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Lavinia in Adastra
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"How does Ritualist of the Congress compare to Sensualist along axes other than the reward?"

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There is power in sex. Mind, body, and spirit all strive together. The Ritualist of the congress recognizes that oneness can be leveraged.

The Ritualist of the congress is forged from Celebration and Striving. It's an Icon that uses sex as ritual, and ritual as power. As far as practices go, it's not the most powerful ritual caster, but it may be the most efficient. There are practical limitations to the size of the rituals they can put together that other paths might not face. The purity and unity of the ritual method they use means that many of the traditional ways of boosting ritual magic are closed to them.

But at the same time, they can raise more energy per participant in their rituals than most icons, and they need little to no ritual paraphernalia. Their preparations are minor, and external factors like astrological influences are non-existent. Some rites do use props, but they're optional, and more to get people going than an actual requirement.

They also can draw from more sources than most ritualists, meaning that they aren't restricted to other magic users to act as ritual helpers. They not only draw upon magic, but orgone, spirit, Glamour, and psychic will, and spend it all on their ritual castings. If other forces are discovered, it's quite possible that they could unify them into their rituals as well.

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Where the Ritualist of the Congress sees power in sex, the Sensualist is focused on how that power is generated. The body raises energy, brings itself fully to bear, and in a more constructive way than in battle or struggle.

The Sensualist is forged from celebration and discipline, contradictory forces, and it yokes the body's celebration of life. While most Orgone masters cultivate a smooth flow of energy, generating and directing it at the same moment, the Sensualist first raises it into a river though sensation, then bottles it up through technique. They raise their energy at times of rest, and then block it up, trapping its potential. If a Practitioner directs a small stream, a Sensualist has a lake.

While building up and damming their personal energy can be done through self-stimulation, a Sensualist can perform greater feats with cooperation. Ritualistic sexual practices are used to raise energy in a collective effort.

To the Sensualist, the sexual act becomes technical, some acts raising energy, others flavoring it, holding it back until it's ready, and then releasing it in a rush to flow into a meridian or their primary lake of energy.

These practicalities can exceed the participants' own Level of Existence. Such expenditure can not be dynamically controlled, so they instead knot the Orgone into powerful techniques through their sensual methods, before cutting those knots loose and sinking them into their meridians in orgasmic releases.

Once created, those knotted techniques can remain stable for months, and even a young Sensualist may have a dozen of such knots ready to rampage free, while older ones may drown their theoretical peers in a downpour of power. Such displays may take weeks or months to rebuild, but that's little comfort to the dead.

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"Can you explain more about Lady and Circle of Towers Druid?"

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The Lady (or Lord) Icon is born from Striving and Want. Their nature is to be wanted, and to want. To seek and be sought. And they can empower both to happen. The foundation of their power is in need. This happens in two ways.

The first is invested. They can invest their hunger, and so actions that fulfill that hunger can borrow the will behind it. This can be done broadly by edicts, locally by commands, or internally by decisions. As they focus their Want, their will permeates their subjects. Their will acts as a carrier for their own spirit, bringing their Aspects to bear upon their declared intentions.

On the other hand, they can wield they can also wield hunger by embodying it. They can embody desire, and be desired. They can embody purpose, and become other people's purpose. They can fill the holes in other people's hearts with themselves and their ambitions, and they can raise hunger as to make such holes. Their unifying strength truly is one of the ways advance civilization can come about, one hunger driving all.

As their will invests in others, and as others invest in them, sympathy is formed. Through sympathy, they can borrow Want, Hunger, and Will. Through this, they can take strength from organizations they are a part of, and groups they lead.

Particularly strong bonds can let them focus their strength through an agent, letting that agent borrow their power when they act with their will. The traditional way to do this is through family - a prince speaking his mother's commands, or a princess borrowing her father's strong arm. Bonds of blood are always easy, and easily come strongly, but this will work through other bonds.

Not all Nobles are Ladies or Lords, but the Icon is common among them, and rare everywhere else. Binding an Icon does require some sympathetic connection to its nature, at least normally.

The Hero Summoning Ritual is a way of overcoming that barrier in the most dramatic fashion possible. With it, there is not a single problem with you achieving this Icon. It will create assumptions among any who don't know you're a summoned hero, but those assumptions could be useful.

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Civilization traps and dams the cycles of nature. The very word 'dam' comes from such techniques.

Born from Aspiration and Discipline, the Circle of Towers Druid follows a heterodoxical path towards mastering the external flow of Orgone. Rather than join with nature, they dam the flow of Orgone and use that dam to control the absurd chaos of the natural flow. The Circle of Towers Druids raise their dams, and then 'solidify' those dams through internalizing it as a personal Aspect. They call these aspects their Towers.

Tower Raising follows two paths, the path of artifice, and the path of congress.

Artifice is what it sounds like. The Druid will lay down roads, dam rivers, build homes, and otherwise control the natural world. With their Icon Aspects, they'll bind themselves to their works, use those works to dam and direct the flow of Orgone, and then solidify that dam into Personal Aspects.

The Path of Congress leverages people instead of works. Life is always part of the flow of nature. By forming sympathetic connections to others, they can be used as levers and pulleys to shift the flow of Orgone, and then solidify those levers into personal aspects.

The simplest form of connection can be formed through sex, a stronger one through any children you have, and the strongest connection by far is from a mother to the child in her own womb. Many of these connections can be leveraged to form further connections. A Circle of Towers Druid might leverage her connection to a lover to connect to her lover's blood family, and from their blood family to those people's lovers. Woman have some advantage here - while the personal cost is higher, their metaphysical connection to their children is also more easily leveraged.

Alternatively, these dams or levers can be spent on ritual techniques that can affect vast territories.

All connections, whether Artifice or Congress fade eventually. Children eventually become their own people, towns gain their own character, lovers forget you. This does not damage or reduce the Aspects the Druid has formed, but they must either rebuild old connection or build new ones if they wish to continue to forge new Aspects.

The Circle of Towers Druid is one of the Icons that can perform beyond their Ascension. The cost of this is that their Icon Aspects are largely devoted toward building personal aspects, rather than being useful in and of themselves.

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"What about Artificer?"

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From knapping stone to forging steel, from sleds to ornithopter, from crude sacrifice to forging Icons, technology is the mark of civilization.

Born from Aspiration and Curiosity, the Artificer touches both the sublime law of magic and the absurd chaos of the natural flow of nature. As such, they are an Icon of both Magic and Orgone.

Whether forging impossible alloys, building constructs, or crafting wondrous engines, artificers have both a strong and persistent power.

They are one of the Icons that can call forth powers beyond their ascension, and in this matter they only have equals, none are better than them. Still, like most such Icons, there is a limit on such things - and theirs is the cost and time to craft such wonders.

Their great weakness is in how they externalize their power. Their aspects either focus on crafting, or are levered through their crafting. Their techniques and spells are operated through a device rather than unleashed or cast directly.

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"That one. I want that one." 

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"Very well. Your next choice is in the matter of Dream Seeds."

"As I mentioned before, it's possible for you to have resources directed to you to give you a stronger start. The cost of this is that you align yourself more strongly with the goals of the project by taking on the seeds of a dream."

"Of course, it isn't really possible to mind control a Hero, and we aren't going to try to cheat our way past that immunity. Even if we didn't fail, the bitterness it would cause could... well, I respect the destructive power of Heroes."

"But a Hero can influence themselves."

"We aren't asking you for anything dramatic, any great change of priority. These each are the seeds of a dream. If you agree to absorb one of these, then in some small way, it will become one of your dreams. Not your most important one, but something that draws your interest, appeals to you."

"Over time, you'll find yourself making choices to make these dreams happen. It won't put these accepted dreams above your greater ambitions... but it will be there."

 

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"Color me intrigued. I assume these Seeds also provide some concrete benefit." 

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"Every dream seed you accept buys you one additional Gift. Your options are: the safety of others, change, a legacy, exploration, a home, industry, discovery, stability, companionship, love, children, and one that will heighten your general level of ambition and make you less content with modest success."

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"--What happens if I take a Dream Seed that covers something I already want?"

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"Your affinity for that dream will be strengthened, though not as much as if you had previously had no interest in it."

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"Give me 'children' and 'the safety of others' and we can revisit the question of if I want more than that after I see the gifts." 

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"Very well. We now come to the matter of your corporeal form."

"As I said earlier, the Idealization Process will create an idealized form for you, but the fact of the matter is that most people don't truly have a single ideal body or look. It's possible to pin down more precisely the form you will come to take."

"If you trust your subconscious and the magics at work, there's no need to bother with this, but the option is open."

"The only decision you truly need to make is your species. If you wish to, you may leave the tribe of humankind. Elves, Beastkin, and more walk the lands of Adastra. Such a transformation will require you to be fortified with the natural Aspects of that Tribe, which for the more powerful Tribes comes with a cost denominated in Gifts."

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...Well. 

"If that's something I can spend gifts on, I expect to take more Dream Seeds. Tell me about species." 

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"Remaining human costs 0 Gifts."

"Becoming an Elf costs 2 Gifts. Elves are a physically and mentally idealized race, created by the gods to live perfect lives."

"Becoming a Gnome costs 1 Gift. Gnomes are physically small but long-lived, and mentally very creative and flexible."

"Becoming a Tiefling costs 1 Gift. Tieflings are a Tribe of devils who have rejected their evil origins and are physically and magically powerful."

"Becoming one of most of the many varieties of Beastwomen costs 1 Gift. Beastwomen have physical abilities enhanced in a way that depends on their animal heritage, and sometimes mental changes as well."

"Becoming a Kumiho costs 3 Gifts. Kumiho are born of foxes and Elves, with an innate cruel cleverness, a gift for Glamour, and a bad reputation."

"Becoming a Dragonblood costs 3 Gifts. Dragonblood are an elite Beastwomen Tribe, designed to be physically and magically powerful, long-lived, with advantages at becoming immortal and four innate Aspects."

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"Are the actual tribes called beast-or-whatever women specifically, or are you just using that language because I'm going to be a woman." 

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The interface would sound puzzled if it was capable of emotion. "There are male and female members of each Beastwomen Tribe. Beastwomen is a generic term that encompasses both genders and all possible animal Aspects."

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Thaaaaaat's going to take some getting used to. Not that Lavinia objects to the ambient linguistic sexism going the other way, just. It's new. 

"Is there a downside to being Dragonblooded, or an upside to being Kumiho, that I'm missing? Because they cost the same but Dragonblooded just sounds better." 

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"The costs of the Tribes are not intended to balance the benefits to you, but to balance the cost in magic of converting you into a member of that Tribe."

"One of the few Beastmen tribes born of elves, and having all the elves gifts and more the Kumiho gain fox-aspect the fortifies their perfection with a kind of innate cruel cleverness. Elves have a natural affinity for glamour, but that's usually expressed internally inside their own mind, or to craft enchanted goods. The Kumiho can combine it with their fox-aspect to easily be leveraged into illusions and into enchantments that call upon the cycles of the natural world, using glamour shaped by cleverness to take on other forms for a time, or to invoke natural disasters."

"The Kumiho are born at a level of existence of 7, and generally reach 9 by adulthood. They grow up somewhat faster than elves. If you become a Kumiho, part of the energy taken by this transformation will be spent raising your level of existence. Kumiho need a level of existence of at least 17 to have healthy fertility."

"Kumiho have a bad reputation, one they've well earned. They are naturally cruel and duplicitous. But they were key in breaking the Nightmares, and driving their forces to Carilyis, before we snuffed out their sun."

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"An elite beastmen tribe born from the tribe of humans and the dragons, the Dragonblooded are a powerful race. They have aspects of 'power' that express themselves generally, aspects of 'physicality' that reinforce their bodies, aspects of 'enduring' that let them shrug off harm, and aspects of 'dragons' that give them elemental, physical, and magical power and weight. They are intense and potent. Dragons are the only race as refined in their making as the elves, but while elves were crafted to have perfect lives, dragons were crafted to be living weapons of destruction. Dragons are largely thought of as an immortal race, but they aren't like the elves, born immortal. Dragonbloods inherit this."

"Dragonbloods are long lived and are slow to reach physical maturity."

"Dragonbloods are born at the tenth level of existence, and reach the twelfth by adulthood. If you become a dragonsblood, part of the energy taken by this transformation will be spent raising your level of existence. Dragonsbloods need a level of existence of at least 19 to have healthy fertility."

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"Alright. I pick Dragonblood." 

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"Very well. Your current selections leave you with six Gifts. If you have, or would like to form, particular preferences about your physical appearance, you may take a few minutes to contemplate the matter. Otherwise, the templating process will draw on your subconscious concept of your ideal form."

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