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i is for immorality


he heme of immorali y was a fairly impor an one in he campaign.

[Hang on a sec. <poke> There, that's better.]

As I was saying, the theme of immortality became an important one in the campaign, particularly as character's stopped "adventuring" and returned to normal life (albeit a normal life that was probably quite different than the one they might have known before they started adventuring). For various reasons it seemed natural to occasionally jump the campaign anywhere from a couple of months to a millenia (although that only happened once) into the future, so that players could actually build stuff in game (like castles, communities, and even their very own dungeons), and actually see it develop. This had the benefit of tying the characters closely into the game world, but it also meant that the characters would eventually age and die. And when that starts happening, players tend to start looking at alternatives.

Some attempted a more prosaic immortality by producing great works. This could be physical, like carving the face of a mountain into, well, a face. Or intellectual. For example, the majority of the philosophy of the magic system was created by player-character magic-users investigating the processes by which magic worked. As such they developed new ways of using magic, and added a scientific rigour to the process. The texts that they wrote still, at the end of the campaign, form much of the basis of magical theory and are found in modern magical libraries.

Not surprisingly though, many of the players investigated other methods of never dying, and I just thought I'd comment on a number of them.

The most obvious was by indulging in the various forms of necromancy. These generally relied on the similarity of anima (that force which animates living creatures) and mana (that force that powers magic). After all, zombies and skeletons are dead bodies animated by mana, aren't they? So it should be possible to bind the anima of a living creature into some sort of object or location in the same manner. And so were born various types of unliving creatures (since they could not die). Greater Golems were one such, where instead of using mana to animate the golem the magic user transferred his own anima into an artificial golem body. [Incidentally this made a handy punishment, since you could also use the same process to transfer the anima of an unwilling creature into an immovable statue...] However if the golem body was destroyed, the anima would be released. The ultimate necromancy was binding your own living anima into your own body in order to create a Lich. A lich was indestructable. Even if chopped to pieces, burned to ash, and scattered to the four corners of the world, the lich would return to existence eventually. Although it may take tens of thousands of years. [One of the major bad-ass player-characters is due back in about another 16,000 years for exactly this reason, and I suspect he will be rather pissed about that. Although it is tempting to bring him back to a completely different world. Perhaps one were bunny rabbit write books...]. Needless to say, such necromantic processes were do or die attempts, where failure meant death with no saving throw or ressurection.

There were also a number of types of unliving creatures that could be created accidentally, such as a Ghost. Of course this required that death occur so suddenly that the character doesn't actually notice that they are dead.

In a semi-necromantic vein were the vampires. Now a True Vampire was actually a form of wraith (undead). The actual natural form of a true vampire was the vaporous spiritual form which rested in the chest of the corpse and emerged each night to feed. It would usually form the image of the original body, complete with the grave goods and clothing it had when it was buried (it took three days to gestate). [This is why true vampires are not given to undue reflection.] However this had the problem that the vampire was non-physical and couldn't travel further away than the spirit could fly from it's (usually) entombed corpse home.

But a magic-user could use necromantic abilities to drain the anima from victims (willing or unwilling), and then use this life force as a form of super-mana, regenerating damage, retarding aging, and even being used as a form of nutrition. And it felt sooo gooood. A character that bound this ability into themselves became a False Vampire. Of course, the side-effect was that the character's life processes would atrophy, until they could only survive by vampirism. As well as needing a new hit every so often, not just when it was physically needed. And anything that would cause instant death in a human, such as beheading or destruction of the heart or brain) would also (eventually) kill the false vampire.

The idea that dragons never die (they just keep growing), was attractive to some. And so were born the False Dragons, being permanently shapechanged magic-users. The only problem was that the new False Dragon was the same age as the mortal that it was created from, and thus would need to survive a few more centuries before becoming a power to truly reckoned with.

Sufficiently high level wizardry could be used to achieve immortality, but that would require the character to first become a wizard (most magic-users in the game are actually sorcerors), then be able to access the higher astral planes necessary to enact the ritual. Most speculate that True Immortality is effectively a 11th level ritual (the "Feel" of wizardry).

Finally there were a number of known immortals scattered about the campaign, although no one really investigated how they came to be. It was entirely possible that they weren't actually immortal, but just used the wizardry of Time Stop to travel through time at an accelerated rate. They might actually have been using chronomancy to travel through time itself. [It was known that chronomancy was possible, but extremely dangerous as the universe would edit any paradoxes out of existence by removing the offending magic user.]

However the most common form of immortality available to players was in creating a family to which one could leave their legacy to. It was often the case that players would karmically reincarnate within their own family line (even if their original character was still alive; karma is strange like that).

The players themselves were immortal and were perfectly entitled to remember the events of their past character lives. It was considered to be a form of karmic immortality and definitely voided causality.]


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2010 02:01 am (UTC)
When I read the title of this post I was immediately reminded of one of the first things I found online when I first got online, which was a home made guide to incorporating sex, drugs and alcohol in D&D campaigns.
Mar. 26th, 2010 02:58 am (UTC)

Well there was all that heritage of Italian sword and sandals epics to live down to. After all, one must be faithful to the source material of the genre, mustn't one? Especially the parts were you have nearly naked pleasure slaves draped around the throne. Important for setting the right atmosphere.

But you can rest assured that my campaign did indeed have a full pharmacopoeia of recreation pharmaceuticals (at least until the Goblin Wars*), quite a few brothels of both high and low degree (including one that was the home base for the main group of player-characters for a time), and a large selection of exotic wines and spirits. Beer, on the other hand, was never described in great detail since I never liked the stuff.

Although, compared to some of the games** I played in at the time, it was rather understated.

* The goblins were experts in potions and slave-trading. Often the two were rather closely connected, which is one of the reasons the goblin's activities actually came to light. They were also experts at transformation potions, and men and women who could afford their services often availed themselves of a little enhancement in certain areas. And well, the correct potions would also mean you got a better price for a slave and eliminate any pesky problems about the "slave" remembering who they were. And lesser value slaves could always be used as breeding stock for hobgoblins. Goblins, as I might have mentioned, were not very nice people.

** And I won't mention that Gorean campaign someone ran, or that time-travel trip that ended in Sodom and Gomorrah right before a certain vengeance was enacted for utter depravity (most of it apparently imported by time-travellers, it seems), and then there was that time... Ah, mammaries memories.

Mar. 30th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
I can see why the False Vampires merit that name, but what makes a False Dragon false if the shapechange is permanent? After they've lived their first few decades in draconic form, I'd have thought the squishy-mammal origin wouldn't really make much difference...
Apr. 9th, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)

Because False Dragons are made, not born.

A deeper reason is that it was generally a sorcerous ritual which was used to make the transformation, rather than wizardry, and that it is almost impossible to change the essential nature of a thing with sorcery. Thus the false dragon remains a human who has been transformed into a dragon, and why any children born of a union between false and true dragons (or false and false dragons for that matter, although that experiment was never tried in the campaign), results in a true dragon. The bodies breed true but the anima doesn't.

And "what can be done with sorcery can be undone with sorcery" was one of the earliest developed laws of magic. This sort of thing is fundamental in how illusions work. They are real, and may even be permanent, but can always be dispelled. In a sense, all magic is illusionary.

Of course the Solar and Lunar Dragons might break that paradigm because they are creations of wizardry which can affect a true change, or if powerful enough true creation (such as that which created the dragons [and the trees, rocks, and horses, and people, and... in the first place]). Even I didn't know what the result of the Golden Emperor's grand experiment was going to be. So like all good dungeonmasters of the time I constructed a table and rolled. His daughter, despite being born of two Solar Dragons, was a human being hatched from an egg. Except she wasn't, because she was something entirely new to the world. She had a dragonsoul and [looks around to see if any of the old players are looking] was a true immortal, because she was never part of the compact with Death at the Beginning Of Everything. Despite looking like an extremely attractive human being (although she almost seemed to glow in the sun*).

I honestly don't know if I would have had all such births form this way, or have male births be dragon-bodied and human souled, or roll randomly each time. But the experiment was never repeated, as the (player character) Emperor was dismayed by his inability to form a lineage of actual dragons to rule the Empire of the Sun, and probably dismayed that his (other player character) daughter ran away to become the Queen of the Orcs [well, ok, she was rescued from an assassination attempt on her 16th birthday by a group of orcs,** and amused them so much she became that tribe's Queen and things kind of escalated...]

Besides they were all powerful magic users, so I don't think the idea of squishing things really came all that naturally to them, even though they were wearing dragon bodies.

* I said glowed, not glittered.

** Orcs are more akin to barbarians and are in fact the not so educated but very strong and tough neanderthal cousins of humans in my game.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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