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Author Topic: Chiaroscuro 2  (Read 726 times)


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Chiaroscuro 2
« on: April 21, 2022, 03:49:42 am »

Chiaroscuro 2: Eldritch Boogaloo

Spinning through the gulf of space is a world. A world where magic is real, and gods play games with the lives of men. There is Good on this world, and Evil. Literally; they are tangible elements down there. Angels are creatures made out of Good. Demons are creatures made out of Evil. You are one of these beings. Born in a small village deep in the wilderness, each of you has an intuitive knowledge of the other's existence, and know that you must destroy them.
Within a month, you have converted the village to your cause. Their worship empowers you, and your new cultists are willing to throw their lives away in pursuit of victory. You set your sights out across the countryside, where in the distance, your rival is undoubtedly doing the same. Between you lie the realms of man- which you shall need to conquer in order to defeat your nemesis.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Chiaroscuro 2. This is an Arms Race, set in the world of Demonhood (a forum game I ran a long time ago). In said world, angels and demons fight it out, with the lives of mortals merely collateral damage, while the enigmatic gods occasionally interfere, but mostly just watch.
You will design the creatures, spells, and rituals that these forces use in an attempt to destroy each other. You will direct aforementioned forces to infiltrate the kingdoms of man, to gain power whilst denying it to the other. You will read how the other side designed some OP bullshit that ruins your best laid plans, and complain mightily about GM bias. Well, maybe try to avoid that last part.

Right, preamble over. Here are the threads for the two sides. Pick one. Do not read the other.

Angel Thread
Demon Thread

Discord Link (convenient, but not technically required)

PS: All updates (in all three threads) have "TURNTURNTURN" in them (in color=transparent), so you can search that to pull them all up.

And now, the rules. Divided into spoilers for ease of reading.

Spoiler: 2d4 Results (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Unit Rarity (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Strategy Phase (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Tokens (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Combat and Influence (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: The Map (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: April 21, 2022, 03:52:02 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2022, 03:50:13 am »

Lore & Setting
As mentioned, this game uses the same setting as previous games I ran (Demonhood, Demonhood 2- and of course Chiaroscuro the first). You don't need to read those to play this game- the setting is fairly flexible anyway, and I have no intention of including any direct cross-over stuff. That said, I'm reasonably happy with all of them (even though the first is over ten years old), so feel free to read them if you want some inspiration.
If you don't want to read through three long games, but do want some more information on the setting, then the spoilers below should serve as a primer. Also, feel free to ask me if you have any lore questions.

Note that only the two spoilers marked "Important" are... important. The rest are useful, but not crucial information.

Spoiler: The World (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Avatar (Angel/Demon) (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Cult (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Summoning/Mutating (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Wild Monsters (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Magic (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Important: Technology (click to show/hide)

« Last Edit: April 21, 2022, 05:12:53 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2022, 02:57:30 am »

Turn 0
In the north, the faith and good spirit of a village of goatherds and fishermen brings forth an Angel:
Name: Muu
Appearance: Muu's large form is that of an interwoven mass of flesh, stretched over thinly by an almost elastic, pale blue and red skin. Her body shape gives off the illusion of a 'shapely' figure, thinner at the midsection but widening out at the "chest" and "hips". She possesses one pair of arms that splits at the elbow into two or more forearms depending on the task at hand, and where legs should be is an interlocking mass of tentacles that, when she remains upon the ground, support her body in such a way they almost give the impression of a large ballgown.

Her head is the most distinct part of her, a mask of featureless bone that stretches all across its front and sides, concealing whatever features may have been there completely, with a pair of bone plates that stretch out from the sides and curl forward to form a crest that gives the appearance of tusks or horns. Long tentacles writhe out from the open back of the skull in a way that would imply long, flowing hair, which can split open at the tips to reveal small maws containing yet smaller tendrils, which lash about erratically and dangerously whenever exposed.

In the south, a foolish summoner bites off more than he can chew, accidentally creating a fully-fledged Demon:
Nar-Carok, the Death of Suns

Nar-Carok, a demon of ruin and blasphemy. Perverter of life and light, sunlight is swallowed by a dark aura conceals his true, incomprehensible form. But the glimpses do enough to fuel the nightmares of men. Orbs of dark fire dance where eyes should be, teeth glitter in a devouring maw. His flesh is ruined, burned by fires hotter than any produced by mankind, scorched and oozing corruption. His voice is poison to the ear, the promise of a destructive depravity.
Above his form rests his crown spun forth from a dying sun, a twisting filament of living star-stuff, turned black with corruption.
Those who worship Nar-Carok know they are damned, have recognized the corruption in their very souls. They know the Light condemns them, but they rebuke it, reveling in their power and independence. For they worship a fallen noblity and power, the death of those that condemn them. Even the disregard of their master effects them little. Each sees themselves as an inheritor of the Demonís power, once they prove their mettle. For theirs is a ruinous pride, that of the cultists of Nar-Carok, a pride that would see the very sun and all that is holy broken at their feet.

Both now look across the lands between them, considering their options for conquest or infiltration.

Spoiler: The Map (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: May 13, 2022, 11:51:01 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2022, 07:33:21 am »

Quote from: Knightwing64
Uhh, why does muuís appearance feel more demonic then ours?
Both Angels and Demons are eldritch beings- incomprehensible to mortal minds. Angels are Good, but they neednít be nice.

Quote from: Discord
Kashyyk ó Today at 11:02 AM
I worry a little that "Rolling Hills" and  "Vast Steppe" might have a lot of overlap for optimal designs, otherwise seems good though
There are differences between the two, but perhaps you are more concerned that the other four are very different. Cavalry might seem ineffectual outside of the centre, for instance.
However, if you choose the battlefield, cavalry could be used in all six. Cross the fjord faster, disembark and mount up before the enemy gets there. Force the enemy to cross the upper plateaus. Stake out an elevated area in the marshes. Clear out some rubble, or fight in front of the walls.
The same principle applies to other unit types- while their efficacy may vary based on terrain, it is rare that a unit will be rendered useless.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2022, 07:50:11 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2022, 01:11:13 pm »

Turn 1 - Mid Spring
In the seas west of Thpenos, a caravel slices through the waves at a steady clip. It carries a cargo of spices, tin ingots, a hundred barrels of flour (each with a false bottom containing bricks of Nogranian Moon Sugar), and one weathered old man. Said old man is leaning on the prow, watching clouds gather in the distance. A sailor approaches him.
"We'll be able to see Thpenos soon, sir. But you might want to get below deck- there's a storm coming."
The old man calmly stuffs tobacco into his pipe, before lighting it with a snap of his fingers.
"You have no idea, son."

Western Protectorate - Vast Steppe
In the grand tent of the Viceroy of the West, a feast is held. It is, after all, the birthday of the second son of the third prince of the Silver Palace- a cause for celebration, irrespective of the fact that given the extensive nature of the Imperial family such events take place several times a month. This particular feast is perhaps a little larger than normal, as it happens to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Viceroy's tenancy, for which the Emperor has allowed a brief acknowledgement to be held. In between an extensive toast of the third prince's second son's mother and a lengthy prayer for the wellbeing of all residents of the Silver Palace, the Viceroy thanks his underlings for their loyal service, bestowing upon them modest gifts befitting his position- a silk robe and gold broach for each attendee, and a stable of fine horses for each of his seven ministers.
The minister for war accepts these gifts with a forced smile, not sharing the thought that the gifts could've bought the service of a hundred horsemen, which would scratch the surface of being able to properly patrol the Protectorate's borders. He won't even be able to share his gift horses with his own underlings, because he will be expected to send them to the capital for the first prince's birthday next month.

Meanwhile, a long way away- but still in the Vast Steppe (it's big), two small armies converge (neither numbering more than a thousand individuals). Shambling and skittering towards each other, both are determined to see the other crushed. Neither has much by way of enhanced scouting, mobility, or skirmishing- it will be open battle that decides the victor.

Amidst a sea of grass, near a spring feeding a small stream, the armies meet.
To the north, Muu's followers line up for battle. On either flank are Cultist Spears- their shields and spears alike having a peculiar bone-white hue. Between the spears is a (relatively) large horde of shambling figures, many with limbs replaced with tentacles, all with vacant stares and an unhealthy palour. Close observation would reveal no breathing taking place- these are undead warriors. Though their gait is awkward, they move in curious unison. Behind them are Cultist Archers and Acolytes, whose equipment appears unmodified.
To the south, Nar-Carok's followers line up in turn. They too have arrayed Cultist Spears on both flanks, although their left flank has more, with the right flank bolstered by a group of skeletal warriors wielding glaives and battleaxes. Between them is a horde of short creatures wearing skull helmets and tunics laced with bones. Beneath this makeshift armour is patchy fur on body that resembles a giant bipedal rat. The majority wield little more than knives and daggers, though interspersed amongst them are a handful wielding staffs topped with a giant-rat skull, who constantly screech what are presumably orders or encouragement at their brethren. Cultists Archers are arrayed behind the front, along with a lower proportion of Acolytes than the Angelic army brings.

Neither side appears interested in complex manoeuvres, and after sizing each other up from a distance, they both advance forward. Archers open the battle with a volley of arrows on both sides. Both sides deploy wards to block some of the incoming missiles, although the angelic side's wards are both more numerous (due to the higher number of Acolytes), and more effective at blocking.
The demonic side advances more rapidly now. As magic missile range is entered, the angelic Acolytes shift from a purely defensive role to also firing volleys of magic at the oncoming enemy. Demonic Acolytes remain primarily focused on defense- though the handful of magic missiles they do fire off pass through the angelic wards like they aren't there. The skittering horde of rat-folk take noticeable losses to the ranged assault, although they continue to advance as the staff-wielders' screeching becomes more frantic. Demonic spearmen lose a few shields to magic missiles, and the skeletal warriors on the demonic right (who lack shields, and have only tattered scraps of armour) take noticeable losses. Especially noticeable is when one (which an eagle-eyed observer might note is unarmed) takes a magic missile to the skull and promptly explodes, waves of dark energy and shards of bone knocking down several of their comrades- though their advance is not slowed by these losses.

The rat-folk are first to make contact, charging into their undead counterparts. They stab and slash at the parts of the shambling warriors they can reach, causing wounds that rather than bleed begin to leak water. For their part, the shamblers swing at the rat-folk with clubs and tentacles, which when making contact shatter the fragile bones used for armour and crush the rat-folk wearing it... but the slow and clumsy attacks of the shamblers do not make contact very often with the small and extremely cautious rodents. With the staff-wielding rat-folk driving their brethren onwards, the shamblers begin to fall- drained of water, or struck in some vital internal organ, they collapse to the ground (though until that point they fight on heedless of injury). A few of the rats disengage, those who take a blow and miraculously survive scampering away as fast as they can, and even some who are uninjured backing away- until they are shoved back into the fight by the staff-wielders.
Meanwhile, on the demonic left (angelic right), the clash of spears favours the angelic side. Though the demons deployed slightly more spears here than the angels, casualties at range narrowed the numbers advantage, and the angelic spearmen's equipment proves somewhat superior. On top of this, the angelic Acolytes provide wards that patch up any gaps in the angelic formation, giving their spearmen a chance to catch their breath before returning to the fray. While not a one-sided slaughter, the demonic cultists are definitely on the back foot.
On the demonic right, however, the presence of the skeletal warriors proves pivotal. Before the lines make contact, some of the skeletons (the unarmed ones) break off from the rest, hurling themselves with remarkable speed into the angelic spears. Some even leap over the braced defenders, landing in the midst of hostile cultists- who, obviously, cut the unarmed attackers down quickly. This proves to be a mistake*, as the almost visible auras of hatred that suffuse the skeletons flares up with every strike they take. Soon their ancient bones are overwhelmed by the unchecked loathing, and their bindings disintegrate explosively, shredding any angelic spearmen next to them. Though few in number, these suicide strikes shatter any cohesion the angelic formation had, giving them no chance of effective resistance as the remaining skeletons charge in. Though several of the (armed) skeletons are slain (without explosive results), thanks to them having seemingly no interest in blocking or avoiding attacks, the majority survive by dint of killing the angelic spearmen before they can strike back. When the demonic spearmen catch up, there is little for them to do but finish off the wounded.
The skeletal warriors do not stop there- their aggression cannot be contained, and they continue into the angelic back lines, carving through archer and Acolyte alike. Even with their more effective wards buying some time, the angelic cultists realise the battle is lost, and sound the retreat.

The angelic right is able to disengage cleanly, while the shamblers in the center spread out to engage with as much of the demonic army as they can, buying time for the living to escape. Though it does not take very long for the last shambler to be put down, by then the angelic forces have regained some semblance of organisation, and have gained a head start in running north. Some of the rat-folk chase after them, but without the rest of the demonic army to back them up, their confidence fails in the face of angelic resistance.
Nevertheless, the angelic army has no hope of fighting again this month- the Vast Steppe isn't rich in locales that offer a terrain advantage, so they simply retreat as far as they can. They consider themselves lucky that their demonic rivals, lacking rapid transportation or superior scouting, can only advance so far- they cannot move recklessly, as the remaining angelic forces could still be a threat to supply lines or troops exhausted from a forced march.

   *Note that not attacking the suicide skeletons wouldn't've saved the angelic cultists, as the mere presence of Good-aligned individuals will eventually drive them to explode.
The Demonic Army pushes the front line in the Western Protectorate by 2 segments, bringing their control of the Vast Steppe to 6/8. They receive 1 Wealth Token.

Chegitha - Rolling Hills
The Regent of Chegitha's title is somewhat misleading. For there has not been a King of Chegitha for decades, and he is in fact the fourth Regent in a row. Perhaps in a less honour-bound nation, a Regent would've declared themselves King by now- but the Chegithan people would never accept it. Though their nation is on its last legs, and their royal family scattered to the winds, they remain loyal to the spirit of the Chegithan empire. So it is that the Regent performs his yearly duty, opening the vault containing the Ebony Crown, oiling and polishing it, then returning it to its padded pedestal before sealing the vault once more. The Ironheart guards stoically resume their vigil, and the Regent returns to his humble quarters, to oversee what remains of the Chegithan bureaucracy. If he knew that his nation had been invaded on two sides by eldritch forces... he would probably just sigh, and add it to the long list of hardships to deal with. Poor Regent.

The angelic army is camped in the ruins of a hilltop village. Their scouts have reported demonic forces nearby, so guards have been posted to keep watch at night. A cultist half-heartedly gazing into the darkness hears something behind him, and turns- to see his friend bringing him a hot drink. He gratefully accepts the mug, as his friend informs him that it is time to change shifts. Moments after he says this, a figure emerges from the darkness. Not in the sense that it walks closer to the light, but rather that it fades into view whilst stationary. The two cultists are too shocked to react- and moments later, their opportunity is gone, along with their throats. Soon after, screams emerge from the angelic camp- but by the time the majority of the angelic cultists are roused and ready to fight, the intruder has gone, leaving several corpses in his wake.
The next night, the guard is doubled- to no avail. The unseen terror carves a bloody path through the camp again. The night after that, the undead warriors accompanying the force are set in a circle around the camp, a wall of flesh to bolster the living guards- and while this does hinder the intruder somewhat, he still manages to cut through several of the undead before retreating.
The angelic cultists realise they have to engage their demonic counterparts soon, or risk being whittled down to nothing.

The demonic army gives the angels the runabout for a few more days, but eventually allow them to approach- having taken a stand on an imposing hill, it is an unenviable position for the angelic force to attack, but they have little choice. The formations used are similar to those seen in the Vast Steppe, with the primary difference being the attrition the angelic force has suffered leaving them somewhat outnumbered.
Archery initially favours the demonic cultists, as their height advantage allows them to fire volleys before their counterparts, but as in the Steppe, a higher proportion of Acolytes and superior wards on the angelic side allow them to mitigate the damage. Once the angelic archers are in range, the demons quickly change tack, counter-charging down the hillside to avoid being picked off at range.

Melee combat resolves somewhat similarly to the Steppe, except that everything goes worse for the angels. Lower numbers, fighting uphill, and a pale-skinned figure of noble bearing acting as commander on the demonic side (although his actual fighting skills are not especially impressive, he does outclass cultist spears, and he provides a measure of leadership) combine to render the battle hopelessly one-sided. In short order, the angelic force is routed, and while the sacrifice of the shambling undead again allows them to retreat, that is not the end. The demonic army launches a leisurely pursuit- during the day, that is. After dusk, the surviving angelic forces are again set upon by the night terror, giving them no chance to rest, and further depleting their numbers.

In the end, the angelic army- what's left of it- has no choice but to retreat all the way to the Sheltered Fjords. Even without the nighttime sabotage, it is likely they would've been on the back foot, but with the armies so small, a lone Champion was able to cause devastating carnage. Of course, even against a large army, such an effective saboteur would've been a serious thorn, but probably not quite as severe.
The Demonic Army pushes the front line in the Chegitha by 4! segments, bringing their control of the Rolling Hills to 8/8. They receive 1 Wealth Token. Next turn fighting will occur in the Sheltered Fjords.

(Reminder that the influence lanes have a slight random aspect, as mortals engage in their own activities that may help or hinder infiltration efforts)

Gridlocked Polis
At a political rally, a senator openly proclaims that he would sign a pact with a demon if it would end the ongoing gridlock. He later clarifies that he was joking, reminding people that demons do not actually exist, but it does inspire a darkening of mindsets. A ship is impounded after the captain is convicted of smuggling restricted substances- cinnamon is outlawed in Thpenos. Other than that, it seems to be business as usual. But behind the scenes, eldritch forces are at work.

Nar-Carok's agents send a probing message to the aforementioned senator, but it seems he was indeed not being serious, as he does not respond to the veiled invitation to meet with 'alternative solution providers'. However, demonic missionaries do find many converts amongst the lower classes, building a strong base of support. Acolytes make some inroads into the conversion of middle-class figures, but they are too few in number to establish significant connections this month. 0/5->1/5

Muu's agents convince a little known philosopher to act as a Gadfly. While his following is small, he still manages to get himself in trouble by publicly decrying the greed and corruption of the political class. His execution, though not especially well attended, creates a number of die-hard followers (who are soon brought into Muu's cult), while causing the senator who attended to reconsider her opposition to the philosopher's message of kindness towards fellow citizens. She goes on to broach the idea of a more benevolent approach amongst her fellow senators, though their recruitment this month is certainly not viable. Meanwhile, several districts are seeded with Worms of Muu, providing angelic cultists with friendly recipients for their proselytising. 0/5->1/5

Bountiful Quarries
Blood stains the dust in the largest quarry in the region, as an overseer (who was especially despised) is found murdered- tortured and mutilated. The workers responsible are soon identified and executed, but it is symptomatic of vicious bloodlust amidst the workforce. Upper management remains unconcerned- the mood of the workforce ebbs and flows, and a little bloodshed never hurt anyone. Well, not anyone important.

While some violent workers take matters into their own hands, many are still amenable to more peaceful methods. Several mining towns are targeted with Worms of Muu, creating bastions of harmony within the province, which are soon folded into the angelic cult. Additionally, a prominent worker-rights advocate is en-Gadflied (that's a real word, trust me), and successfully provokes the authorities into having her executed- an event that drives many workers to take up her cause, while shaking the resolve of many an overseer. 1/5->2/5

Though there are not many demonic missionaries present, and only a handful of acolytes, the general sentiment of the province this month is conducive to their activities. While their efforts are stymied in towns affected by Worms of Muu, and the dramatic execution of the angelic Gadfly shifts sentiments some, a small network of converts is established by the end of the month. 0/5->1/5

Restless Satrapy
The local governor, in a drunken stupor, announces loudly at a feast his disdain for Southern people. Despite efforts to cover this up, the news spreads quickly, and the anger of the local population markedly increases. Rebel recruitment spikes, and even ethnic Thpenians despair at the blatant disregard for the local people. If one was seeking to recruit dissatisfied people into some sort of secret cult, now would be the perfect time to do so.

Nar-Carok's agents indeed find that it doesn't take much to convince the denizens of the Satrapy to convert- they are able to rake in scores of lower-class converts, while acolytes focus on slightly more prominent individuals; landholders, patrolmen, and a number of folks who Definitely Aren't With The Rebels (TM). Nar-Carok, present in the region this month, goes one step further, taking advantage of the widespread chaos to infiltrate a rebel stronghold, recruiting a number of their higher-ranking members. He also entices a handful of Thpenian administrators who are unhappy with the way the province is governed. While Nar-Carok offers only empty promises, the use of Dark Empathy ensures those promises are exactly what his targets want to hear, and his Dark Seduction can be used to convince them to ignore the plausibility for a while. HOWEVER, promises cannot remain unfulfilled forever without consequence- Nar-Carok will have to find ways to satisfy those seeking change, or else risk losing progress in the coming month, as such a perfect storm is unlikely to be repeated. 1/5->3/5

Though goodwill is not front and centre in people's minds, the general atmosphere of dissent means the handful of angelic missionaries in the province find many willing to 'betray' their corrupt masters in service of Muu. It was not possible to organise a Gadfly operation, given the lack of resources. 0/5->1/5

Schism'd Capital
The Shah announces a bold new program to repair the North Gate. Nobody cares, as the North Gate is the one gate in the city with no religious significance one way or another.

Angelic agents seed Worms of Muu in several mahallas in the city, successfully establishing friendly communities that provide easy converts and support. A Gadfly is recruited who decries all sides of the religious conflict, claiming that the gods care not how they are worshipped, only that their worshippers are kind and generous. His execution causes some to re-evaluate their stance, further bolstering angelic recruitment. 0/5->1/5

Though occasionally frustrated by folks affected by angelic efforts, demonic missionaries still manage to build up a basic level of support in the city. Dark Seduction wins over a few stubborn folks, while others are eager for a way out of the constant religious strife. 0/5->1/5

Raiders' Roost
An archer, a berserker, and a pyromancer walk into a tavern. They go up to the bar and ask for a straight shot, a bloody mary, and a Satrapish cart bomb. This is considered mildly amusing, and is the most talked about news of the month. There is also a crazy old guy constantly ranting about the dangerous avarice of adventurers, but that's less interesting.

Muu's agents are low in number here, but they are bolstered by Muu herself. Several communities are graced with Worms, and Muu personally elevates a penniless hermit to Gadfly-hood. His proclamation that the greed of adventurers is destroying the moral fabric of Xyrania... don't meet as hostile a response as hoped. Adventurers don't really care about public opinion as much as some other people. Nevertheless, he is eventually able to make such a nuisance of himself that the local authorities have him put to death just to get him out of their hair. It isn't as dramatic an event as elsewhere, but being personally empowered by Muu, the small crowd that does witness his death experience revelations that make them easy targets for angelic missionaries (and hard for demonic ones). 0/5->1/5

Nar-Carok's agents have their efforts somewhat stymied by Muu's actions, but are still able to win over a fair number of middle-class folks who were unaffected by her Worms or Gadfly. In a few instances, they run into trouble when Dark Seduction fails- not due to the influence of Good, but due to protective talismans, which are markedly more common in the region than elsewhere. 1/5->2/5

Pirate Haven
Pirates raid a coastal town. While coastal raids are not unusual, they tend to target smaller villages- this was a larger-scale operation that highlights just how ineffectual attempts to combat piracy have been. Fear builds in the population, and trust in the government declines.

With fear running high, many are willing to turn to an angel for assistance, and Muu's missionaries rake in plenty of converts, including town notables and even some folks who are... let's say pirate-curious. A Gadfly is raised up who blames the pirate problem on the wickedness of the local government- a suggestion that successfully gets him hung alongside several pirates, which drives many to wonder if he might've had a point (including some in the government). A few coastal towns are targeted with Worms of Muu as well, ensuring the foundations of angelic support are sturdy. 1/5->2/5

Though there is room in people's hearts for morally dubious sources of protection, the handful of demonic agents in the region are unable to make the most of this opportunity- though a few converts are found, they suffer one too many run-ins with folks who are stubbornly Good due to the influence of Worms or were convinced by the Gadfly's plight. 0/5

EVENT - The Merchant
Nobody saw them arrive, but a merchant has set up a stall on the outskirts of Tendril Village... and the Buried City. If there were anyone who could visit both, they would be surprised to realise that the stalls are identical- in appearance, inventory, and operator. It is a rather barren stall, with only three items on display. The man tending the stall introduces himself as simply "The Merchant", and refuses to answer any questions. Attempts to dislodge him- by word, force, or magic- fall short, the man entirely unfazed by the might of an Angel/Demon.
The only thing he will say is that he brings a gift to both you and your rival. While you are free to refuse this gift, you would be a fool to give up an advantage when your rival might be less hesitant- and while the Merchant is inscrutable, your instincts tell you he is not lying. The items on display appear humble at first- a branch, a vial, and a broken shackle-, but all three thrum with great power.

Pick one. If you both choose the same one, the Merchant will keep it, and give you one of the remainder at random. Otherwise you get the one you picked. The resultant Mythical Token can be spent in a Design Phase to provide a bonus design (using the item in question), the product of which is always Unique. You could convert its essence into a unique monster, or fuse it into a unique artifact, or use it to entice an aspiring Champion to your cause... whatever you want. So long as there is some connection to the item, anything goes.

You must make your decision during the next Strategy Phase. The choices are:

-Treant Branch
   At first glance, this is an ordinary tree branch. Closer inspection, however, reveals lingering traces of animation, and wood that is flexible, yet abnormally hard. Treants are said to be neither the creation of Angel or Demon, but the work of mortal Druids- mysterious mages who can tap into the vast power of nature. 
-Truesilver Extract
   This glass vial contains what might be confused for quicksilver- it is silvery, it is metallic, it is fluid. Yet where quicksilver has some modest magical and medicinal properties, Truesilver outshines it by several orders of magnitude. Depending on how it is processed, it can be used for medicine, monster slaying, or scrying fate.
-Broken Shackle of Jilganheim
   An iron shackle, with a short length of chain attached. The shackle has been broken- a piece has been snapped off-, rendering it useless. This damage was dealt by Jilganheim, God of Chaos and Freedom, and traces of his mischievous energy remain.
MINOR EVENT - Angel Investor
Someone seems to have noticed the beginning of the war between Muu and Nar-Carok- and is alarmed by Nar-Carok's early successes. An enchanted chest arrives in Tendril Village, though no one is quite sure where it came from. The inside is stuffed with gold coins minted in the four nations- unmarked, non-consecutive. Attached is a note explaining that the contents are free for Muu and her cult to use- but that the chest will eventually retrieve an equal amount of wealth and vanish, when the sender feels Muu can afford it.

The Angel Team receives 1 Wealth Token. At some point in the future, I will withhold a Wealth Token they would ordinarily receive to repay the loan.

What have we learned
As the dust settles, both sides of the conflict consider what they have learned about their enemy's roster.

Angelic Advances
Muu alleviated her followers' fear of death, by offering existence beyond it- as a Sea Servant. Fallen followers are anointed with fish oil and submerged in water, where- provided the deceased consents- the soul is merged into a collective consciousness, and the body transformed into an undead entity capable of continued service. Tentacles replace damaged limbs, blood is replaced with brine, and internal organs metamorphose to support the shambling corpse. These Sea Servants are stronger than the average human, but clumsy (especially for those with a higher proportion of tentacles) and slow to react (as the hivemind takes time to process orders and information- though Muu's personal presence allows her to take direct control, improving reaction times). They are easier to 'kill' than a human, as their new organs are vulnerable, and the brine in their veins will drain faster than blood- but they feel no pain, and so will fight on despite injuries until their bodies fail. A 'dead' Sea Servant that is returned to the water in time will slowly regenerate, provided the damage is not too severe (this can take several days or weeks ((and is partly just an explanation of why they don't run out))).
Sea Servants are also used for brute-force manual labour, which has provided Muu's cult with a modest surplus of resources. 

Muu also established the Forge of Cleansing to arm her cultists. Water from a tidepool that acts as a wellspring of Good is blessed with magical properties, then channeled to shallow pools in forging stations. Materials, both metallic and organic (but not living) that are submerged in these pools become malleable, allowing them to be shaped as if extracted from a furnace. This makes working with iron easier, but also enables the fusion of bone and wood into an easily worked amalgam (though it took some practice for craftsmen to become capable Bonesmiths). Her cultists basic equipment has been improved, while the Forge also has the potential to make enchantment work easier.

In regards to influence, Muu made some microscopic improvements. See, because they're tiny parasitic/symbiotic worms. Worms of Muu are spread in egg form by her cultists, and when ingested by a human will hatch, and begin to influence the host. The Worms help the host identify opportunities to do Good, and reward them with a pleasant feeling for doing so. Failure to take these opportunities, however, will lead to a worsening feeling of malaise, until the Worm finally starves (having been deprived of Good energy) after a week. Those who are already tainted with Evil will flush the Worms out without feeling much at all.
Those who do Good under the Worm's influence will additionally exude the Scent of Good detectable by fellow hosts, drawing them together into harmonious communities. Muu's cultists find themselves warmly welcomed by these people, while Nar-Carok's agents find it hard to make inroads into the self-reinforcing network of Good. A small mercy for Nar-Carok is that the Worms cannot reproduce, so distribution is somewhat limited.

Another act of Muu was to empower Gadflies- people with a bone to pick with an unjust society, who are willing to lay down their lives to make a stand. By training these individuals in rhetoric and infusing their body and soul with emotion-amplifying hexes that trigger on death, a Gadfly's public execution turns from a minor event into one that will leave a permanent mark on all who witness it- wracking the perpetrators with guilt, and driving sympathetic bystanders to stand up for the Good cause themselves. Even without the opportunity to give a speech (if they are assassinated on the street, say), a Gadfly's death will still affect all who witness it (though to a lesser degree). (Also this had two Emergency Fixes applied- one to make heartless witnesses more susceptible, another to ensure some effect even without a speech)

Finally, Muu engaged in frequency-tuning of Novice Ward, creating Ymis Ward, which can (in addition to the normal Novice Ward behaviour) be tuned to block only physical or only magical attacks- though it is not possible to use the two opposites near each other, as interference between them would cause both to fail.
Demonic Developments
Nar-Carok engaged in somewhat more traditional necromancy, raising the skeletons of long-dead warriors to fight again. Those Who Remember are not just any reanimated skeleton, though- they are the bleached bones of long-dead warriors, whose hatred of Good was so strong that traces of their spirit still linger after thousands of years. In a ritual, these fragments are merged into a amalgamated consciousness- one whose overwhelming focus is hatred, but also retains the skills of the ancient warriors. Equipped with a two-handed weapon (of modest quality) and whatever scraps of their armour remained intact over the millennia, they are extremely eager to enter the fray- so much so that they neglect their own survival in favour of relentless offence. Their survival is made slightly more likely by the fact that their aura of hatred is so enduring it will actually hold bones together even if a few are broken, and the fact that their enhanced strength, large weapons, and surprising skill mean few foes survive first contact.

An offshoot of Those Who Remember, Those Who Recall dial the hatred up to eleven. So potent is their loathing for Good that their skeletal form can barely contain it- and when surrounded by Good-aligned individuals and/or struck by their attacks, it actually can't contain it, causing the Recaller to go up in an explosion of hate and Evil. Unarmed, their sole purpose is to jump into the middle of enemy formations, to which end they will attempt to avoid ranged attacks- because being struck one too many times will result in a premature explosion that at best causes no damage to the enemy, and at worst causes friendly fire.

While skeleton berserkers smash face, Ratmen slash shins. Once ordinary rats, successive generations living in the Wastelands mutated over time into short humanoid creatures. These cowardly scavengers are poorly armed with a medley of flint knives, ancient bronze daggers, and scavenged shortswords, which can cause enough damage to be a threat if ignored. They also take pride in their 'armour', made from an extremely plentiful material in the Wastelands- human skeletons. Though the ancient bones are quite fragile, they are at least able to mitigate the impact of a single strike, which for the spineless (except for those whose armour incorporates a spine, of course) Ratmen make it worth the effort.
Their inbred cowardice is mitigated by the sermons of Skitterpriests, the bravest and smartest Ratmen, who have been forcefully indoctrinated to serve as Nar-Carok's apostles amongst their brethren. By filling their comrades' minds with religious fervour, they leave no room for fear- or at least not enough for them to flee immediately upon sighting the enemy. The din of battle makes it harder for their sermons to be heard, however, causing Ratmen morale to steadily drop once engaged in melee.

On the influence front, Nar-Carok did not beat about the bush- the spell Dark Seduction serves to directly improve the target's opinion of the caster, enticing them into further indoctrination or into providing immediate assistance. Repeated use on an individual will slowly corrupt their personality, rendering them more Evil than before. It can also cause brain damage, but Nar-Carok doesn't care.
By inverting Dark Seduction, Nar-Carok created Dark Empathy- rather than making another person more emotionally receptive, the caster is themselves made more emotionally receptive, allowing them to sense the emotions of others (but does not cause the caster to become infatuated with everyone around them). The Empathy effect is coupled with a weaker, aura-type Seduction effect. Like Dark Seduction, Dark Empathy causes brain damage, so demonic acolytes must limit their casting to a few minutes a day to avoid unfortunate side effects.

Finally, the children of the night make their appearance. Or rather, child of the night- the Vampire Lord stands alone, a Champion of Nar-Carok's dark cause. An ancient nobleman who turned himself into a Vampire and entombed himself to avoid death at the hands of the Angelic forces that razed the Buried City. His particular method of surviving the coming millennia earned him the ire of a god, but it paid off- he was uncovered by Nar-Carok's excavations, and now walks abroad once more. He is undead, and has a number of other weaknesses- for instance, daylight drains his powers, reverting him to little more than a regular human in terms of strength. But at night, his strength and speed become superhuman, and he can blend into the darkness to avoid detection until it is too late, although his stamina is limited, preventing his rampages from lasting much longer than half an hour. His appearance is too horrifying to act openly in mortal cities, but he is familiar with the general bearing and scheming of the upper classes, allowing him to serve as a director of others' efforts.
For instance, he can direct his retinue of Vampire Thralls. Not true Vampires, these cultists have been fed some of the Vampire Lord's blood, granting them a modicum of his strengths (and weaknesses). They are bound to their Lord, and cannot act independently for extended periods, but they do serve as backup in combat and as the eyes, ears, and mouths of their Lord in influence contexts.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2022, 01:35:53 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2022, 01:11:57 pm »

Spoiler: Angelic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Demonic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Map (click to show/hide)

Quote from: Common question
Why did the Angels have more Acolytes?
Because they had no other Uncommon unit types, meaning all their Uncommon (and Rare) slots were filled with Acolytes, whereas those of the Demons were divided amongst Acolytes, Rememberers, and Recallers.

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Quote from: Another common question
No seriously, doesn't Muu seem just as bad as Nar-Carok?
Spoiler: Answer (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: May 06, 2022, 01:15:03 pm by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2022, 11:48:02 am »

Turn 2 - Late Spring
An old man ambles along the shore. He occasionally stops to poke at one of the mangled corpses left lying upon the sand with his staff. Two younger men follow behind him, carrying a bundle of scrolls and glass orb respectively. The old man stops by one of the corpses, and kneels down to investigate it closer. Unrecognisably charred, traces of magic still linger, giving the air a faintly metallic taste.
"Can it still be stopped?", one of the younger men asks.
The old man shakes his head.
"Some things are inevitable."

Western Protectorate - Vast Steppe
The angelic camp is hard to miss- fortunately, Imperial patrols are extremely good at missing things. Several bright lights form a ring around the tents, with two guards per light keeping a close eye out for any sign of movement. The lights sputter out after about an hour, but are quickly replaced when this happens. This security proves unnecessary- no atempts at nocturnal sabotage occur, and the angelic force is free to operate unhindered.
The same can not be said for their rivals. Their march north is rudely interrupted when patrols and foragers turn up missing. Larger patrols and foraging parties soon discover the issue- angelic cavalry, shadowing their movement. Not horses- that would be far too plebeian for Muu's tastes. Instead, her cultists appear to be riding giant seagulls. Now, a regular seagull is already scary; one large enough to carry a man, with writhing tentacles and extra eyes, is terrifying. Fortunately, they don't seem to be able to fly, although they are nearly as fast as a horse, which is almost as bad on the open steppe.
The demonic army, with their scouting also hampered, simply opts to march north, in hopes of either running into the angelic force, or to entice them into interception. It's not the best strategy, but their options are limited. Fortunately, the angelic army obliges them, moving to intercept before they move too far north. The demonic army, worn down by skirmishes with the giant seagulls, are caught on the march, forced to fight in unfavourable conditions. Nevertheless, they line up to fight- retreat won't improve their situation.

The angelic formation is similar to that used last month (though the numbers are doubled), except that their spears are split into three sections, with one in the centre of their line, splitting the Sea Servant block in two. The gulls hang around the extreme flanks, evidently not seeking to execute a frontal charge.
The demonic formation is likewise similar, though some of their spears are held in reserve, covering the archers and acolytes. They have brought even fewer Acolytes to the field this month than last month, but standing amongst them are a dozen strange figures- covered in bandages from head to toe, bedecked with jewelry and wielding staves, with glowing green eyes.
There is a brief standoff, then the angelic army starts to advance. In response, a dozen demonic cultists drop dead. A bold move, let's see how it plays out for them.

As archers enter range, the role of the bandaged figures becomes apparent. The angelic Acolytes outnumber their demonic counterparts, but the newcomers are evidently also spellcasters, and more skilled at that; they deploy wards that are larger and longer lasting than those used by Acolytes. However, the fact that the angelic Acolytes are using Ymis Ward means they are more effective at stopping arrows, so in the end they still have the advantage.
However, when Magic Missile range is entered, some of the new spellcasters switch over to an offensive role, throwing Missiles at a higher rate, that do more damage on impact. With the angelic Ymis wards tuned to block physical arrows, they do nothing to stop the barrage of magic, and angelic cultists and Sea Servants start to fall in greater numbers than their adversaries.
There is another surprise before the melee begins- a significant number of angelic spearmen take out faintly-glowing bottles, use the attached string to twirl them around, then hurl them at the demonic warriors. Being hit by a bottle won't even cause a Ratman to flee, but when they break, bright flashes temporarily dazzle the victims. More importantly, the liquid sizzles on making contact with skin (or fur), causing painful burns for Ratmen and demonic cultists- and worse effects for the skeletal contingent, whose bones all-but dissolve where the liquid makes contact. Several Rememberers are knocked out of the fight, and two Recallers detonate prematurely, causing further damage.

Ratmen engage the angelic centre. It immediately becomes clear that the Sea Servants have received some improvements, as they move with improved speed and strike with greater skill- though, to be clear, they do not exceed the skill or agility of Cultist Spears. This upgrade serves them well versus the Ratmen, as they are now more likely to actually hit their targets. The Ratmen are still able to cause damage to them, so while it is not the one-sided slaughter of last month, the angelic side does not have a firm advantage. The Ratmen-Cultist matchup is also indecisive, as while the Cultists are more resilient than the Servants, they are outnumbered 2:1, which is always unpleasant.
On the demonic left, the spear v spear matchup is unchanged- the burns caused by the bottles are painful, but not crippling, and though the demonic forces are weary, the Magic Missile advantage has whittled down the angelic numbers. Spear v Servant allows the Servants to show off what their increased strength is good for- wasted on the Ratmen, who would flee after a single hit anyway, against a cultist the heavier blows give an advantage. The Servants also have the advantage of numbers, placing the demonic spearmen on the back foot.
The situation is similar to last month on the demonic right- the Recallers sprint forth, disrupting the angelic formation with their explosive sacrifice, then the Rememberers charge in to hack their foes to pieces. It is not quite as dire as last month- the bottles having reduced the skeletons' strength slightly-, but things still look pretty bad for the angelic side.
In all, the melee is more balanced than last month, but the demonic side still has the advantage. Of course, there is another element to this battle that has yet to come into play.

The mutant gulls, having curved around the demonic formation, now strike at the rear. Demonic archers treat them to volleys of arrows, causing injuries, but not sufficient to stop the charging birds in their tracks. The bandaged casters are a different story, however. Close observation of their regalia would show that the dark gemstones adorning them have gained a curious lustre over the course of the battle. Now, they unleash the energy within, hurling Magic Missiles that visibly brim with destructive potential at the oncoming gulls. A single strike by these empowered Missiles proves enough to shatter the bones of the gull-cavalry, sending bird and rider sprawling. (Incidentally, Ratmen fleeing the melee drop dead as they pass by the casters)
However, there are almost eighty of the gulls, and only a dozen of the bandaged figures. Many survive, and crash into the demonic archers. They peck at them with three-piece serrated beaks, or slash at them with the unnatural claws on their wingtips, while the riders use their spears in a spirited attempt to join in (though in comparison it isn't very effective). Some crash through to the casters, carving through the Acolytes, though the bandaged figures prove remarkably resilient (however, each time they get hit, a demonic cultist drops dead).
The demonic spears in reserve rush to drive the gulls back, and some from the right flank turn back as well. However, in most cases, the gulls are able to disengage and avoid retaliation- the exception being those who drove in too deep, or those who got distracted by the process of eating their victims. There aren't enough demonic spears to cover everywhere, and the gulls are able to pick and choose their battles. They certainly take losses, but the demonic rear is devastated.

On the other side of the field, the Rememberers are also carving into the rear, having broken through the angelic left flank (they took noticeable losses doing so). However, they are not as fast as the gulls, making it easier to respond. Some angelic spears are able to disengage from the Ratmen in order to face them, which combined with the Wards and Missiles of the Acolytes is able to slow their progress. After a while, the Sea Servants realise there is fighting happening behind them, and join the effort to push the Rememberers back. This overwhelms the remaining skeletons, though they fight to the last.
With the threat finally dealt with, attention turns back to the front line. A renewed ranged assault on the Ratmen tips the scales, triggering a mass rout. With their centre collapsing, and several gulls still threatening the rear, the remainder of the demonic army breaks as well.

The surviving gulls make some progress in running down the fleeing demonic troops, but with the battle over they quickly turn their focus over to feeding, allowing the demonic forces to escape total destruction. The angelic army did not come out of the battle lightly (though the demonic army suffered more), and thus maintain a degree of caution as they chase the retreating demonic army south.
While the new demonic spellcasters certainly proved potent, they could not match the value of cavalry on the steppe.
The Angelic Army pushes the front line in the Western Protectorate by 2 segments, bringing their control of the Vast Steppe to 4/8. They receive 1 Wealth Token.

Chegitha - Sheltered Fjords
Determined to capitalise on their momentum from last month, the demonic army eagerly marches north, in search of a good place to cross the first inlet. Equally determined to stop them, the angelic army gathers strength on the far shore, seeking to defeat the demons and push south. Mutant gulls swim across the water to harass the demonic army, while brightly-lit camps remain vigilant against potential vampiric interference.
The Fjords, of which there are definitely and always have been four, are not a place of sheer cliffs and impassible mountains, but weathered hills. On both sides are several beaches where an army could land fairly easily, and a plethora of abandoned boats- from a time when Chegithan fishermen sailed out of the inlets in large numbers, before the Thpenian navy restricted access to foreign fishing. The demonic army quickly begins to assemble a fleet. Though somewhat hampered by gull raids, they are soon ready to go.
Across the water, Muu's followers face a slight conundrum- though they are informed (by gull-scouts) of where the demonic fleet is being assembled, and how close they are to departure, there are two possible beaches that Nar-Carok's forces could land on. They eventually opt to place roughly a quarter of their forces at each beach, and hold the remainder in reserve between the two, hopefully able to reinforce the target beach before their rivals can fully come ashore.

The demonic fleet sets out on a misty morning, further delaying their detection. Upon sighting sails in the mist, the angelic detachment on the western beach send a gull messenger to alert the main force, and ready themselves to delay the landing.
As the demonic boats approach the shore, archers fire at the defenders on the beach. While firing from a rocking boat is not as effective as firing from dry land, they outnumber their counterparts, forcing the angelic cultists to back away from the water's edge, out of bow range.
The demonic fleet gets as close to the shore as possible, but keel touches sand with several meters to go, forcing the demonic soldiers to get out and wade the remaining distance. No sooner have they entered the water than Sea Servants- lurking beneath the waves- spring up to assault them. Though outnumbered by the demonic troops, they are in their element, while cultists struggle to fight effectively, and Ratmen can barely fight at all. Ranged troops still on the boats pick them off, however, and Nar-Carok takes the opportunity to reveal himself, scything through the watery warriors with a Rememberer's glaive, blasting others with Magic Missiles. The last of the Servants is cleared out, though at a heavy cost to the demonic army- both in terms of lives, and time.

Nar-Carok leads the charge on the beach, where he and his soldiers are met with a smattering of glowing bottles. NC himself avoids the worst of it, blocking the bottles thrown at him with wards, but his skeletal warriors are less fortunate. Nevertheless, the defenders are outnumbered, and significantly outclassed by Nar-Carok. The small number of gulls present serve to slow the demonic advance a little, distracting them with a mixture of feints and actual charges, but are too fragile to fully commit against demonic melee troops.
As the angelic spears are pushed back, demonic ranged units disembark, archers and acolytes wading to the beach, while the superior spellcasters are towed ashore in small rowboats.
At this point, the cavalry arrive. Gulls from the main force charge onto the beach, bolstered by the presence of Muu herself. With greater numbers, their charge is more disruptive, causing the demonic advance to falter. Muu lashes out with spear and tentacle at those nearby, and fires volleys of magic at the wading archers.

Obviously, if Muu and Nar-Carok are on the same battlefield, a duel is inevitable. The two polar opposites are drawn together, carving their way through the other's forces to face off. Nar-Carok permanently shadowy form is augmented with regalia similar to that worn by the bandaged casters, and like them, he uses the energy contained within to augment the magic he fires at Muu. Muu blocks most of it with magically-tuned Ymis wards, though one Missile gets through, leaving a blackened crater on her red and blue skin.
Muu retaliates by hurling several glowing bottles with considerable force and accuracy. Nar-Carok blocks several with wards, and shoots another with a quick Magic Missile. While he avoids a direct hit, several drops of the bright liquid splash onto his body, with corrosive effect (the brief banishment of his permanent shadow drives cultists witnessing the duel to insanity). The bright flashes also serve to dazzle him, giving Muu an opportunity to close the distance and strike at him with a bone-wood spear, causing yet more damage.
Nar-Carok recovers, and strikes back with his glaive. For a few minutes, the two duel with weapon and magic, neither achieving the upper hand. But the gulls begin to be pushed back as more of the demonic force reaches the beach, and Muu eventually opts to retreat before concluding the duel.

Nar-Carok has little opportunity to celebrate his victory, however. The rest of the angelic reserves begin to arrive on the beach, fresh and eager. Nar-Carok considers his own forces- tired, depleted, not in formation-, and determines that victory is out of reach. He makes the strategic decision to withdraw, rather than risk his entire army being destroyed, ordering his followers back to the boats.
The retreat is made more difficult by gull cavalry, but most of the surviving troops make it to the boats before the angelic infantry is upon them. Though defeated, disaster is averted.

Several days later, the angelic army crosses the fjord themselves. Demonic forces make a token attempt to stop them, but angelic cavalry being able to cross at will, and the advantage the Sea Servants have in an amphibious landing (further compounded by Muu's presence, as she takes direct control of some Servants, using them as elite troops), ensure that the depleted demonic army is not capable of preventing the crossing. They are able to prevent the angelic army from moving south freely, meaning the front line is not brought back to where it was at the start of the war.
Improvements in amphibious capability, or some other advantage will be required if Nar-Carok intends to contest the fjords again, but at least his personal presence prevented disaster.

The Angelic Army pushes the front line in the Chegitha by 2 segments, bringing their control of the Rolling Hills to 2/8. They receive 1 Wealth Token.

(Reminder that the influence lanes have a slight random aspect, as mortals engage in their own activities that may help or hinder infiltration efforts)

Gridlocked Polis
It's election day. Again. Unsurprisingly, while some senators are ousted, and fresh faces take their place, no party is able to achieve a majority, and the overall balance of power remains the same. For the man on the street, it barely affects their life.

Angelic recruitment continues to steadily expand, as more missionaries arrive from the Bountiful Quarries. More districts are seeded with Worms, and another Gadfly goes to their death to highlight injustice and promote benevolence. 1/5 -> 2/5

Demonic agents have a more interesting time. Basic recruitment efforts continue, bolstered by larger numbers coming from the Restless Satrapy, but more importantly, the reclusive Vampire Lord enters the region, sending his Thralls out to investigate the state of high society. They identify several upper-class targets who might be suitable converts, though it proves less simple to bring these into contact with Acolytes capable of using Dark Seduction. Some progress is made, slowly building rapport, but more time will be required to finalise conversion.
Additionally, the Masters of Rites enter the region, providing free funeral services- avec provocative sermons. In particular, they graciously provide their services to the bereaved acquaintances of the angelic Gadfly (who have no reason to suspect the motives of such well-dressed and generous people). In the accompanying sermon, they blame the death on those who manipulated the deceased into provoking the authorities. Those blinded by their own self-righteousness, who would sacrifice lives in service of 'morality'. This is troubling to many in the crowd- on the one hand, the sermon is well-delivered, hard to argue with. On the other, having been present at the Gadfly's execution, they are themselves fiercely convinced of the need for a moral crusade. Most people are very unhappy to find that the enemy was within them the whole time. It is like a very bad and shitty magic feather! 1/5 -> 2/5

Bountiful Quarries
A minor earthquake strikes the region- not too uncommon, but still disruptive. The authorities are distracted by repair efforts, providing a window of opportunity for those who would undermine them.

The angelic missionaries are unfortunately not equipped to take maximum advantage of the distraction. Though they are able to spread Worms of Muu to ever more communities, this only makes people more susceptible to their message- it does not help them to persuade those in power to risk their career to serve an eldritch cult. Another Gadfly operation (specifically targeted at a group of overseers who are considered potential future converts) does pave the way, making future progress an easier prospect. 2/5

Meanwhile, their demonic adversaries are increasingly troubled by en-Wormed communities rejecting their message outright. While there are still many free of the Worms' influence, too many chances are lost for their proselytising to make significant progress. Masters of Rites do what they can to shift the popular mood in their favour, causing a number of people to have Shitty Feather breakdowns, but their task is explicitly not conversion. Perhaps with more missionaries coming from the Polis, future efforts will be easier. 1/5

Restless Satrapy
Fresh troops arrive in the region, bolstering the existing garrison, reinvigorating efforts to police dissent. It is a bad time to try and convince people to switch loyalties. The feuding factions in the Thpenian administration tone down their rhetoric, though behind the scenes they seek allies in their efforts to control the province.

There was never really any choice; Nar-Carok could only ever side with the Federalists. With their seductive promises of "Local Autonomy", they lure locals to their side- while knowing it is simply the easiest way to placate the Satrapish without actually giving them any rights in Thpenos proper. It would also mean having a region out of sight of the central government, perfect for concealing their own dubious practices.
While their motives are self-serving, their methodology is one of encouraging harmony. They excel at finding ways of combining the best aspects of distinct elements- and not exclusively in terms of culture. They have also experimented with combining Satrapish cavalry with Thpenian phalanxes, not to mention their willingness to combine their own efforts with that of a literal demon.
However, the Federalists will not be helping Nar-Carok to harmonise his forces this month. Though they appreciate the efforts of the Masters of Rites (who spread distrust for closer ties with Thpenos amongst the people, and promote the idea of self-governance), they do not feel this does enough. Acolytes do what they can to keep them on board, but requests to officially join Nar-Carok's cult are politely declined  (especially given the increased policing dissuading them), and demonic influence noticeably declines. 3/5 -> 2/5

Though the angelic missionaries coming from the Gridlocked Polis do what they can, the increased surveillance makes it hard to operate. This hinders the spread of Worms, and sees their Gadfly executed faster than expected, before a smaller crowd than hoped.
Even with their relatively insignificant presence, they are still contacted by a lone member of the Assimilators. Concerned by rumours that the Federalists have joined Nar-Carok, she sought out the only power capable of counteracting such an eldritch ally. Though ideally they'd not have to rely on foreign methods, the contact considers herself a pragmatist, and will do what must be done to save the people of the Satrapy from exploitation at Federalist hands. She explains that despite Federalist propaganda, they do not want to erase local culture, but wish to share the wonders of Thpenos with the region, enriching their lives and allowing them to fully integrate into the nation. Assimilators believe that all citizens of Thpenos should be equal, and do not want to see an entire province reduced to a second-class dependency.
Close cooperation between the Assimilators and Muu is some ways off, but their skill at convincing others to adopt their way of thinking could be useful for the angelic cause- most obviously with regards to conversion, but there are other ways in which thinking alike can be beneficial. 1/5

Schism'd Capital
The holy festival of Imber's Deluge is celebrated. Probably. Different sects disagree on which exact date the festival is supposed to take place on, resulting in an uptick in 'vigorous theological debate', or 'drunken street brawling', depending on who you ask. This only serves to heighten the average citizen's disillusionment with the whole Xyranian edifice.

Angelic efforts continue apace, aided by recent events. More mahallas are seeded with Worms, another Gadfly is employed to sway the people, and more middle-class citizens are brought into the fold, expanding Muu's influence. 1/5 -> 2/5

Masters of Rites strike again, inspiring more mental breakdowns in those torn between a supernatural inclination to Good and exceptionally convincing arguments to reject it. They do have to be extra careful, though- while their sermons are theologically sound, in other regions they can afford to bend things a little further, whilst here a zealot could be in the crowd who would object to such lenient interpretations. Regardless, demonic missionaries make progress as well, raking in middle-class converts to expand Nar-Carok's influence.1/5 -> 2/5

Raiders' Roost
The rulers of the province- that is, the highest ranking adventurers, not the government-, engage in some self-pruning. Several are banished for cheating at a dice game- something they take very seriously in these parts. This has little impact on day-to-day affairs, however.

More Worms, another Gadfly- but here, the influence of Master of Rites is quite noticeable. Shitty Feather breakdowns disrupt their recruitment efforts, which combined with the limited number of agents prevent the angelic cause from being significantly expanded. 1/5

Meanwhile, demonic agents begin to seek out low-ranking adventurers and other influential people, looking for opportunities to convert some to the dark cause. Dark Seduction is less effective against these targets, as any adventurer worth their salt has a protective talisman or two on their person, lessening the impact of magic. More conventional proselytising does begin to darken hearts, but it will take at least another month before progress is made. 2/5

Pirate Haven
The army launches yet another operation to root out piracy. A pirate cove is razed, and some members of government are removed due to suspected pirate sympathies. As before, this does not do anything to diminish the pirate threat, or really cause any significant changes.

As in the Bountiful Quarries, angelic efforts at converting the masses continue to pay off, but have less success with those in power. Again, some inroads are made, but it will take more time or better methods to reel in the big fish. 2/5

With more missionaries coming in from the Schism'd Capital, demonic efforts are able to build a small support base despite being hampered by angelic efforts. Masters of Rites are only present in insignificant numbers. 0/5 -> 1/5

EVENT - The Merchant, Conclusion
After considering the Merchant's inventory, the two sides make their choice.

Muu opts to take the Truesilver Extract.
"I should've seen that coming", the Merchant says.

Nar-Carok goes for the Broken Shackle.
"Let your creativity run wild", the Merchant comments.

The man subsequently packs up his stall, and presumably leaves, although no one sees him doing so.

Knowledge is power
Let's take a closer look at the new tech seen this turn.

Angelic Advances
Muu taunts the Death of Suns by using the sun's power against his forces. Bottled Sunlight is produced using intricate (expensive) mirror arrays that infuse sunlight with Good and then convert it to a liquid form, which is stored in sealed glass bottles. The sealed bottles have a faint glow- a meagre substitute for a regular torch-, but when uncorked the liquid sunlight boils off, all-but turning night to day in the immediate vicinity. This only lasts about five minutes, however, so a diffuser is also available that regulates the release of sunlight, producing a less extreme light that lasts for about an hour. Additionally, the high concentration of Good allows liquid sunlight to be used as makeshift medicine, healing minor injuries at the cost of causing minor mutations (more serious injuries can sometimes also be treated, but leave the patient heavily warped in mind and body). Finally, the same principle that allows the liquid to heal Good-aligned individuals also means that Evil-aligned folk will be burned by the substance, and those who rely on Evil to function (eg Rememberers... or demons) will suffer destructive effects. Also there's a string tied to the bottle, this is very important.

The common seagull is already a terrifying monstrosity. Adding in vast quantities of mutative Good just make Drakegulls worse. With a beak that splits into three (all three parts with serrated edges), a variable number of eyes in mixed configuration, and sporadic tentacles emerging all over their bodies, the only mercy is that these giant birds are too heavy to achieve true flight- though they can still glide. They also have quite the appetite, slowing strategic speed (due to extra food supplies weighing them down, or extra foraging required), and sometimes causing them to pause mid-battle to snack on a corpse.

The shambling undead shamble no more, as the improved Servant Motor Skills give them improved control over their unnatural forms. Better motor skills, situational awareness, and hivemind intelligence render them more useful both economically and in battle. In terms of movement speed and skill at arms, they are almost at Cultist Spear level, although their equipment and resilience is still worse. When Muu is personally present, she can not only direct the hivemind rapidly (as before), she can also assume direct control over a small number of Sea Servants, using them as if they were her own limbs- making them very skilled fighters, certainly as compared to regular cultists.

Demonic Developments
Masters of Rites are Nar-Carok's answer to Muu taking advantage of people who are going to die to spread her message. The Masters take people who have died, and use them to spread his message. Dressed in ornate but tasteful robes, familiar with the burial customs of every culture in the region, and offering free funerary services, they lure in customers in droves. The sermons that accompany the burial are well-crafted, theologically flawless, tasteful and personalised- but also happen to inflame a desire for vengeance in those listening, directed towards whichever entity the Master pins the blame for the individual's death on. Though not magical in nature, these sermons are- as seen- persuasive enough to cause internal conflict even in those affected by Gadflies.
As it happens, the priesthood of Thpenos and Xyrania had something to say about these newcomers muscling in on their territory by offering free funerary services. Namely, "Thank you so much, we really don't like dealing with the dead. Please take over running cemeteries for us as well, kthxbye". Consequently, Nar-Carok, through the Masters of Rites, owns most graveyards, catacombs, charnel houses and so on in the both countries. While this places some administrative burden on the Masters, it more than makes up for it by providing the keys to vast reserves of corpses and deathly energy.

The more flashy development on the demonic side this month were the Soul Magi. Once living members of the Cult of the Eternal Soul- an Evil cult headquartered in the Buried City millenia ago-, they had themselves mummified on death, preserving their bodies, while they bound their own souls in Soul Gems to preserve their mind as well. Nar-Carok uncovered their sarcophagi, and was intensely interested in the potential for these undead necromancers. He spent a sizeable sum to restore their Soul Gems to pristine condition. Unfortunately, he was unable to revive them- the method for doing so lost to history.
Or at least, misplaced to history. The Eternal Soul's rites trickled down over the years, leaving traces of their lore in the funerary customs of the entire region. By examining evidence located in the oldest catacombs in his newfound collection, Nar-Carok was able to track down an abandoned tomb whose walls held the secrets of the Eternal Soul's Ancient Rites. Though incomplete, this provided enough to work with for him to roughly reverse the process of placing the Magis' souls in stasis- and thus reviving them.
The revived Soul Magi must consume Evil souls to survive- the more active they are, the more they need to consume. This is considered a small price to pay for their improved arcane abilities, which outshine Acolytes by several times. Their spells are only made more potent by their ability to consume more souls (not necessarily Evil ones) to fill the Soul Gems in their regalia, which in turn fuel their spellcraft. So long as they have Evil souls to feed on, their undying forms are remarkably resilient- but if cut off from them, they will quickly wither.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2022, 11:51:31 am by NUKE9.13 »
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  • Bay Watcher
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2022, 11:48:53 am »

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