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Maybe. The way I see it, the biggest non-redspacing tier terrible thing you can do to someone that I can imagine is if total body annihilation was a cursed wound so it takes really long for them to reconstitute(edit: If they can do it at all without help)

Even if your adversary doesn't know your immortality flaw or can't use it:

You can lose time recovering from cursed wounds/seeking out a trained healer
You can be mentally traumatized by curse induced mental trauma and possibly redspaced or subjected to another fate worse than death
You can lose face/reputation
You can lose whatever material possessions you had on you
Your enemy can get a hair or blood sample they can use to exploit your alchemy or arete based immortality flaw.

As I'm perceiving things from a narrative/fluff standpoint right now, combat between immortals is about injuring them beyond the ability to act or heal from in a combat relevant timeframe. From there, you do whatever it was you intended to do. Take them prisoner by some method X I can't currently fathom/exploit their immortality flaw/take their stuff/etc.

Depending on their traditions, this may be incredibly difficult or take an extremely long time. Someone with just Transsubstantiation would be easy to mission kill, someone with the Calling might still be able to act even if you decapitate them. Normal wounds are a thing but anybody fighting seriously should be going for cursed wounds or curse induced mental trauma if they can. Dismemberment, incineration, and other such things are strongly encouraged in pursuit of mission killing your enemy.

Is there some part of the picture I'm missing or do you want to throw something in to make combat less of an in universe slogfest?

Edit: Just realized you already answered that with your talk of making magical assaults a bigger threat with an inversion beam type weapon.

I've been running a playtest for SsA on a weekly-ish basis. We've got a Sovereign, a Diadem citizen, a Hearth-Kin who's part of the Explorers Society, and a kung-fu battle-angel Ægis shieldbearer.

One thing that's come up is that there has been very little actual danger to the characters. Part of that is my fault - I'm not escalating things as much as I could be - but part of it is that there is less in the universe that's dangerous to the characters as compared with Sufficiently Advanced. This is a result of multiple overlapping sets of protection: Self's defense against outright death-magic, War making it easier to ward against more vicious attacks than against subtler ones, and, of course, immortality.

Odds are I'm going to change this. At the very least I need to write a bit of "How to endanger your PCs" advice, but I also likely need to make magical assaults a bigger threat. SA has inversion beams; SsA doesn't have an equivalent to that right now.

What kind of skill would it take to give somebody augments that take their nature above 3? Artist(Tattoos) seems like one of them. I think I just realized another one. Healer. Surgically enhancing people to raise their natures. Implantation of reagents and other such things. It seems like that might be on a line between Healer and Theurge(Relevant fount) though.

I got this inkling about Unroyal naming convention and what it says about them as a society. Giving
everybody deednames(not sure if there's a better or more specific term) suggests their society is one where it is not just important to do things, but that people know the things you've done. Gloryseeking is strongly encouraged. Considering they probably need subtlety, it would be interesting to think about how they balance gloryseeking with the needs of spywork and sparking revolutions.

Unroyal deednames may have common ground with the Roman Cognomen/Agnomen.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognomen

There are two pairs of hallmarks that seem redundant.

Symbols of their principles
Jewelry and tattoos that represent their beliefs

Weather foretells the future
Wind and thunder presage danger

Dealing with defeated foes is something that probably is going to vary from culture to culture. That doesn't mean it's not an open question.

Let's assume people aren't in a position to exploit the soldiers immortality flaws assuming they're known.

Ideas(Not mutually exclusive, people may mix and match):

1. The losing side is mission killed. Everyone who hasnt disconnected gets injuries that take days or weeks to heal. Dismemberment, decapitation, total body incineration, etc.
2. The losing side disconnects from war.
3. The losing side is taken prisoner… somehow. Unsure how practical that is.
4. The losing side yields their gear to the winners.
5. The losing side is red spaced. Unsure how practical that is.
6. The losing side commits mass suicide to avoid being red spaced or otherwise being imprisoned and tortured.
7. The losing side is trapped in a wide area time loop or other such incapacitating environment.

Woot! Glad you came up with your own rework though I haven't been able to seriously ponder it yet. If it took too much longer I might have actually gotten my own brainstorming into a full civilization style write-up. I'm getting my current concept here to get it out of my system.

My reworked Unroyal would have fled into the caves beneath the former Royal lands after their Chaos Magic fueled revolution turned Royal territory into something resembling the Zone from Stalker or the Wyld from Exalted. They get underground cities going, have adventurers seeking their fortunes gathering chaotic artifacts, work out ways of piping in sunlight from the surface, etc. Eventually because Let None Rule You and the Key of Courage running on people believing in things, they have a civil war that probably has something to do with the Key of Courage, descending into factionalism. The combination of the war and rolechanging baked intelligence agency level paranoia into Unroyal society and helped them become good at spy work and subversion. They used their skill in the intelligence profession going forward after it, with various factions of the Unroyal looking outward and kicking off/backing revolutions all over the basin due to their anti-tyrant worldview, frequently masquerading as citizens of other Civilizations or obscure unruly lands they learned the magics of to hide their true identities. At the starting point of 400 years after the gift, the foreign meddling is controversial, there are Unroyal groups who think the campaigns of subversion are kicking up unnecessary suffering or that they've become tyrants too or something.

X meets Y Terminology: Heroic Drow elves and/or Naruto style hidden villages, meets Stalker Shadow of Chernobyl, meets the circular firing squads of internet political arguments, with shades of Cold War imperialism/proxy wars/America.

Why Underground?: Because the Basin's magic being friendly to secret underground bases was on my mind. Also it gives them potential as a face for any anti Those Above Schemes involving Basement lines.

Edit: The Unroyal being intelligence agency level paranoid also enables them to produce deceptive mana fairly easily for use as fuel for wild magic and as a side way of making mana for themselves.

After some discussion on this board, I've decided to give the Unroyal an overhaul. I don't know whether they were critically flawed, but they were flawed enough to fix, and that's the important part.

The core of Unroyal civilization is:

  • Their origin story as the former slaves of an abusive royal magical bloodline.
  • Related to that: the "Let none rule you" CV.
  • Their central problem: being single-issue voters, that issue being "no tyrants."
  • Related to that: their difficulty recognizing other issues as valid.

I did some brainstorming today, treating the rest of their culture as either things that needed to go, or things that were present but not central and thus could be thrown out. The latter category included their status as a civilization (rather than a society), their status as nomads, their physical appearance, their activist approach, and other items.

Below is the revised version of the Unroyal civilization, which keeps my favorite parts about them while hopefully removing some problematic elements and giving them a more unique niche. The first three paragraphs are nearly the same as before; interesting changes start in paragraph 4. No real changes to Traditions or Benefit.


The Unroyal

History

Long ago, in a distant part of the Kaleidoscope, a powerful family had magical powers that they used to enslave a hundred thousand people. They walked from world to world through wild magic zones and nightmarish Dream Realms, so that their captives found the outside world horrible and dangerous. They stole their slaves' freedom, their dignity, and sometimes even their very thoughts, all so that they could live in luxury. They called themselves the Royals.

Then, one glorious day, their reign ended. Thousands of people snapped out of mind control. Tens of thousands more drank the wild magic like cold pure water and rained angry fire on their oppressors. Some of the Royals no doubt escaped, but their control had been broken, and the so-called "common folk" were free. Free, and surging with unexpected and uncomprehended power.

They banded together and named themselves The Unroyal in defiance of their former rulers. Slowly they learned the magic of their oppressors in addition to their own, turning it to righteousness and introspection rather than excess and domination. After decades of seeking through the Dream Realms, they returned home to their own world, the Great Basin of humanity. There they found a new homeland, where they worked to end the Interregnum. They worked to teach love and respect, to sue for freedom when they could and fight for it when they could not, so that no one would ever suffer what they had.

Unlike the Hearth-Kin, the Unroyal have been back in the Basin for over three hundred years already. They've had time to sculpt a homeland - but they haven't done it in the Basin. Instead, they've done it in the Dream Realms. They find worlds that share their goals and partner with them. They bring oppressed people out of the most dangerous parts of the Kaleidoscope, and into the safety of dream worlds like Kharadesh of the Unbroken Mind, Murathame: Orphan's Respite, or U'tu the Peasant's Glorious Sunrise. In less persecuted lands, they help to build up infrastructure, teach sorcery, and enable self-reliance.

Because their civilization's heart is located beyond the physical world, much of the Unroyal's technology is focused on things they can bring with them into the Basin. The most common devices are relics and enchanted objects that funnel wild magic or represent their beliefs. Most of their magical infrastructure is emotionally oriented, using elemental resonances or glorious transubstantiation to cross the gap between the physical and the ephemeral.

The Unroyal are a representative democracy.

Spotlight: The Living Pantheon

During their long subjugation, the public personas of individual Unroyals were designated by the Royals. This included not only dress, but behavior: outgoing or timid, active or retiring, rough or tender, in ways that matched the Royals' own societal roles. The Royals could be very particular about this, punishing their slaves for acting out of character, and assigning roles that they themselves found demeaning.

After they obtained their freedom, most Unroyals felt uncomfortable in these roles. To free their minds, they put forth their own heroes, and sought out archetypes from other cultures, creating a vast array of new ways to think and be. They call this the Living Pantheon. It is "living" not in the sense that its members can change over time (though they do), but because the Unroyals themselves live those lives and inhabit those roles.

Many Unroyal follow the path of one of the Living Pantheon. They take on that role the way one might taste a fine chocolate or try on a silk shirt, savoring it, deciding whether it fits them. They weigh the archetype against their inner selves, and if the fit is not quite right, they move on to a new role. Their bodies, postures, and self-expressions often change to fit. Outsiders often assume they're dealing with the same person they met last year, when really someone else is inhabiting the role they once held. (Unroyals are quick to clear up such mistakes, lest they cause bigger problems.) Someone who initially presents as hyper-masculine might be awkwardly effeminate a year later, or gracefully feminine, or masculine in a more compassionate way.

Early on, most Unroyals quickly settled into positions and roles where they were comfortable. A hundred years later, as the truth of immortality began to set in, the Unroyals returned role-changing as a way to keep their minds flexible. Most Unroyals follow such archetypes for a few months or years at a time before trying something new.

In some ways, these changes (and their own overly busy lives) can blind the Unroyals to the plight of others. When someone complains that they aren't able to do what they want because of their role in society, an Unroyal citizen is likely to suggest that people change who they are rather than to deal with a societal issue. If it's not tyranny, it's not so big that you can't change yourself to handle it. It takes an Unroyal some extra time to remember that other people value a long-term static self, and would rather improve its lot than take on a more fluid identity.

Spotlight: Courage and Service

Being Unroyal requires a certain amount of grit. Their children learn it at a young age - along with the difference between tenacity and just plain stubbornness. They also learn the importance of service. There's no way that the Unroyal are going to rid the Basin of tyranny without everyone working together. While the gigantic Nova Commonwealth scatters its seeds far and wide, and mighty Diadem wastes the majority of its citizens' talents, comparatively small Unroyal makes sure that everyone's pulling in the same direction.

Children among the Unroyal are taught teamwork as a means to an end. They don't have to love it, but it's how you get things done. One common metaphor is that when you want to shine bright, teamwork is the only oil for that lamp. Not all Unroyals enjoy cooperation, but all of them value it.

Most teams amongst the Unroyal don't have a single leader. With people taking on new personae on a regular basis, you can't rely solely on strong or compatible personalities to hold things together. Instead, they have experts for various situations. Being an expert is considered its own kind of service: when people need what you know, you can't stubbornly hang on to a personality that's counterproductive. You need to step up now, and if you need to bow out gracefully, you wait for the danger to be over.

Hallmarks

  • Symbols of their principles
  • Weather foretells the future
  • Wind and thunder presage danger
  • Well-traveled allies from distant lands
  • Strange occurrences that flout probability
  • Jewelry and tattoos that represent their beliefs
  • Bizarre plants with a hundred fascinating purposes
  • Councils with the great spirits of the dream worlds
  • Visitors and refugees from a hundred different realms
  • Bottles full of chaotic mana for use when things are dire
  • Events conspire to make random occurrences into stories
  • Mirrors that store the viewer's magical signature and intentions
  • Paths that lead wanderers to the destination their heart desires - or deserves

Core Values

Just because the Gift frees all living beings from mind control doesn't mean no one can subjugate you. There are a thousand ways to control, all of them bad. Let None Rule You. You can work with someone you don't like, you can go with a vote you don't agree with, you can even take orders if you think someone knows better than you, but you do not bow your head - nor ask anyone to bow their head to you. The age of kings should be over, and the Unroyal will be the first people to tell you that the Interregnum is far from done.

Shine Brightly. Go into the dark places and bring the light. Whatever you can do best, do it, and do it to bring joy and life and freedom to the world. Don't let anyone stop you.

Note that many Unroyals have the Archetypal Expertise (page xx), linked to their current choice in the Living Pantheon. This will grant them an appropriate Core Value when its Professions are in use.

Traditions

The Key of Freedom: C5 I3 M3 S5 T3 W5
The Key of Courage: C3 I5 M5 S3 T5 W3

The first magic of the Unroyal was The Key of Freedom, which walks the path of Wild Magic to the fount of Earthpower. It is a personal and an interpersonal art, whether that means communication or battle or self-understanding. Importantly, it is never impersonal. The practitioner is never merely a conduit for power. Instead, the power is connected to who they are, have been, and will be. Bearers of the Key of Freedom have been known to:

  • Flow with the roiling mana of battle to pull meteors from the sky
  • Carefully piece together a Rapport by resonating with another's mana
  • Listen to the wind and the weather to understand what is coming for them tomorrow
  • Adapt to local spaces: become quiet in a quiet place, or hard and gnarled in a grove of ancient trees
  • Use the mana of pain and suffering to call to the energy of healing, letting people transform themselves in moments of hardship to what they wish they had been

The art that the Unroyals took from their captors was The Key of Courage, which walks the path of Belief to the fount of Glory. It requires a Core Value pertaining to hierarchy, control, and command. The Unroyal's own Let None Rule You CV is most common, but any interpretation of those concepts will do. Bearers of the Key of Courage use it to:

  • Use their own unquenchable nature to prevent the haughty from noticing them
  • Trap a curse in a metaphorical labyrinth made of the strength of one's convictions
  • Understand the Travel lattice's relationship to power, and thereby open it
  • Recite catechisms to raise a wall of thunder between the worthy and the unworthy
  • Use a captive's desire for freedom to open gateways to the Dream Realms

The Key of Courage has been substantially reinvented and altered since its early days. A tool of oppression and control has been converted into a means to achieve freedom and self-sufficiency. There were arguments early on as to whether the Key of Courage was appropriate to learn at all, or whether it would lead to repeating the mistakes of the past. Those arguments are mostly gone now, but there are still some who refuse to learn it because of its history, calling it the Key of Folly.

Benefit

Once per session, when they achieve an Advantage through conflict or Theme use that frees or inspires others, Unroyals may raise the level of that advantage by one (for instance, from Minor to Moderate). In addition, when enchanting others with the Gift they move one step faster on the time ladder.

Trichtillomania is a potentially useful curse given the way magic works. A route for getting the necessary resources to kill an Arete Practicioner, or framing somebody who uses another tradition.

Anyone with sense probably used self 2 to get rid of it if they had it normally and realized it because they knew this though and didn't want somebody making a clone of them. So if they get the urge to pull their hair out when they've never done it before they may realize they're being cursed though.

More Unroyal brainstorming. What if they were metaphorical Vault Dwellers from Fallout, who fled beneath the Earth after their Chaos Magic fueled revolution against the Royal due to the massive levels of Chaos Mana in the land they claimed from the fighting, too much even for them.

Another shower thought on the Unroyal. Given the highly subjective nature of tyranny, shouldn't the Unroyal have a lot of splinter factions?

There's this paragraph of the Current Unroyal history that's a bit weird.

[quote]
They banded together and named themselves in defiance of their former rulers: The Unroyal.
Slowly they learned the magic of their oppressors in addition to their own, turning it to
righteousness, introspection, and construction rather than excess and domination. After
decades of seeking through the Kaleidoscope, they returned home to their own world, the Great
Basin of humanity. There they found a new homeland, where they sought to end the
Interregnum. They worked to teach love and respect, to sue for freedom when they could and
fight for it when they could not, so that no one would ever suffer what they had.

[/quote]

"End the Interregnum": I'm assuming this means stop the collection of wars and revolutions that ensued as a reaction to the gift in the entire basin.

"Sue for freedom when they could" : The Unroyal are themselves free. I'm not sure why some foreign despot would recognize the Unroyal making a direct plea on behalf of their oppressed subjects who haven't started a revolution yet. They could try threatening despots into compliance and might win without a single blow, they could try buying out the oppressor to end the oppressive policy, but I'm not sure what them suing for others freedom precisely means.

Heres the interesting bit.

"Fight for it where they could not": This can be a potential split in Unroyal sensibilities. Ending wars and revolutions by kicking off and joining in wars and revolutions? That sounds almost like Celestial Being from Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Their thing is stopping war, by exploiting hardware superiority to beat the living daylights out of people who try to fight each other. Using war to end war. I haven't watched it but its treated as questionable logic in universe too apparently. Which leads to the question of how many Unroyals just want the interregnum to stop vs continuing their campaign of being angel investors and shadowy foreign backers for revolutionaries until all the tyrants are gone.

On another line of thought, given the Travel Grid and how territory works in the Basin, if the Unroyals don't use the homeland they claimed, how do they still have it?

Tangential points of potential curiosity I'm mulling if they give you ideas(I'm not too concerned about answers given how open ended they are and that we're significantly pondering the Unroyal in general).

What are Unroyal internal disputes like? Herding Cats when everyone's an experienced practicioner of guerilla warfare/agent of chaos? Circular Firing Squads?

Do the Unroyals have a meaningful civilian population(If so, what do they do)? Or are revolutionaries/spies/soldiers their economic backbone like a more anarchic version of a Naruto Hidden Village? Given wild magic as their main tradition, personas, and the fake it until you make it nature of some of it, might their society operate on say… a Deception Mana standard, where that's the mana everybody uses to trade with each other and the government takes its taxes in if it has a government that taxes? Do they make a point of learning magic styles from other civilizations to teach their deep cover operatives? Learning foreign magic styles seems like something that would be important for espionage.

So far the only idea I've gotten is seeing if someone on rpg.net has any potential insights.

Extending on the idea of secret Unroyal bases, they might have some set up in empty Great Basins too, considering they've been around the Multiversal block a bit.

Nah, just saying that it all seems accurate to me so far.

Diversity-Cross Check: Ouch. Well, if I get any other ideas or potential sounding boards, they'll be here.

Unroyals as toned Down Slaughterhouse 9/As a society vs a Civilization: Thanks! I get that idea about the Unroyal being closer to a society than a civilization too sometimes. Another reason I suggested the roving bands of Chaoshobos angle as a potential alternative. Potential inspiration for the high end of chaoshobo Unroyal goals(And perhaps going into actual Slaughterhouse 9 territory) would be something like the Liberation of Night from Fallen London. Liberty from every law, including Physics, by destroying the stars that enforce physics as we know it upon the world.

Personas: So an Unroyal sets a mask, seeks to become it, then eventually abandons the mask in search of a new one? Possibly involving mental self-editing depending on the person and their tolerance for risk? A custom like that might make sense for an espionage oriented culture now that I think about it. Like Naruto if shapeshifting and disguises mattered more to the plot maybe.

Part of me is echoing bits of the hidden village system from Naruto onto the Unroyal now because I can't think of any other model for an espionage oriented culture at the moment(Current Unroyal not society of chaoshobos Unroyal). Before the setting changes from Boruto that is. Communities where desertion by a Ninja gets them a price on their head, soldiers/infiltrators are the backbone of the economy, who sell their services on letter ranked missions, with higher ranked missions being riskier, higher paying, and intended for more skilled members. Considering the Interregnum and the Unroyal presumably trying to facilitate revolutions during it, the society probably has some experience with espionage and people who have seen some shit when it comes to spying and warfare.

I know the hidden village thing isn't meant to be literal in the Naruto setting, but considering how mystic servitors and the ability to deconjure dug up dirt are a thing, the Unroyal might well have some literally hidden villages underground. Hidden Villages are kind of farked up though which is a problem for the whole let none rule you thing. Kages are military dictators, Genin are child soldiers, even Konoha which is less farked up than the rest of the setting has a torture and interrogation department, etc. Naruto gets dark when you seriously think about it.

I already kind of thought about that hidden village-esque route as a potential supplementary source of income for villages of Those Above the Sky. Freelance military consultants. Mercenaries. Assassins. Etc. They're anarchocapitalists out to make a profit, so why wouldn't some of them go down to the great basin to join in the fighting of the interregnum? Also possible shadowruns on other space villages.

I know that's a reference to political ads, but are you going for anything specific beyond "I like the way this thread is going, continue sharing whatever thoughts you may have if you get them"?

Yeah. Makes me wonder about levels of ostracism and how the word gets spread. Recognized Universal Repo listings designating a person an outlaw in the eyes of the entire… let's use Geometer's Guild for the moment because they use the Brightgarden schema as the highest level punishment, with city level outlaw listings for less heinous punishment? Small settlements would presumably recognize banished people on sight, but large cities would need repo accessible lists of outlaws too. Almost reminds me of the old western style wanted posters. The Amish and Romani made shunnedness contagious but the sheer size of cities and civilizations makes that idea unlikely to work.

How does that work? Is there some technique for sending mana back up an attic line so Those Above can use it?

Speculation:

1. Those Above fracture an Attic Line to location Z on the ground
2. Location Z periodically sends mana back up the line using Mana Shell Game farkery with the industry nature as payment, while claiming the mana the line fracture sends otherwise.
3. In the event Location Z is unable to pay, the line fracture is undone using some method X(Infrastructure Scale Magic? Industry 5?)

I'm not familiar with Worm. (Does some googling.) Huh. That's not at all what I was going for with the Unroyal, but it's at least an interesting idea.

The persona stuff (Spotlight: Role-Changing) is not intended to be a lie in any way. They're behaving in a new way to break out of old patterns. Some of it might be "fake it until you make it", and I can definitely imagine that outsiders could view this as a form of unreliability. Hmm.

I'm also starting to feel like the Unroyal might be less a civilization than a society.

P.S.: I did end up following up with Diversity Cross-Check, but unfortunately didn't get an e-mail back from any of the appropriate folks. :(

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