Thursday, 30 July 2015

Denizens of the Wicked City 7: The Blighted and the Adepts of the Diamond Mind (Ultralight rules for psychic PCs!)

Among all the children of men, it was common knowledge that some people were just born unlucky. They possessed freakish, uncontrollable gifts; flashes of insight into the minds of others, random glimpses into the past and future, the curse of the evil eye. There was little that could be done with such individuals; they congregated in the waste grounds on the edge of settlements, consulted by the unhinged and the desperate, as often as not driven mad themselves by the things they had seen and heard. Those with the mental strength to weather their curse sometimes acquired fame as witches, but even they seldom had any but the vaguest control over their powers. These unfortunates were known as the Blighted.

You'll know 'em when you see 'em...

One day, it so happened that an initiate of the Order of the Stone stayed in a Blighted encampment. Impressed by his lack of fear, and by the fortitude with which he weathered the ascetic ordeals of his Order, one of the inhabitants begged him to take her with him as a novice; for she had learned that suffering was unavoidable, and longed only to be able to encounter her ordeals with the same serenity with which she saw him face his own. She served a long and gruelling apprenticeship, made even harder by the curse with which she contended; but she persevered, and as she did so she discovered something remarkable. By adapting the meditative techniques of the Order of the Stone, she was able to develop a methodology for holding her curse at bay, and even bending it to her will; and this methodology she called the Diamond Mind.

Now calling herself the Sage of the Diamond Mind, the woman returned to her old companions and tried to share her wisdom with them. Most of them proved incapable of mustering the necessary mental fortitude and concentration; but a few succeeded, and they became her first disciples. Wandering from land to land, they taught their secrets to others of the Blighted, men and women desperate to be free of their curse; and so the Order of the Diamond Mind was born.

The laws of the Diamond Mind were simple, but extremely rigorous. Mind and body had to be strictly trained; emotions, desires, and fears were all subject to the firmest control. Like the Elemental Orders on whom they modelled themselves, the Disciples of the Diamond Mind lived lives of extreme simplicity, cultivating a state of perfect concentration, shunning stimulants and intoxicants, and ruthlessly suppressing every urge of flesh or spirit which might threaten to lead them astray. Many male Disciples even went so far as to castrate themselves, in order to free themselves from at least some of their bodily desires. For the successful, however, the rewards were rich: not just freedom from the curse of unwanted and incomprehensible knowledge, but the ability to control their powers, seeing into the minds of men and bending the world to their will. Today, almost anyone who is born Blighted will at least attempt to become one of the Disciples of the Diamond Mind, even if less than half of them ultimately succeed; and the Disciples themselves are to be found in many offices of high honour, serving as advisers to kings and magistrates for whom their insights are more valuable than gold.


The Curse and the Cure: Being Blighted can happen to anyone, and usually manifests at adolescence. On average about one person in a thousand will be afflicted in this way, although some populations seem to have dramatically higher rates of affliction, for no reason that anyone has been able to adequately explain. As mentioned above, these days the first thing most people do upon realising that they are Blighted is to seek out the nearest Diamond Mind adept and beg for training, so most Blighted individuals that the PCs are likely to encounter will fall into one of three categories: inhabitants of remote areas with no way of getting Diamond Mind training (and possibly no knowledge that it even exists), Blighted adolescents roaming from town to town searching desperately for a Diamond Mind adept to train them, or drop-outs who lacked the self-control to complete their Diamond Mind training and have now resigned themselves to miserable lives on the fringes of civilisation. The third category will mostly consist of characters with Wisdom 9 or lower.

Every Blighted character has a Psychic Instability score, which is rolled on 1d6. (Some exceptionally severely Blighted individuals can have even higher scores, but this is rare.) Whenever a Blighted character experiences fear, anger, or stress, they must pass a WILL save or experience an uncontrollable psychic outburst. (Characters who have had even basic Diamond Mind training receive a +1 bonus to this saving throw. Very extreme emotions or stresses might impose penalties, at the GM's option.) If an outburst occurs, roll 1d6, add their Psychic Instability score, and consult the table below. If a 6 is rolled, then put the dice aside, roll another 1d6, and add this to the total; keep doing this until you either stop rolling sixes or your cumulative total rises to 25 or higher, at which point a Psychic Holocaust occurs and you can stop rolling because everyone's probably dead.

Oh, crap.

Note that any result of 10 or higher will be attended by phenomena which make it very obvious who is responsible: the Blighted character may bleed from their eyes, levitate off the ground, be surrounded by a miniature telekinetic whirlwind, or similar effects. Catastrophic psychic outbursts, leading to the deaths of one or more people, are often immediately followed by the lynching of the Blighted individual responsible.

Psychic Outburst Table

Roll + PI
Result


2-4
Bad vibes. Everyone within 50' suddenly feels very jumpy and uncomfortable, and will seize upon any excuse to leave and go somewhere less creepy.
5-7
Very bad vibes. Everyone within 50' starts feeling mildly nauseous, and is filled with a sense of creeping dread. If they don't have a good reason for hanging around, they will leave the area as quickly as possible.
8-9
Minor telekinetic incident. A random fragile object within 30' - a window, jar, etc - suddenly shatters as though from a violent blow.
10
The horrors. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they are suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of horror and dread; they must make a WILL save or flee the area as fast as possible, and suffer a -2 penalty to all rolls until they've had a chance to spend several hours calming down. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect.
11
Telekinetic incident. All fragile objects within 30' shatter simultaneously. If there are a lot of them, nearby characters may need to pass a REF save or take 1d3 damage from flying fragments.
12
Mental blow. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they must make a WILL save or take 1d6 damage and be stunned for 1d6 rounds by a sudden psychic blow. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect.
13
Telekinetic slap. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they are suddenly hit by a wave of telekinetic force; they take 1d6 damage (no save) and are sent sprawling. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect.
14
Nightmare wave. As 'The Horrors' (see 10, above), but affects everyone within 100'.
15
Major telekinetic incident. Every inanimate object within 30' reacts as though some has just hit it with a hammer: glass breaks, wood bends, metal is dented, and so on. All living creatures within this radius take 1d2 damage. (This will kill most small animals.)
16
Sensory deprivation. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they must pass a WILL save or be struck deaf and blind for 1d6 hours. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect.
17
Psychic storm. Waves of psychic energy roll outward from the Blighted individual; everyone within 50' must make a FORT save or be knocked flying, taking 1d3 damage. Unsecured objects will be hurled about with great force. If this occurs within a populated area, assume a 10% death rate within the affected zone.
18
Telekinetic crush. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they are lifted off the ground by an unseen force which begins to crush the life out of them. They immediately take 1d4 damage; each subsequent round, they must attempt a FORT save to break free. If they fail, they take another 1d4 damage and are immobilised for another round. Keep rolling each round until they either escape or die. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect. This effect will kill most ordinary people.
19
Brain-melter. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they must make a WILL save or suffer 2d8 damage. If this damage is enough to kill them, their brains liquefy and pour out of their ears, which is really gross. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect. This effect will kill most ordinary people.
20
Telekinetic detonation. Hundreds of inanimate objects within 30' explode violently and simultaneously into shards, rags, or splinters. Everyone within this area must make a REF save to throw themselves prone; if they fail, they take 1d6 damage. (In a heavily-cluttered area, this damage might increase to 1d8 or even higher.) If this occurs in a populated area, assume a 25% death rate within the affected zone.
21
Mass sensory deprivation. As sensory deprivation (see 16, above), but affects everyone within 100'.
22
Head-burster. If the person responsible for causing the Blighted character's emotion is nearby, they must make a WILL save or suffer 3d10 damage. If this damage is enough to kill them, their head explodes. If they're not nearby, someone else at random within 100' suffers the same effect. This effect will kill most ordinary people.
23
Psychic hurricane. Every sentient being within 50' of the Blighted individual feels powerful psychic forces clawing at their minds, trying to tear their psyche to shreds. Anyone who fails a WILL roll takes 1d10 damage and can do nothing except roll around screaming for the next 1d6 rounds. If this occurs in a populated area, assume a 50% death rate within the affected zone.
24
Nightmare plague. Every sentient being within 100' must make a WILL save or spend the next 2d6 hours suffering grotesque and terrifying hallucinations. Sufferers will flee, screaming, in a random direction, totally regardless of their own safety. Anyone trying to stop or restrain them will be seen as a nightmare-monster and attacked with lethal force.
25+
Psychic holocaust. Every sentient being within 100' must make a WILL save or suffer 3d10 damage as blood vessels burst within them. Anyone killed by this damage explodes into bloody ruin, painting everything around them red with blood and gore. (If this occurs within a populated area, simply assume a 75% death rate within the affected zone.) The Blighted individual collapses into a coma for 1d6 days, and permanently increases their Psychic Instability by 1.

Blighted characters are not usually suitable as player characters (unless you want to be very unpopular with the other players, but you may play a Diamond Mind Adept if you wish. Playing one requires Intelligence and Wisdom 12 or higher. Use the following game information:

  • You can only use simple weapons, and cannot use shields, or any armour heavier than heavy leather (AC +3).
  • You get 1d4 HP per level.
  • You gain a +2 bonus to WILL saves. (Included in table below.)
  • You gain a bonus to all attack rolls (melee, ranged, and psychic) equal to one-half of your level, rounded down.
  • You must keep your emotions ruthlessly restrained at all times. If you ever allow yourself to behave in an emotional or impassioned manner, you must immediately make a WILL save. If you fail, roll on the Psychic Outburst table above as though you had a Psychic Instability of 1.
  • At will, you can perform feats of telekinesis on nearby objects (maximum range 10' + 5' per level.) For as long as you stand still and devote your entire concentration to moving the object with your mind, it moves around as though it was being lifted by someone whose Strength and Dexterity were equal to your Wisdom and Intelligence, respectively. This movement is slow, and cannot usually be used to make attacks. You can move a number of objects equal to your level, but you must divide your total psychic ‘strength’ amongst them: so a third-level Adept with Wisdom 12 could move two objects as though each was being moved by someone with Strength 6, or three as though each was being moved by someone with Strength 4.
  • At will, you can launch a psychic attack on a nearby target by directly striking at their mind, inflicting 1d6 damage. Subtract their WILL save number from 25: this is their effective AC against this attack. You may apply your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to both the attack roll and damage roll.
  • By looking directly at someone and concentrating, you may attempt to read their surface thoughts. They will be subconsciously aware that you are doing this, and may resist it by making a WILL save; if they pass, you take 1d3 damage from psychic feedback and cannot attempt to read their mind again that day. Otherwise, you are aware of their surface thoughts for as long as you maintain concentration and they remain in your visual range.
  • Once you have established telepathic contact with someone by reading their surface thoughts, you may silently project messages to them at will, and 'read' their responses from the surface of their minds. You may also attempt to tamper with their mind, by implanting an idea or emotion, or by erasing or modifying a memory. They always get a WILL save to resist this, and the GM can grant bonuses to their WILL roll based on the extent of your attempted mental meddling; if they pass, you take 1d6 damage from psychic feedback and cannot attempt to read their mind again that day. If they fail, then the modified idea, memory, or emotion is implanted, and they will believe it to be their own. Doing this will leave telepathic markers which will be clearly visible to any other Adept who reads their mind while your changes are in effect, allowing them to identify which memories, emotions, etc have been artificially implanted by another psychic. (Wise kings get themselves scanned daily!)

Diamond Mind Summary Table

Level
Hit Points
To Hit Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
1
1d4
+0
14
14
12
2
2d4
+1
13
13
11
3
3d4
+1
12
12
10
4
4d4
+2
11
11
9
5
5d4
+2
10
10
8
6
6d4
+3
9
9
7
7
7d4
+3
8
8
6
8
8d4
+4
7
7
5
9
9d4
+4
6
6
4
10
10d4
+5
5
5
3

Starting equipment: Long traveller's coat (treat as buff jacket, +2 AC), staff (1d6 damage), tiny icon of the Sage of the Diamond Mind, humourless expression, 3d6 x10 sp.

2 comments:

  1. Running some numbers, upsetting a blighted has about a 1 in 500 chance of causing a psychic holocaust, and some of the less-unlikely things are nearly as bad. I'm not sure a "blighted encampment" would have been a thing, at least not for very long...

    I kind of suspect that blighted who failed to learn diwould be driven out of their communities and end up living alone as crazed wild-men

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    Replies
    1. Well, they get a saving throw... but, yes, they absolutely would be driven out of their communities, because it's just too dangerous to keep them around. I imagine them gathering together more out of loneliness than anything else.

      As for the encampments, I'd guess that the Blighted try *very, very hard* not to upset one another, and that they all go around being weirdly polite and cautious all the time. Also that they probably build their miserable little shacks more than 100' apart, so as to be out of range of one another's psychic outbursts. Under these conditions - and given that the emotional trigger needs to be something fairly severe, not just any fleeting or trivial sense of anger or fear - they should be able to survive without losing *too* many of their own to exploding head syndrome in any given year...

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