Category Archives: Microsetting

Adventure Sketch: Lord of the Rapids (for Pathfinder)

Adventure Sketches are just the most basic set up, plot, twist, and development for as many or as few sessions as a GM wants to turn them into. They’re enough guidance to make plotting out a game easy, but not so much it’s hard to fit into any existing campaign.

Intended for Pathfinder, this adventure sketch can be modified to work with nearly any RPG with lawless lands, frontier zones, and numerous races.

The rapids are the most dangerous part of the great river, but are also on a branch of the river easily bypassed by those wishing to use it for travel. The land around the rapids is rockier and heavily overgrown, bad for farming and hard to travel through. It was considered to be most concerning as a potential place for bandit hideouts, but no such group was ever known to use it. As recently as a generation ago the rapids were considered too far from anything of value for any thinking group to bother with them.

But in recent years, numerous aquatic animals and magical beasts have attacked all up and down the rest of the great river, and most ponds and lakes near it. At first such attacks were only on isolated groups, mostly itinerant traders, and local settlements ignored it. But in recent months the attacks have been bolder. Major trade shipments have been attacked, and a few small thorps have been abandoned, with signs of attacks in the disused buildings.

Major merchant princes in faraway lands wish the disruptions of trade to end, and assume some brigand ranger or  petty druid is finally using the lands of the rapids to set up an outlaw camp. The merchant princes wish to end the problem quickly and cheaply, and thus have placed a bounty on the leader of these presumed “rapids rogues.” The PCs are drawn into this situation, perhaps to pay off a debt, perhaps as guards for a river trader and his shipment, perhaps as a favor for a struggling vendor, or perhaps just for the bounty.

But in truth, it’s a brine dragon (a juvenile brine dragon perhaps, CR 8, and a good capstone fight for 5th or 6th level PCs) and its lizardmen conscripts that have been causing problems. The brine dragon, Breakwave, has also conquered the local nixie clan who once lived in idyllic peace in the rapids and surrounding lands. Breakwave wishes to build an empire, and forces the nixies to use their talents to train and command aquatic threats (giant caimans, anacondas, arapaima, monstrous electric eels, and dire river otters), and uses threats and bribes to turn any other nearby creatures into soldiers.

The PCs must fight their way through the rapids, learn the true nature of the threat, rescue citizens of the abandoned settlements (many of whom have been pressed into service by Breakwave), bypass monstrous and aquatic guards, and finally defeat Breakwave himself.

And then the real adventure begins.

Breakwave has angered numerous other nearby threats–attacking some, extorting others–and his death causes those threats to rush into the lands around the rapids to claim his presumed hoard. Further, without his *undesired) patronage, and with the rapids now seen as a crucial tactical location, the nixies and their care for that section of the great river are doomed–unless they can convince the PCs to protect them (perhaps in return for the nixies’ loyalty).

And the merchant princes suddenly think the PCs may be making too great a profit. And the lizardmen came from a not-too-distant tribe, who expected regular payments in return for the lizardman mercenary service, and will demand recompense for the loss of the income Breakwater provided.

The PCs can flee the situation, or try to use diplomacy to re-establish equilibrium, or claim the area as their own base of operation, of even pick up where Breakwave left off…

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Microsetting: Midlands

The Plains are the safest. Not safe, mind you, but not as bad as when you move too far in any other direction.

They can’t cross running water, so the Mississippi is the barrier from the East. I’ve heard the Panama Canal is as safe as you can go South, but I don’t know anyone who has gone any further than Laredo. Something about the air. Baja California is supposedly still okay, but god help them for being so far West.

There’s no set barrier between the Plains and the West Coast. The Rockies do most of the work of keeping us safe, but stay clear of the passes. Everyone knows what happened at Logan Pass, and I saw how bad things get close to Marias Pass myself. I-15 is like a line of death, and they move north-south along it much, much too easily. I-90 isn’t as bad, but it’s not good either. I don’t go farther North than Nebraska, anymore. I’m told U.S. 20 is worse, but I never saw anything on it.

I wish I could say they only come out at night, but that’s not true. They see better at night than we do, or at least most of ’em do, so night’s more dangerous. But they can move and hunt in the day, too. The leaner pickings get, the more they hunt in the light. But that doesn’t mean you should feel safe if there are people around. Some groups just haven’t been hit yet. Others make… arrangements. Arrangements that don’t go well for strangers to their area.

Shooting them in the head is great, but not strictly necessary and requires you to be sure what part is the head. If you have the ammo, center-mass is still the safest bet, but it takes a lot of lead. Clubs seems useless, and machetes are too likely to chip and bend. Spears are okay, but you need some kind of cross-brace, or they just pull themselves down it until they get to you.

Axes are good. Shovels work in a pinch, if sharpened.

Don’t listen to anything broadcast. Don’t eat anything you can’t identify, even if it comes from a can. Don’t try to read anything in a language you don’t recognize. If you think you can hear the stars, get inside. If someone near you says they can hear the stars?

Axes are good.

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A Sorcerous Schema

I have seen a lot of interesting power-share cosmologies for magic. I enjoy exploring how magic might work, and find settings that have a codified, interesting schema of how magic works/is utilized often get my imagination going the most.

So, here’s one I don’t recall ever seeing before (though that certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist).

Everyone has a maximum amount of magic capacity. Let’s say it’s on a scale from 1-100.

That power determines the strength of any spell you cast. It can never improve. If you are born a 32, you are a 32 forever.

That power is divided equally among all the spells you know.

So if you are a 32 and you know one spell? You cast it at power level 32. But if you know two spells? No matter what you do, once you know two spells, you cast them both at power level 16.

And never more or less than that.

Spells are fairly narrow. A ball of fire spell is not the same as a small spark from your thumb. If you know a ball of fire, you can’t dial it back to less than your maximum.

Some people have such weak magic capacity they can’t learn more than 1-2 spells, or the results will be so weak as to be useless.

Other people have such a powerful magic capacity that only knowing one spell is dangerous.

Of course, some governments probably want a few capacity-100 spellcasters that know just one army-crushing offensive spells.

Other spellcasters prefer having a wide range of minor powers, because while each spell is less powerful, they are more likely to have a useful spell for any given situation.

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Starfinder Archetype: Xorarcan Centurion

The proud warrior species of the Xorarcan, and rules for using them as a player character species, were introduced here. While all Xorarcans are resilient, and those raised in the native tradition of Xorarcan warriors are all feared in battle, the legend of the unstoppable Xorarcan champions largely comes from encounters with their elite centurions.

Xorarcan centurions train to harden body and mind, and hone themselves to battle-ready perfection. They are a tradition that evolved from the shock soldiers of he Overlords, who forced Xorarcans to sacrifice their lives fearlessly to gain even small advantages over the Overlord’s enemies. While those shock troops often died before becoming veterans, over generations of endless combat, and some horrific experimentation by the Overlords themselves, the surviving Xorarcans learned to survive even nearly-impossible battlefield conditions. With the Overlord’s empire collapsed, the Xorarcans take pride in reclaiming this brutal period in their history, and applying the lessons learned through endless war for cruel masters to achieve their own goals.

A Xorarcan centurion expects to be the point of the spear, the first into the breach and the last off the battlefield. They train not for a single method of combat, but to be prepared for any adversity, and to seek out foe’s weaknesses and maximize allies’ strengths.

Xorarcan Centurion (Archetype)

You have spent your life training to be the ultimate combatant. Much of that training is pure skill and martial technique, but some is also calling upon the changes wrought to your lineage by the Overlords when they used Xorarcans as shock troopers and cannon fodder. While your hate for the long-lost Overlords is as great as any native of Xorarca, you have reclaimed some of the horrors they inflicted upon your ancestors to better serve those you hold dear.

Only members of the Xorarcan species, or characters with the Xorarcan Warrior theme, can take the Xorarcan Centurion archetype.

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Centurion Traits: At levels 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 18, a Xorarcan centurion may choose to take a centurion trait as an alternate class feature (using the normal rules for archetypes), or may instead gain the normal class feature for their class and level. Once this choice is made at each level, it cannot be changed. Each centurion trait may be selected only once unless it states otherwise.

Battle Meditation (Ex): You have learned the ancient Xorarcan techniques of mind over body, and can force your physical form to obey your will. At the beginning of your turn you have a 50% chance of ending any bleed effect you are suffering. Additionally, you can  imbibe one serum or medicinal (or poison, if you wish), and have the effects delayed as your metabolism holds off any changes wrought by the material. As a move action, you can have the serum, medicinal, or poison take its normal effect on you. Once you use this ability in this way, you cannot do so again for 24 hours.

Combat Training: You gain one bonus combat feat. You must meet its prerequisites normally. You may take this alternate class feature more than once. Each time, you must select a different bonus combat feat.

Crusader’s Blade (Su): Your ancestors were exposed to eldritch energies as part of the Overlord’s efforts to turn them into better shock troops. You have learned to access those energies to melee weapons you use. You may cause any melee weapon you attack with to have the block, bright, and penetrating special weapon properties.

Dimensional Blade (Ex): Your ancestors were exposed to strange dimensional energies as part of the Overlord’s efforts to turn them into better shock troops. You have learned to access those energies to empower attacks you make. Your melee attacks gain the force descriptor. The first ranged attack you make each round also gains the force descriptor. This does not change the AC your attack targets or its damage type (if any), but does generally allow you to affect incorporeal targets normally.

Flight Pack (Ex): You have recovered an ancient Xorarcan flight pack, and restored it to at least partial function. You can attach it to any suit of armor you wear with 10 minutes of work. This does not take an armor upgrade slot. If you do not have a flight speed, this acts as if you had a 1st level flight spell cast on you, and in zero G you are always considered to be adjacent to an object that allows you to push off it and gain a  +4 bonus to Acrobatics checks made in relation to the Moving in Zero G rules.

If you do have a fly speed, your flight pack also increases your maneuverability by one step. If you already have perfect maneuverability, instead you gain a +10 bonus to your fly speed.

Incorruptible (Ex): you have hardened yourself to resist and throw off all efforts to weaken or debase your body. When you make a successful saving throw against an affliction (curse, disease, or poison), you are cured of that affliction. Any damage already inflicted by the affliction must be restored or fade normally.

Ironclad (Ex): You have learned to leverage the joints, lockouts, and hard plates of armor to your benefit when lifting or carrying items. You treat your Strength at 4 higher for purposes of meeting armor proficiency feat prerequisites, and using heavy. When wearing light armor, your carrying capacity is calculated as if your Strength was 2 higher. When wearing heavy armor, your carrying capacity is calculated as if your Strength was 4 higher and you treat your Strength as being 4 higher when determining your effective Strength for wielding heavy weapons.

Martial Prowess (Ex): You have mastered several Xorarcan fighting techniques. Your melee attacks have the disarm and trip special weapon properties. They also have the staggered critical hit effect. If they already have a critical hit effect, when you score a critical hit you may choose between the attack’s normal critical effect, and staggered. If the attack normally has the staggered critical hit effect, you may choose to instead apply the stunned critical hit effect.

Spirit of Xorarca (Su): You can channel the spirit of the harsh world Xorarcans call home to imbue your attacks with lethal forms of energy. Once per day as part of making an attack, you can choose to add the corrosive, flaming, frost, shock, or thundering weapon fusion to one weapon you are attacking with. If you are of chaotic alignment, you may instead add the anarchic fusion. If you are of lawful alignment, you may instead add the axiomatic fusion. If you are good aligned you may instead add the holy fusion. If you are evil aligned, you may instead add the unholy fusion.

This fusion does not count against the weapon’s maximum number of fusions, and can be applied to a weapon of any item level (or your unarmed attacks). The fusion only functions with attacks you make. The fusion lasts until you next regain Stamina Points during a 10-minute rest, though you may suspend it for any attack you do not wish to use it.

If you have already used this ability for the day, you may spend a Resolve Point to use it again. A weapon cannot have more than one fusion from this ability active at a time—if you use it on a weapon that already has such a fusion, the older fusion from this ability ends.

You must have the crusader’s blade, dimensional blade, or martial prowess centurion trait in order to select this centurion trait.

Wallbreaker (Ex): You have trained yourself to overcome the limits of physical exhaustion and trauma, a limit known in Xorarcan philosophy as “the inner wall.” You gain a +4 bonus to Constitution checks to continue running, to avoid damage from a forced march, to hold your breath, and to avoid damage from starvation or thirst. You also gain a +4 bonus to Fortitude saving throws to avoid taking damage from hot or cold environments, to withstand the harmful effects of thick and thin atmospheres, to avoid choking when breathing in heavy smoke, and to avoid fatigue caused by sleep deprivation.

Additionally, as a move action you can recover a number of Stamina Points equal to your character level. Once you have used this ability in this way, you cannot do so again until you have recovered Stamina during a 10-minute rest.

Warrior Spirit (Ex): You can call upon the legendary Xorarcan determination to overcome great adversity. Once per day when you fail at an attack roll or saving throw, as a reaction you may immediately reroll the failed attack or save with a bonus equal to your character level.

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Insectoid Star Knight-color

Fictional Cosmology

This isn’t an effort to actually solve the question of consciousness, or quantum mechanics, or determinism.
It’s just a though experiment to see if I can make a fictional cosmology I like enough to use in games and stories.
So.
There exists a quantum-affecting energy pattern, the énorkos. Extremely complex neural systems are created by énorkos, which are linked to them. No other system can link to an énorkos. Essentially, complex neural system are discrete slices of the whole that is an énorkos.
An énorkos can perceive all quantum superpositions. However, any specific neural system linked to an énorkos can only perceive a limited set of quantum superpositions. This means that each neural system perceives what appears to be one “reality.” In fact all superpositions exist simultaneously, but each neural system perceives only one set of them encountered by the linked énorkos.
Whenever an énorkos encounters a new superposition, it subdivides into as many neural systems are necessary for one neural system to observe each possible set of quantum positions.
Thus, an énorkos is a quantum energy state that defines consciousness, with each neural system linked to it perceiving one possible combination of collapsed wave states. Conscious things appear to impact quantum superpositions because each consciousness sees only one collapse of a superposition. All superpositions occur simultaneously, but a “living creature” only sees on reality at a time.
Sufficiently advanced technology can create énorkos, or at least link artificial neural networks to existing énorkos. There is thus a concrete difference between a Siri-like computer program with so many billions of responses it can generate that it passes any turing Test, and a true “strong” AI which is linked to an énorkos.
Similarly, if a consciousness shifts to a different position relative to its énorkos is would need to move to an alternate reality, when in fact it is only perceiving the megareality of all superpositions differently.
Also, if you have a technology that can perfectly recreate a person, AND in doing so link their consciousness to the same énorkos as their original consciousness, that is the “same” person, while a duplicate that has no énorkos link, or links to a different énorkos is a “different” person, even if on a macro scale they behave in exactly the same way.

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Starfinder Species: Xorarcan

Xorarcan

The Xorarcan are legendary as a humanoid warrior-species with an ancient history, but the truth of their existence is far more complex.

They evolved on the dead world of Xorarca, a high-G planet which has little water, extreme temperature shifts, and numerous radioactive heavy metals. Strength and resilience were crucial survival traits for all live on Xorarca, but the one humanoid race that evolved there clawed its way to the top of the food chain by adding planning, tools, and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of a larger community. No Xorarcan wants to die, but even more no Xorarcan wants to die uselessly. The idea of seeking a death that serves a greater good isn’t just a cultural element of Xorarcan life, it’s a survival instinct that developed as the only way for the species as a whole to thrive.

Long before Xorarca technological levels reach the point of space travel, they were discovered by a more advanced society who saw their value only in terms of slave labor and shock troops. Different races have been suggested as this conqueror of Xorarca, though native histories refer to them only as the Overlords. For millennia, the Overlords raided Xorarca every generation, taking the strongest and most accomplished warriors and engineers, and leaving behind only enough population to ensure that, with effort and sacrifice, there would be more potential slaves in another generation.

Xorarcan history states that in time the Overlords empire collapsed, and their many enslave races were left adrift. Most fell into barbarism and developed into petty warlords fiefdoms, but the Xorarcan drive to live a life that meant something caused many of them to strive to build something more. Over centuries, ships of Xorarcan who had never set foot on their native soil returned home, in ships cobbled together from Overlord technology or earned from other races through mercenary service. All were welcomed back as lost kin, and accepted into the greater Xorarca community.

But Xorarca was still a harsh world, and it could not support such an enlarged population. It became clear that for the Xorarcans to survive, they must continue to travel among the stars. The species does not wish to a find a new homeworld, but it does want to protect the world and culture that birthed it. In each generation, more than 75% of the Xorarcans born on their homeworld find themselves driven to leave native soil, for the good of their brethren. To ensure no new empire of Overlords ever seeks to enslave them again, and to protect their homeworld, those Xorarcans who leave take on warrior roles and work to establish a presence throughout the galaxy as acknowledged masters of war and defense. While the species has its share of poets, engineers, philosophers, mages, priests, actors, and even criminals, those who leave their world see projecting strength as a species a crucial step to protecting their beloved homeworld.

Similarly, Xorarcans abroad seek to be known as honest and good to their word, to ensure that deals made by their homeworld are respected and valued. This is not to say all Xorarcans are good or kind—a Xorarcan criminal simply ensures that any threat made can and will be carried out, and Xorarcan cheats avoid making any statement regarding the falsehoods they depend on.

Xorarcans value community, and even a lone member of the species far from home looks to find allies they can trust and protect. Most Xorarcans are taught from birth that their first and greatest duty is to their homeworld and their species, but a Xorarcan may choose duty and loyalty to a community of choice over one of inheritance.

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SPECIES TRAITS

Ability Scores. Xorarcans have a wide range of body types and mental traits, and despite a reputation for being strong and narrow-minded are actually among the most varied of species. A Xorarcan gains a +2 bonus to two ability scores of their choice, and take a -2 penalty to one ability score of their choice.

Size, Type,Vital Statistics: Xorarcans are Medium humanoids with the Xorarcan subtype. A typical Xorarcan stands 5’10” to 7 feet tall, and weighs 190-280 pounds. They reach the age a maturity at 15 years, and have a maximum age of 100 + 2d20 years.

Move: Xorarcans have a 30 foot land speed. If any effect reduces their speed by a set amount, that reduction is decreased by 5 feet.

Darkvision: Xorarcans have darkvision with a range of 60 feet.

Plain Speech. Xorarcans are renowned for being straightforward and good as their world, and find getting what they want through deception awkward and uncomfortable. They receive a -4 penalty to Bluff checks to lie (though not for any other task of the skill), and a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate checks.

Independent: Xorarcans have evolved to be difficult to control, and even-tempered. They receive a +2 bonus to all saving throws against mind-affecting to emotion effects, and the DC to bully them with Intimidate is 5 higher than normal.

Harsh Homeworld: Xorarcans take no penalties in thin, normal, or thick atmospheres. They treat hot environments as 30 degrees cooler, and cold ones as 30 degrees warmer, for purposes of environmental hazards. They treat high gravity as standard gravity and extreme gravity as high gravity (even for purposes of determining bulk).

THEME: XORACAN WARRIOR

Many of the traits considered “inherent” to Xorarcans are actually cultural norms ingrained in all Xorarcans born and raised on their homeworld of Xorarca. While theoretically a non- Xorarcan could be raised in the same manner, such as a human adopted by Xorarcan parents or a shirren born to diplomats on Xorarca who have adopted its culture and have numerous native friends, normally only Xorarcans can take this theme.

Theme Knowledge. Xorarcans know the universe is a cold, harsh place and train their young to be prepared to use even protection available to them. You begin play proficient with heavy armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with heavy armor, you begin play proficient with powered armor. If the class you take at 1st level is already proficient with powered armor, you reduce the armor check penalty of any armor you wear by 1 (minimum 0). Additionally, you can alter any armor you wear to match the appearance of traditional Xorarcan war-gear with 1 day of work, giving you a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks to demoralize while wearing it.

Armored Juggernaut [6th]. At 6th level, you ignore the bulk of any armor you wear. Additionally, when wearing heavy armor or powered armor, your unarmed attacks deal damage equal to the solar weapon of a solarian of a level equal to your character level.

Rugged [12th]: At 12th level you can, once per day, when wearing armor, grant yourself a number of temporary Hit Points equal to your level. These fade after 10 minutes or when used.

Unstoppable [18th] At 18th level, your ability to overcome adversity is so great you gain determination when things turn against you. The first two times each day when facing a significant enemy you take a critical hit or fail a saving throw, you gain one Resolve Point.

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American Fighter: An Analogy as Superhero History

American Fighter was born Roy Wood to an unwed mother in 1925. Of Irish/German descent, he showed no particular faults or aptitudes as a child, getting unremarkable grades and managing well enough for a child with first no father, then a largely absent step-father, who left the family by the time Roy was 15. He was remembered as a shy boy who worked in a car shop and sang in the school glee club.

He graduated from high school in 1943, and immediately enlisted in the United States Marines. Ordered to a Repair and Overhaul unit in the Pacific, he was exposed to a mix of experimental gasses from secret super-soldier programs being run at the same facility. His skin, uniform, and helmet became significant more resilient, able to bounce small arms fire and even survive antimaterial and anti-tank munitions. He was immediately given a nom de masque of American Fighter, and sent into much of the worst island fighting. Though American Fighter is often depicted in posters and art of the era standing with the heroes of Liberty Force who operated in Europe, he never served with them, and only rarely met any of Liberty Force’s members.

In 1946 he was discharged, and moved to Los Angeles to live with his mother. He tried to join the Liberty Guard, a national hero teams forming at the time, but was rejected for low academic standards. When he was spotted by a scout for the Universal utility corporation, which was interested in creating hero teams to protect their own interests and garner positive P.R., he was signed to a lengthy U.U. “taxi hero” contract. The taxi heroes were paid on a per-mission basis and assigned to regions and teams as determined by U.U’s Hero Relations department.

American Fighter was initially assigned to the Coastal Crimefighters, who largely opposed the Undertow Gang of underwater pirates. While he was always assigned back-up or support roles, he also received training from Universal Utility handlers in public speaking, judicial law, small unit tactics, horseback riding, and etiquette. As he was photogenic he also came to be featured heavily in hero-themed magazines, despite his relatively minor activity level. Through the late 1940s and into 1952, he also worked with the Freedom Hawks, Hero Cadets, and on loan as one of the Big Man’s “irregulars”

In 1952, American Fighter was assigned as the team leader of the Furious Five, with the more experienced heroine Talavera as the team secretary and unofficial second-in-command. Talavera had worked with American Fighter in the Freedom Hawks, and had a career that went back to before WWII. The Five quickly grew to be too popular to keep as a single unit, and each was moved to taxi hero roles in other groups for part of every year from 53-55, with American Fighter serving as second-in command for the Hero’s Horizon and then standing as the leader of the Law Breed when founder Golden Blade was injured in the line of duty.

In 1953, a new villain struck the we coast. Known only as the Obsession, this mastermind combined complex heists with random acts of mayhem and violence and terrorist attacks using clouds of psychotropic drugs that made coordinated responses by local authorities almost impossible. The Obsession began to co-opt and unify organized crime west of the Rockies, and Universal Utility suffered multiple significant thefts and kidnappings for ransom. U.U. turned all its Hero Relations resources to bringing the Obsession to justice. In a Los Angeles raid on August 4, 1954, American Fighter was part of a small team that breached the Obsession’s base of operations, and American Fighter delivery the knockout blow to the crazed villain—immediately elevating himself to major hero status.

By 1955 American Fighter was voted one of the ten most popular and effective heroes in American by Modern Hero Magazine. Universal Utility immediately made him the focus of multiple teams, including the newly-renamed Fighting Five, the Freedom Brigade, and the Giants of Justice.

However, his popularity waned within a decade. By 1965 the Fighting Five and Giants of Justice had been disbanded, and American Fighter had been moved to “emeritus” status in the Freedom Brigade, to make room for new heroes such as Repulsor, Fast Cat, Chiller, and Doctor Phoenix.

During this time it became well known in the hero community that American Fighter was gay. He was discrete about his privacy, and little attention was publicly paid to the question at the time. His handlers as U.U. worked strenuously to keep his private life out of the public eye.

American Fighter left the Fighting Five (which disbanded a few years later, though numerous revivals have been attempted) when his U.U contract ended, and tried live as an agent of S.T.E.E.L. (Special Taskforce on Espionage and Enforcement of Law), and then as one of the Strangefellow, and finally as the leader of the Second Chances (a time-travelling group that worked to fix minor disasters in such a way as to not affect history in any other major way). Though none of these efforts were considered noteworthy at the time, the Second Chances have in recent years come to be considered one of the few truly successful time-travelling hero teams.

Moving back to traditional hero teams, American Fighter joined The Undefeated, a team of U.S. heroes operating overseas in 1969. The team was fairly well-known as successful, but their operations had a high financial and political cost, and they were disbanded in 1971. From ’71 to ’77, American Fighter settled down in San Francisco, and operated with the Heroine Saint Angel as part-time, local heroes taking on minor regional issues. He and Saint Angel married, but quietly divorced in ’76, though still working as crimefighting partners for a year after that.

A lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking began to take its toll in the late ‘70s and early 80s. American Fighter participated in a number of one-time mass hero operations, but could not catch on as a permanent member of a hero team. He notably took part in the Avalanche Wars in 1978 and the Martian Campaigns in 1980. An effort was made to build a new team around him, the Devlin Dogs, in 1981, including adding Fighting Youth to the rooster, the son of American Fighter and Saint Angel from before their marriage as a teen sidekick. However, multiple bypass heart surgery sidelined American Fighter a few months after the team launched, and though he returned to it after recover, the team disbanded within a year after that.

He joined the Dynasty of Warriors in 1984, but was clearly past his prime and often contributed little to major conflicts.

Unknown to the public, American Fighter was diagnosed with HIV in 1984, just one year after the initial identification by scientists of the HIV virus. The hero kept the disease secret for many months while working with old colleagues to search for a cure. His health was visible declining. Rumors began to spread that he had liver cancer, but eventually his publicist announced that American Fighter had AIDS. As one of the first well-known American heroes to be publicly diagnosed with AIDS, this sparked a national debate about his sexuality and the disease.

American Fighter died in October, 1985, of infections related to the AIDS virus.

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The Chosen… ish

“You are the Chosen Seventeen.”

“Say what now?”

“Chosen. The Chosen Seventeen. I mean, one of them, obviously. You’re not all 17.”

“I… I mean. I thought there was a Chosen One?”

“Oh, there is! She’s great. Met her at a seminar a couple of years ago. But, yeah, no. You’re not THAT Chosen. I mean, only one person is the Chosen ONE, right?”

“O… Okay. So… after the Chosen One, we go to the Chosen Seventeen?”

“Oh heck no! Wouldn’t that be weird? No, after the Chosen One, there are the Chosen Two. Who I have NOT met, but I am told are equally great. Well, I mean not EQUALLY great, obviously. They are only half as Chosen. But the two of them together are just as good as the Chosen One, and each on their own are still WAY better than an Un-See.”

“An Un-See?”

“Yeah, UnChosen. UnSee, for short.”

“So… after the Chosen Two, there are… ”

“Then the Chosen Three, the Chosen Five…”

“No Chosen Four?”

“What? No. Four isn’t a prime number.”

“Pri… but you said there were a Chosen Two?”

“Yeah. Two is prime. You… you weren’t paying attention in math class, were you?”

“Well I TRIED, but I kept having these weird daydreams about awful things happening to my friends.”

“Oh, yeah, the Fel Abstraction. That’s one of the powers of the Chosen Seventeen.”

“Oh. Ah, okay. What’s it good for?”

“I mean, not a lot. It’s an abstraction. Of fel things. Terrible things that could, theoretically happen, but probably won’t. Though I *am* told it’s good for coming up with lyrics to death metal songs.”

“I see. So I have vicious woolgathering?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Though that’s only ONE of your powers.”

“Uh-huh. And, tell me, am I one-seventeenth as useful and powerful as the Chosen One?”

Oh heck no. Not even close. You have one-seventeenth of her POTENTIAL, sure. But she’s 27 years old, we identified her when she was 9, she’s been trained by the greatest mystics and warriors most of her life, and she was granted the holy relic, the legendary blade Durandal.

“Where as I am 48, you JUST found me, and up til now I have been trained by a failing public school, two community colleges, and one Fast-Burger Shift Manager training Program.”

“Er… yeah. So you see how you are way, I mean WAY, less than one-seventeenth as potent as the Chosen One.”

“Do I even get a holy relic? Like, the Pope’s steak knife, or something?”

“You DO get a hold relic, if you complete your 90-day probationary period.”

“Great. Super. What holy relic?”

“Well, I mean, the weapons are mostly handed out to the Magnificent Eleven. You know, the Chosen One through the Chosen Five.”

“Sure. makes sense.”

“And the holy shields, gauntlets, and vambraces generally get divvied up among the Awesome Eighteen. Then…”

“Hey, one isn’t a prime number either!”

“Excuse me?”

You said there was no Chosen Four, because four isn’t prime. But neither is one. I do remember THAT form math class!”

“It’s not that all prime numbered groups of people are Chosen. It’s that there are ranks of Chosen, with the Chosen one at the top, and every tier UNDER that is eldritch potential divided among a prime number of people.”

“Why?

“Who the hell knows? Not my department. Anyway, you wanted to know about your relic?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Well, as the last of the Seventeen, you’re part of the Terrible Thirty…”

“Terrible as in terrible to behold?”

“Ah, no. More like “terrible twos,” to be honest. I mean, these aren’t official group designations but… look. While there ARE a Chosen Nineteen, and a Chosen Twenty-Three, by the time the eldritch potential is divided that thinly, it’s not a lot different from just being an UnSee. We don’t even recruit them, normally.”

“Really? Because one-seventeenth of being Chosen doesn’t seem to be that different from one-nineteenth of being Chosen.”

“You’re right. It’s not.”

“So… ah.”

“Yeah. Historically, most of the Chosen Thirteen are constantly bitching about how each of them is very nearly as good as one of the Chosen Eleven, but gets no respect, and most of the Chosen Seventeen are complaining no one takes them seriously. So, their Compeers–that is the people who train, advise, and direct them, like I am with you right now–their compeers generally find the Terrible Thirty–the Thirteens and Seventeens–are a huge pain in the ass to deal with.”

“So why bother?”

“Because if we don’t, the Bockshexe, Goulekon, or Nelapsi will recruit you. Any of those groups are bad enough without any decent amount of Chosen-ness to give them an edge. And the Terrible Thirty may often be worse than useless, but they do less damage as crappy heroes than augmented villains.”

“So a Seventeen is just potent enough to make preventing them from going Dark Side smart, while a Nineteen simply isn’t worth the effort? Awesome. Tremendous. What a glorious destiny I foresee. And my relic?”

“Oh, sorry! So the Thirteen get the  flops and pings..”

“The what?”

“My bad, that’s Compeer talk. They get the majority of the cloth and metal relics that aren’t arms or armor–cloaks, boots, rings, amulets, that kind of thing.”

“Uh-huh. And what, dare I ask, does that leave for a Seventeener?”

“You have the advantage of picking from a fairly large category of relics. We have more than seventeen of these, so even as the Last Seventeen, you’ll have a choice within the category.”

“Okay, swell. but what’s the category?”

“Holy Miscellany.”

“… Seriously?”

“Look, we don’t make holy relics. Not for centuries. So we have to make do with what we’ve found over the centuries. And some things just defy easy categorization. But like I said, we have a LOT of those, so…”

“Gimme an example.”

“What?”

“Miscellany doesn’t tell me much. So give me an example of some holy relics in that category.”

Well, okay. There are the Tablets of Destiny, stolen by Anzû the Demon Bird from Enlil and hidden on a mountainside. They offer dominion over all the things written within their divine law.”

“Er… wow. That’s amazing!”

“Yep! Of course they’re made of clay and are thousands of years old, so there are parts missing…”

“How much is missing?”

“More than 99% The remaining clay bits pretty much fit in a wallet now, and just give dominion over onions, cucumbers, adzes, bronze daggers, and clay tablets. Itself included.”

“Ah… well, okay. I an still see lots of uses for that.”

“Absolutely. It’s the most powerful of the Miscellany, so it’s always the first thing selected by a new generation of Seventeens.”

“Oh. I see. And I am the LAST Seventeen? So that’s been taken?”

“Oh, heck yeah. No, the Tablets are absolutely spoken for. But you wanted an example, so…”

“How about an example of things I could actually pick from?”

“Oh. Well, sure. I mean, they won’t be Tablets of Destiny…”

“My point exactly.”

“Well, okay. There is the Holy Door of Alexander the VI.”

“A door?”

“Yeah, I mean it’s not something you’re going to carry around with you, but you could have it installed in an RV or something. And when you walk through it, for 24 hours you gain the Borgia Sight”

“Great. Fantastic. And what does that do?”

“The next significantly bad thing that happens to you?”

“Yes?”

“You see how you could have avoided it.”

“But only after it happens?”

“Yeah, but that’s still some potent hindsight?”

“Okay, true. Not terrible. What else?”

“There’s the Iron Jiaozi. It’s a 900-year old paper bank note, which was used to pay a swordsman to kill a demon. Whoever last licked it has the power to always know how much a killer would require to kill someone for pay.”

“Only killers?”

“Yeah. Not just assassins, but anyone who has killed another person.”

“Righty. Grim, and weirdly specific. And I don’t think i want to lick thousand-year-old money. But I could see it being a huge help in the right situation. Gimme one more example.”

“There’s the Whitehall Chair. it was designed by Inigo Jones. Sitting in it allows you to sleep, no matter your condition, restfully and for exactly how long you wish.”

“No drawbacks?”

“Well… it’s a 85-pound chain. That just lets you sleep…”

“But it’s not sleep cursed with nightmares, or you snore loudly enough to wake the dead, or you end up with a weird crick in your neck?”

“Oh no. The sleep is always restful and fulfilling.”

“Great. Sign me up. I feel super Chosen.”

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A Beginning Is A Very Delicate Time

“We are locked in existential battle with the forces of Khernobog. Every living, thinking thing on the other side of the rivers and mountains wants us dead. Or worse.

“The Wards Majoris keep out most threats. More powerful creatures can burst through the wards, of course, but doing so takes time and sets off alarms. As long as our Princips aren’t busy elsewhere, they can respond to any such effort and prevent a breach.

“But more minor creatures are simply below the threat level the wards respond to. Sometimes those lesser forces of Khernobog gather in numbers large enough to be a significant danger. Generally they must take such armies through the fords or passes. Which is why there are keeps and castles there, manned with veterans who couldn’t stop a creature powerful enough to breach the wards, but can act in units to guard against incursions of massed minor threats.

“Of course, for them to respond quickly, they can’t stray too far from those routes, and they can only patrol so much territory beyond that. Smaller groups of minor creatures that can pass through the wards can sneak past the patrols, or move through rough terrain a whole army couldn’t negotiate.

“Such individuals and small bands are no danger to our lands as a whole. But that is no comfort to a father mourning a stolen child, or a wisewoman who loses her chickens.

“Those threats are minor, but no less threats, and someone must face them. Someday, perhaps, you will have the experience and power needed to guard the castles. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll even be a Prencip, and defend us from reality-altering powers of the enemy.

“But until then, we need you to form into small groups, and seek out those threats you can handle. Ensure that the patrols don’t have to abandon their posts, and the Princips are neither distracted nor out of position.

“It may seem minor, but this, too, is a great service to our lands.”

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Aberration Collective Nouns, A-Z

A list of 26 collective nouns for various aberrations. For those of you who find such things useful.

Not specifically designed for the Aberrant Empire… but clearly related to similar ideas.

An Ambush of Chuul
A Bushwack of Mimics
A Cacoethes of Intellect Devourers
A Drape of Cloakers
An Exlex of Gugs
A Flatus of Flumphs
A Grasp of Gricks
A Hybridization of Driders
An Iatrarchy of Mi-Go
A Jargon of Gibbering Mouthers
A Kakidrosis of Catoblepae
A League of Decampi
A Macropterous of Lurkers Above
A Noisome of Byakhees
An Origin of Aboleths
A Padrone of Incutilises
A Qanat of Delvers
A Rille of Moon-Beasts
A Strangle of Choakers
A Toadtality of Froghemoths.
An Umbraculum of Darkmantles
A Vafrous of Naga
A Web of Ettercaps_
A Xenagogue of Elder Things
A Yawp of Destrachans
A Zazzle of Carbuncles

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