly.
  • Bakwit, who delivers food weekly in exchange for repair work. Fair, edgy,
  • Rotor, his dog. Enthusiastic, digs a lot.

Questions

  • How many people live in the area near Jek’s house, where grass still grows and the air isn’t filled with the scent of rust? How large is the area?
  • How does Jek communicate with Starsight? Is it a way that might be intercepted or eavesdropped upon?

Yatna Modan, the Badlander

Background

Yatna Modan lived in the gutters and the wilderness even before the Weapon came. He may have been from a noble family, but it was far in his past. He hunted for food, scavenged and bartered for what he couldn’t make himself. It was a hermit’s life, but it was an honest one, and better than the one he had lived before.

After the gods died, his life changed in unexpected ways. For him, the roads had always been dangerous. The appearance of raiders was nothing new. Yatna Modan thus became one of the only people who traveled between the towns in the newly-christened Badlands. At first this didn’t mean much, but as Modan saw more families in trouble, more towns abandoned, it slowly dawned on him that these people needed help more than he did.

Modan turned his hunting skills against the raiders. He found caches left behind by the military as they withdrew. He scavenged supplies for innocent survivors – sometimes entire towns lived because of him. He was always too bashful to show his face. That’s when he heard of Starsight and her new settlement, Clearwater. He went to see it out of plain curiosity. When he saw that they might have a chance to survive, he started sending other people their way. Starsight recruited him not long afterward. He does more or less what he did before – hunting raiders, leaving supplies for villages – but now the people know of his deeds. Yatna Modan is a hero to Clearwater. The feeling has transformed his life.

Right now Modan is also sitting on the largest stock of old military hardware in the southeastern continent. It does him little good – most of it is designed for users with an awakened essence – but he knows a treasure when he sees one. He’s considering whether to bring these to Clearwater, or whether that would create a worse problem.

Appearance

The Badlander 500

Most people who see Modan only see a short, stocky figure with a complex sort of bow, a gas mask, full-body clothing, and a rucksack full of supplies. The majority never see him at all. Beneath the clothing is a grizzled man with bad teeth and a rough-cut beard. His eyes and skin are the same deep brown color. The beard is shot with grey streaks.

Demeanor

Modan rarely speaks when he’s “on a mission” (as he puts it). He grunts; he points; he gives a few terse words and warns people about coming danger. He doesn’t try to insult anyone, but he’ll call people stupid if they insist on staying in their homes when the world’s ending around them. When Starsight or someone else with authority talks to him, he generally stands still and listens, then nods and moves off. If he disagrees (and if he thinks that talking will make a difference) he’ll speak in a rough, stuttering voice.

Intimacies: “I will be the hero we need.” (Defining), “The people of Clearwater” (Major, Positive), “Starsight” (Positive), “The Yatna family” (Negative), “Find out what happened”

Capabilities

Having lived on his own in the woods for over a decade, Modan is more than capable of handling himself in the wilderness. This includes both the ordinary forests and plains that covered the Blessed Continent before the death of the gods, and the metallic hills and rust deserts that have spread since those times. He’s a good hunter and forager. Animals generally like him right away, and those that don’t will at least avoid him.

For someone over fifty years old, Modan is in peak physical condition. He’s lean and agile. He can swim in both water and the Continent’s massive oil rivers. He’s trained and well-practiced with a bow.

On the other side, he’s barely talked to anyone in ten years. He sings to himself once in a while, and has a surprisingly nice voice, but he has a lot of difficulty talking to people. This is amplified if there are several people talking to him at once. Beneath his badlander’s mask, his face and teeth show the effects of past malnutrition.

In a fight, Modan uses his scavenged bow and homemade arrows to perforate his enemies from a distance. If someone closes on him he’ll pull out a wicked pair of tungsten daggers, heavier than lead and sharper than steel. He prefers not to let people get close enough. If he sees raiders, he’ll injure one or two off from long range and frighten them off rather than trying to kill them all.

Supporting Characters

  • Alrac, who fills his waterskins when he comes to Clearwater. Curious, graceful, quiet.
  • Rewara, whom he rescued from the raiders a year ago. Outspoken, compassionate, grateful.
  • Oklo, a raider whose sister he killed a few months ago. Angry, driven, vengeful.
  • Vekilo, who was a hermit with Modan before he became a hero. Reclusive, cowardly, scattered.

Questions

  • What was Yatna Modan doing before he was a hermit? Was he a criminal? Why did he need to leave his family?
  • Would Modan join the No Memory if offered the chance, or would he stay here to protect Clearwater more directly?

Starsight, the Prophet

Background

Not every god on the Continent went to fight the Luminous Godkiller Weapon. Starsight was a goddess of the future – not prophecy, but the things that are to be. She saw her own death in this battle, and defied fate to avoid it. She pleaded with her brother Telar Thousand-Eyes not to go. He said that she was deserting her fellows when they needed her the most, and begged her to come. She stayed. He died.

Starsight lost a little of herself in the Holocaust of the Gods. She was one of a very few gods who didn’t go, and the only one in what would become the Badlands. When the rest of the gods died, people abandoned her as well. In addition, she had broken her own power by choosing the future rather than merely observing or announcing it. No longer an ephemeral being of essence and concept, she lives now in the physical world. She’s less in command of her powers, and more at their whims.

She saw all of this. Starsight chose this fate intentionally. She knew that her vision of the future was a true one – that the fight against the Luminous Godkiller Weapon was meaningless, and that her help would be needed to defeat the horrific thing once and for all.

Since her fall from grace, she has risen to lead a group of desperate peasants living in the Badlands. They have built a shelter around one of the few remaining springs. The people call it Clearwater. There, she has gathered to herself some of the powerful individuals who still live in the Badlands. She guides folk hero Yatna Modan to the things that will keep her people moving, keep them alive, for another week or another day. She sends message back and forth with the mad inventor Jek Eikar, discussing the secret of what is happening to this world. She has seen that No Memory is coming, and she eagerly awaits its arrival.

Appearance

The Prophet 500

Starsight wears dark, shimmering clothing and a variety of jewelry. Her skin is dusky, and she might easily be taken for a member of almost any family. She often wears a hat or other ornamentation over her eyes during the day. When seen at night, her eyes are a deep, star-filled purple with no whites.

Demeanor

Mysterious and intense. Being a living enigma is part of who Starsight is; she’s incapable of being less vague when leaving out information will achieve the same goals. She knows that her world is ending, but refuses to go quietly. When people ask her why they should keep struggling for another day, she replies that every life matters. She knows that her power is part of a greater plan, which she calls the Will of the Maker, and she tries to instill that belief in others. A tiny part feared that her decision to change her fate would break that plan, but her faith crushed that part and put it out of her mind.

Starsight will keep working to the end of her world to keep people alive and safe. Part of that is survivor’s guilt, and part of it is who she has always been.

The people whom Starsight leads sometimes feel manipulated by her. She treats them with respect, but sometimes refuses to tell them things about the future. It’s one thing when a newly fallen god leads your people to safe food and water; it’s another when she uses her position to have you build an airstrip for no discernable reason. The people follow her because they know that she’s brilliant and she won’t let them die, but they aren’t so certain sometimes.

Intimacies: “We will end the Weapon” (Defining), “I should have done more to save the gods” (Major), “My people” (Major, Positive) “Cathak Venkan” (Positive), “Karal Volan” (Negative)

Capabilities

Starsight is still new to the physical world. Her physical power is still building. At first she needed a wheelchair; then she needed crutches. She has only recently been able to walk without a cane. It’s also easy for her to be overwhelmed by sensory input – thus her tendency to cover her eyes. All this will become easier for her in time, but she knows she may not have the time to wait.

As a goddess of futures, Starsight once inspired others with her powers. She was a conduit for prophecy, and those she touched could see a vast array of possible futures spreading out before themselves. They would babble pieces of those futures, and others would be left to interpret them. Now that she is trapped in the physical world, Starsight sees those futures directly. Her brilliant mind interprets them and shows her the implications of each choice. She knows what she could do in order to make a particular future come to pass. She knows what sorts of things she cannot change. She can still choose – but sometimes her choices are more constrained than she would like. Worse, she knows that the more information she gives about the future, the less control she has over how things turn out. The choices that other people make matter as well. Whether she lets them make those choices will depend a lot on how much she trusts them.

On a more mundane level, Starsight is a learned and competent leader. She speaks the language of the Time Before and the Imperial tongue of the Splinter. She is passionate and compelling when speaking with individuals, but lacks the strength to project to a crowd. She lacks technical knowledge, but can often cover for that with her ability to see a few seconds into the future.

If pressed into a fight, Starsight will be almost impossible to strike. She’ll choose to take a hit only when it gives her an advantage. In her current state it’s difficult for her to strike back. She often brings an honor guard when meeting with newcomers – not because she knows they’ll attack, but because it sets a good precedent for others to be wary. She’s more likely to take small, strange actions around the battlefield than to strike others directly. Sometimes these set up her eventual victory. Sometimes they’re just to frighten her opponents into thinking that she’s setting up victory. Sometimes that’s enough. Starsight is well aware of the effectiveness of psychological warfare.

Supporting Characters

  • Fenek, her physical assistant at Clearwater. Brutish, gentle, compassionate.
  • Uhara, Clearwater’s construction foreman. Businesslike, loud, careful.
  • Otilando, who leads Clearwater’s (mostly unsuccessful) hunters. Demanding, intrepid, worried.
  • Mesha, who keeps an eye on the Straits of Silk in case River Island comes to finish them off. Observant, calm, bored.

Questions

  • What does Starsight foresee when it comes to Creation?
  • Can Starsight see the past?

The Ticking Mask, Parasitic God

Background

Cynis Operations has many valuables stashed in a vault near the Imperial Mountain. Most were left behind in case the Cynis family might be able to return. Some have been transferred to a safe on board the zeppelin No Memory in case the mission demands them. Others have been put to use. The Ticking Mask falls into the final category.

The Cynis family has had the mask show up again and again, like a bad penny. They throw it into the sea, it washes up at their citadel. They burn it to cinders, it appears in a storeroom. They have no idea why it’s attached to their bloodline in particular. Cynis Operations took it as part of a bargain a year or two back – a negative entry in the ledger.

When not worn, the mask asks to be worn. When worn, the mask ticks like a clock, constantly. It cannot be removed. Just when the wearer gets used to the ticking, it changes, or skips a beat. The sound and its changes converge to slowly drive the wearer mad. That’s when the ancient god trapped within the mask takes control.

Ordinarily this god seeks out forbidden knowledge. It’s not subtle. Sometimes it succeeds, but it always gets caught. Its bearer gets killed. The mask gets destroyed. It comes back and whispers for someone else to put it on. This time, things are different. Cynis Operations found a despicable prisoner to force the mask upon and made a deal with the god. It helps them save the world; they give it Yushoto Koletta‘s design journals. It agreed. Even such a god does not want to see the world end.

Right?

Appearance

The Mask 500

The mask’s current bearer is a man of average height, with blue eyes, peach-colored skin, and curling brown hair. The mask itself has a golden base, with strange lenses, hoses, and gears on the outside that seem to serve no purpose. When the mask has no bearer, orange goat-like eyes look out from within.

Demeanor

The mask-god seems to have no long-term goals beyond a drive to gain information. It never uses the information, never seems to care who wears it, and doesn’t care what happens to them afterward. “Amoral” is the perfect word for it. Its style is efficient and creative, but it’ll drop that in an instant if being wasteful will get what it wants.

Intimacies: “Learn everything before the world ends” (Defining), “Get Yushoto Koletta’s journals” (Major), “People in my way” (Negative)

Capabilities

The wearer of the Mask becomes capable of Protocol use. While not a true Technologist and incapable of Alchemical Workings, the wearer can still gather essence from the Splinter to create powerful magical and alchemical effects.

Among these Protocols are: the control of mindless automata; crawling up walls and along ceilings with legs of pure lightning; becoming a thick cloud of smoke and traveling about a hundred meters; a blazing net of burning oil that harms only those who try to move through it; steam bursts from the ground that slow or trip up its opponents; opening doors with a beautiful crystalline key regardless of locks or bars; and taking on a body of pistons, gears, and chains that vastly enhance the user’s physical prowess. Its Protocols are primarily those that draw on the alchemical elements and use them in an advantageous manner, rather than directly attacking with them. It has proven capable of direct assaults, such as summoning great columns of hornet-like needles crackling with electricity, but it rarely does so.

The host’s original body provides the god with its native strength and grace (or lack thereof). In this case, the prisoner was strong and slow. The prisoner’s mind dominates early on, but this slowly changes. The Ticking Mask is both brilliant and short-sighted. It takes unnecessary risks without seeming to realize or care. At the same time, it uses Protocols in clever and creative ways. It’s audacious, but it’s only aggressive when cornered. When the Ticking Mask cannot avoid battle, it unleashes massive devastation and moves on quickly, often leaving survivors behind.

The extent of the god’s knowledge is uncertain. It seems to at least know that which its host knew, but it occasionally shows flashes of insight about places that no human has entered for centuries. It speaks the language of the World Before as well as the language of its host.

The mask’s alchemical capabilities do not depend on whether the god of the mask has taken over. Whomever puts it on gains its powers immediately, along with full knowledge of how to use them.

Removing the mask kills the wearer.

Supporting Characters

  • Peleps Yumi, the previous bearer. Adventurous, daring, foolish.
  • Mnemon Entar, who studied the mask years ago before Peleps Yumi stole it. Meticulous, cautious, introspective.
  • Cynis Riiks, who stopped Peleps Yumi and recovered the mask. Brave, powerful, slow.
  • Cynis Ehnavo, the prisoner forced to wears the mask this time. Cruel, callous, vindictive.

Questions

  • Is the god of the mask actually in charge yet, or is this still the prisoner slowly losing his mind?
  • What happens to the mind and soul of the mask’s wearer? Are they consumed by the mask’s god, or do they live on, trapped inside?