Metaplot: Echoes

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Circles, nine in number / Drawn in the sands of time / On the beach of dreams, whilst / Under the sky so blue

The face of the world has been changed irrevocably by the Omega Event, when Azalor Maltheridas finally emerged from his millenia-long slumber within his three towers and threatened to undo all of creation. Six adventurers took up arms against him and his minions, and stepped through the rift he opened to an impossible place to do battle with an impossible foe. It is apparent that they succeeded, else the world - and perhaps all of existence - would have ceased to be.

However, in the wake of the Omega, the world faces new challenges. Ancient ruins, once buried beneath the sands and waves, have risen, bearing the promise of treasure for those bold enough to brave their depths - and the monsters that have also awoken with them. A reshaped, scarred landscape causes political turmoil as boundaries are redrawn, and conflict inevitably rises when diplomacy fails. Meanwhile, the nine Forces - the very fabric from which the reality of Trinity is woven - have begun to unravel, losing their strength, and societies reliant upon them begin to sense that, while the end Omega sought has been averted, perhaps it has only been replaced by another.

The echoes of what has come linger in time maybe lost. The future of the shattered reality of Trinity is uncertain. The very nature of existence seems to be changing, and as the old guard slowly passes into memory, new individuals must step forward if the truth is to be found and the future saved. Can the decline of civilization be stopped? Can the Forces be revived? Or is all of existence doomed to become a pale shadow, a mere echo of what it once was?

The Book of Mina

During the adventures of the Crypt Creepers (see Season 1, below), a moogle by the name of Mina suddenly appeared while the group was in Maringolmo. Apparently the young epochent had blundered into a temporal anomaly several decades prior to the Omega Event, and had been hurled into the present time. Upon her arrival, she spoke words of prophecy, yet unknown to those of the worlds of Trinity: here, then, was begun what is now known as the Book of Mina.

Over the course of their adventures, the group encountered a great oddity: a sphinx, entrapped in a temporal eddy of some sort. While the other carried on in their quest to strike down the Sky Pharaoh, Mina stayed behind, and - with many weeks of study and concentration - managed to find a way to free the sphinx, but in so doing trapped them both in a temporal current tangential to the keystone timeline.

Trapped in a place that operated solely on time-error, the sphinx and Mina spoke, with the sphinx offering to unlock the prophecies hidden within Mina's tangled temporal string. The moogle agreed, and thus were the remaining verses of the Book of Mina spoken. Upon their utterance, the sphinx observed that - unlike other prophecies - each of the sets of quatrains, while seeming to indicate future events, did not seem to have any preordained order in which they would occur, with one exception: the final set Mina spoke was intertwined with all the others, and the sphinx ascertained that it must necessarily come last.

Because the order in which these events would take place is unknown, each set of quatrains is known by a simple name. Of these, it is known that Echoes is last; while Mina traveled through time during the events of Sands, it is unknown if the events of its quatrains were necessarily first, or simply happened to occur first.

 

The Book of Mina
Preamble Sands Towers Quest Usurper Bells Shadows Crisis King Echoes
Circles, nine in number ... Towers of glass and steel The quest undertaken The usurped seeks to come Hark ye to bells untolled From shadows they were born A crisis not of faith, The king clad in yellow The final circle, tale
Drawn in the sands of time ... Rise against darkened skies Yet still lies unfinished The usurper of this age: For long cent'ries now past: And to shadows they 'turn But of the paradox: An echo of madness, drifts Only known as finale:
On the beach of dreams, whilst ... A terrible secret lies Hearkens to the many A seal weakened 'gainst pow'r A soul once set adrift A dance as old as sands For the Keystone to be, Lost in the tides of time Echoes of what has come
Under the sky so blue ... In hidden depths below Worlds of the triune 'gain From beyond death's doorway Now comes to the fore 'gain Of that which is unsaid What was averted, is Seeks to flee his prison Linger in time mayb' lost
                   
  ... Thought pulled forth from the void Manifestations of A vision of decay: That which was beautiful Now shadow turns 'gainst shade Across the chasm of time Mem'ry lost and time vain Ruins of a time beyond
  ... Born in metal and fire The broken rise once more: All life fed to the worms Now burned by madness, lies Darkness in their hearts 'turned The beast which dwells outside City held by things mad In which truth be reborn
  ... A hymn from that which was The last piece hidden in Of the rotting carcass A cry from ancient times Seeking to snuff out light, Must come to worlds triune The shadow of a star The stage unveiled, as well
  ... Eternally silent A place lost in plain sight Borne of spiteful hatred Borne on fiery ashen wings Knowledge gleaned from living To fulfill the true past Lies still upon a lake As he who pulls the strings
                   
  ... Three voices rise together: The demon from the stars Of angels and demons Levin, stone, sun, and rain, To the depths! To the gloom! Where the hanged pay their dues, Adrift in time's eclipse Mem'ries of what once came
  ... Discordant harmony Watches from his stone tomb Those who remember warn: All colors of the wind, Where no light shines save yours Where man may step into Where no dragon dare tread Shall pass yet once again
  ... Children of the atom The path to darkness opens That which was dead and gone Gather where falcon rests: In the fell lands, none tread The same river twofold: Black stars, alien skies: The Nine united as one:
  ... Seek the divinity When the empress returns Must become dead once more Ancient, silent, forlorn Save to redeem the lost Be born that which has died Here break the chains of truth See the passage made clear

 

Mechanics

The primary concern of the Time of Echoes is that the power of the Forces are dwindling: supposedly disconnected from the beams, the Forces now seem to be operating on what is essentially residual energy: they are effectively running on battery power, and are slowly losing their effectiveness. It is believed by many that if even so much as one of the Forces fails completely, the worlds triune will be unraveled, as Trinity being the confluence of all the nine known Forces is part of its core identity.

Not all believe there will be such a catastrophic end, but then this has never happened before, and those few who might have witnessed such a thing - such as Lilith - have been remarkably tight-lipped about what they may or may not know. That all such individuals are incredibly dangerous in their own right means that there are few capable of pushing the issue.

Elementals

Ever aware of the state of their parent Force, the various elemental races are impacted by this change in the Forces in a much more fundamental way than other races: while it may be harder for an elf to learn to master magic in this time, just merely existing as an esper is noticeably more difficult.

Meta: Basically what I'm thinking here is that there will be a list of flaws or whatever, and if you're of a race from a Force that hasn't... we'll say "recovered," (as of this writing, that's just Magic), then you have to pick some number of flaws, based on what season we're in. Much like with classes, below, there will be feats and stuff that let you, as a PC, get around this stuff: I want to include this stuff so the mechanics reflect the setting, but at the same time don't want to be overly punishing.

Sparks and Adepts

In terms of mechanics, this dwindling impacts characters - specifically, sparks and adepts - in a specific way; note that warriors are unaffected by the changes in the nature of the Forces. The table below lists the various grades of Force abilities for each Force: if a given grade is enclosed in angle brackets, < and >, that indicates that it is waning. Regardless of what your class table might say about your access to power grades, if you would gain access to a waning grade, you must first purchase the following feat:

 

GRASP THE WANING [Story - Echoes]
You have found within you the force of will necessary to wield waning powers of your Force.
Prerequisites: Adept or spark.
Benefit: You gain access to a waning power grade that you would normally have access to.
Normal: Without this feat, you do not automatically gain access to waning power grades, regardless of what your class progression or other feats may indicate.

 

Waning grades indicate that these abilities are more difficult to draw out of their Force, but - with enough force of will - they can continue to be used.

However, some Forces have fallen into even worse repair than to simply be waning: those power grades enclosed in + signs are diminished, such that it requires much more strength of soul to wrest these secrets from the dying Force. When dealing with diminished grades, you do not spend a feat to gain access to an entire grade, but instead to a single ability within that grade, much like as if that grade were epic.

 

WREST THE DIMINISHED [Story - Echoes]
You have reached deep within yourself, and learned how to eke out the last vestiges of power from your Force.
Prerequisites: Adept or spark.
Benefit: You can learn one ability from a diminished grade that you would normally have access to. This feat does not give you knowledge of the ability; it effectively gives you a special type of knowledge slot that you can spend to learn a diminished ability if and when you would normally be allowed to do so.
You can take this feat multiple times. Each time you do, your maximum number of known diminished abilities increases by one.
Normal: Without this feat, you cannot take abilities from diminished power grades, regardless of what your class progression or other feats may indicate.

 

Diminished means that the power of the Force is fading rapidly, but there is still enough "juice" to allow more advanced practitioners the ability to wield its more powerful expressions - though they are somewhat more limited.

Some abilities of some Forces, however, have become much more difficult to wield: the Force in question may simply be unable to provide the necessary power for the ability to function properly. However, it has been found that, much as with some powerful mages who are able to burn their lifeforce to temporarily increase their yield of mana, that a powerful enough spark can permanently sacrifice part of themselves to assist in providing fuel for these abilities. Many deem these abilities simply beyond the reach of mortals, now, in this time of Echoes: and thus these abilities are denoted as echoes, and are indicated by curly braces, { and }.

 

SALVAGE THE ECHOES [Story - Echoes]
Mere force of will is not enough - you must sacrifice part of yourself if you are to continue to wield the powerful expressions of your Force.
Prerequisites: Adept or spark.
Benefit: You can learn one ability from a echo grade that you would normally have access to. This feat does not give you knowledge of the ability; it effectively gives you a special type of knowledge slot that you can spend to learn a echo ability if and when you would normally be allowed to do so.
When you learn an echo ability, you permanently lose two healing surges. When you use an echo ability, you must also sacrifice hit points equal to the minimum ability score to use that ability grade, as part of using it, or else the ability fails.
You can take this feat multiple times. Each time you do, your maximum number of known echo abilities increases by one.
Normal: Without this feat, you cannot take abilities from echo power grades, regardless of what your class progression or other feats may indicate.

 

Echo grades are exactly that: mere echoes of what they once were, their power scattered and failing quickly. Because of the stringent and extreme requirements of echo abilities, Force Items that allow for use of echo abilities do not function. This also means that, generally, societies that rely on or are run by a Force with abilities that have become echoes will rapidly disintegrate, as the infrastructural underpinnings of their societies tend to rely on powerful abilities set into place by individuals of great personal power.

Example: Kiara is a voidchild, who is reaching the apex of her power; during Season 2, abysmal kata are waning, tenebrous are diminished, and ominous are echoes. She must spend a feat on Grasp the Waning in order to learn any abysmal kata; any time she wishes to learn a tenebrous kata, she must take the Wrest the Diminished feat, which allows her to spend class resources on learning one tenebrous kata each time she takes the feat; and when she wishes to learn an ominous kata, she must first take the Salvage the Echoes feat, then the Unlock Ominous feat, for each ominous kata she wishes to learn.

What follows is the table for each Force, and indicates the current status of all power grades for each: this table is updated to reflect Season 2, below. Also note that while martial classes are unaffected, adepts are: specifically, their class-specific martial schools, which count as both martial maneuvers and the relevant type of Force ability, are subject to the same restrictions as normal spark abilities. At this time, because of events in-setting, Magic adepts are specifically exempt from this.

 

Echoes: State of the Forces (Season 2)
Martial Magic Psionics Technology Divine Void Nature Time Chaos Blue
Maneuvers Spells Powers Devices Prayers Katas Gifts Jikuu Whims Memes
Basic Initiate Devotion Prototype Syllable Cursory Small Hadronic Subtle Common
Lesser Apprentice Science Refined Word Shallow Modest Baryonic Clever Uncommon
Expert Journeyman Phrase Yawning Fair Mesonic Rare
Greater Adept < Art > Improved Verse Deep Generous Bosonic Conspicuous Obscure
< Master > Master < Psalm > < Abysmal > < Grand > < Fermionic > < Secret >
+ Augmented + + Hymn + + Tenebrous + + Leptonic + + Overwhelming +
{ Epic } Archmage { Opus } { Perfected } { Canticle } { Ominous } { Ancient } { Tachyonic } { Inconceivable } { Forgotten }

 

Seasons

What follows are descriptions of each season of the Echoes metaplot, in their chronological order.

Season 1: Sands

Scarab and sands join 'bove / Their quest: to save the Nine

CR 496 / AO 30

It has been thirty years since the Omega ravaged the land.

The face of the world has changed, molded into its new shape by the will of the Omega, the three towers that once were scattered across the world brought to a single point, without care for the geographies that once stood between them. Ancient cities, once buried beneath mountains or desert sands, have come to the fore, and remnants of ancient civilizations tell the tales of their struggles.

Even as the world heals, however, there is a strangeness in the air. Powerful magics dissipate; systems on space stations malfunction; the Blue stutters when returning ancient memories. The Forces themselves, it seems, are fraying. Some believe they were tied to the Omega, and with his death, the Forces have nothing to stand upon; others, that this was his last trick, a gambit to punish the world for destroying him; still others, that the sacrifice of artifacts key to each Force by the Wanderer Thron to gain entry into the Omega's domain was enough to reduce the powers of the Forces.

Of perhaps greater concern is the return of the vilekin, ancient monsters whose nests were roused when the Omega shattered the world. Finding themselves once more with access to the surface, these beasts have returned to their ancient haunts with terrible force, and while most can hold their own against them, they are rapidly becoming a scourge upon the face of the world, threatening trade and communication between lands. Even distant worlds are not safe, as some creatures manage to smuggle themselves aboard starcraft and infest the worlds of Ganymede and Arcturas; while yet others seem capable of existing in the deadly vacuum of space, lying in wait behind moons and asteroids, preying upon the chance vessel that wanders too close to their territory.

Some rumors persist that the sundering of the world and the weakening of the Forces were not the only changes brought on by the Omega's death: others whisper that Wanderers are no longer able to come and go as they please, and that those Wanderers who were present on the worlds of Trinity - including Lilith, the Dark Wanderer - are trapped here, unable to invoke the power of the Wandering. What strange power it is that prevents them from leaving seems, for the time being, unknowable.

...

In the lands of Zalpher, an ancient city has awoken, shifting sands falling from its ancient streets and lost tombs to stand proudly beneath the sun once more. Seeking to bolster the economy of their lands, the rulers of Zalpher have decided to throw open the gates of this city to would-be adventurers, in exchange for records of what they find, so that the modern world may better understand the Kiltian history of the region. But something more sinister awakens with the undead that still loiter beneath the sands: an ancient pharaoh trapped between life and death, who put to use strange and ancient technologies to better situate his final resting place on one of the moons of Adnez. A small band of adventurers become caught up in the Sky Pharaoh's plot, and eventually find themselves traveling into the depths of space to do battle with this ancient evil.

...and at the same time, discover the secret behind his seeming-immortality: deep within the bowels of his pyramid, fueling its magic and the pharaoh's strange existence, is the Cryst of Magic. Upon making a wish upon this enormous mox, they accidentally summon forth Viraxis, the Goddess of Magic. With her return, the Force of Magic is made whole once again.

Season 2: Towers

Children of the atom / Seek the divinity

CR 514 / AO 48

Eighteen years ago, a small band of adventurers who had joined together to plumb the depths of crypts in Zalpher found themselves inextricably involved in a nefarious plot by the Sky Pharaoh Hakotep, a Kiltian ruler from a bygone age long since dead. As the mad mummy's pyramids - which had somehow found themselves on one of the moons of Adnez - were launched using technology previously thought impossible in those ancient times, they invaded the pharaoh's personal pyramid and put him down, saving the worlds of Trinity from whatever mad schemes he had in mind.

Since that time, however, something else strange has happened: magic has felt a resurgence. Where once all the Forces seemed to dwindle in power equally, now Magic alone stands supreme, a light in the darkness for the future in which all else seems destined to fail. Yet while some mages crow about the superiority of their discipline, others wonder: was the relationship between Hakotep and the decline of magic coincidence? And if not, what was the nature of that relationship? Was this pharaoh from an ancient time somehow siphoning power from the force of Magic itself? - and if so, could there be others like him?...

Meanwhile, on Ganymede, the Coldlands Weaponry corporation and her sister corporations of the Corporate Congress have found traces of an incredible find: evidence of an alien spacecraft having once crashed itself into the depths of the planet, seemingly in a time now long forgotten. Together with knowledge gleaned from the future thanks to the Omega Event, the corporations send their soldiers and their scientists deep within the radioactive planet, hoping to find something to stave off the presumed eventual end of Technology.

Amidst the turmoil of the day, a small band of adventurers comes together in a sleepy town on the outskirts of civilization to find a missing councilman, but find themselves up against the machinations of an artilect capable of channeling divine power. What strangeness could this be, that a soulless machine is able to call upon a divine patron? What other secrets lie lurking beneath the surface of the tormented planet of Ganymede?

 

 

 

Season 3: Bells

CR 539 / AO 73

After a scuffle with the law, a small group of adventurers are forced together as they flee the city of Wati, heading south to eastern Valendia. There, in the Lanayru Highlands, they are ambushed by goblin bandits amidst burned-out homes and farms. In the shadow of the mountains they come across the town of Winterhaven, beset by these same goblins: yet while darker forces linger in the shadow, conspiring against the light, a larger threat looms, threatening to echo the devastation of the not-so-distant past...

...

The Bells storyline follows the Legacy of Bells "adventure path," something I've cobbled together from a few different adventures to try to tell an interesting story. Unlike the other seasons, this one is being treated as a story: that is, I am writing the story of this particular part of the Book of Mina, rather than it being played out.

The party is as follows:

Their antiparty is as follows: