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Author Topic: Chiaroscuro 2  (Read 2973 times)

Quarque

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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2022, 05:38:34 pm »

Quote from: Submission: Jeriah
Jeriah is a horse trader from the Schism'd capital. He is to travel through the vast steppe with a large number of the finest horses Xyrania has to offer. Jeriah hates the vast steppe. But his customer is none other than the Viceroy of the Silver palace. You do not disappoint the Viceroy.
After two weeks of travel his caravan meets up with a band of ruffians - they´re too pathetic to be called an army. Men armed with primitive spears and bows, their faces painted in blue hues. When Jeriah meets them up close, he shudders when he finds out that some of them aren´t human, but some weird zombie/jellyfish crossover. Jeriah is relieved to find out they do not demand his money. All they want to know is where they can find some "demon army".
"How am I supposed to know?" answers Jeriah irritably. "I don't know what a demon looks like and have no interest to learn, either."
The leader solemny nods. "Onwards to the south!" he yells, and the mob starts moving north.
Jeriah stares at them as they disappear in the distance. For some reason they remind him of the woman who recently claimed that gods do not care how they are worshipped. Of course she was promptly executed. What is the world coming to?

Weeks later. Sedrick the angel cultist barely stops himself from cursing. Their army has arrived in the same place where it met the trade caravan earlier. He thinks. Actually he isn't sure. Every hill here looks the same time.
In the meantime, Jeriah is in a good mood. The Viceroy paid even better than usual and he is heading home. His expression sours when he is stopped by another band of ruffians. They look somewhat similar to the ones he met earlier, but this time they have actual zombies. And a lot of smelly hairy folks that Jeriah manages to keep a good distance from.
This time they inform if Jeriah has seen an "angel army".
"Oh, let me guess," says Jeriah. "Are you talking about an army that looks a bit like yours, but with more tentacles?"
"Yes"
With an innocent smile Jeriah says: "I'm pretty sure they went in that direction, to the south."

When the demons are out of earshot, Jeriah mutters: "A man can't take a few steps in the desert without stumbling over these damn tourists."

Little did he know that the angel army had been going around in a circle and his direction would lead the armies to finally meet.
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Knightwing64

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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #16 on: September 02, 2022, 09:09:28 pm »


Quote from: Contest Submission: Tragedy at Midnight

They’re here.

They want our flesh and blood, they can’t have it. We won’t let them.

*Later…

It’s over.


The screams turn to silence. The bloody begging of families who had lost all they had. Instead, as the light washes over the city and over every harrowed face within it, those cries slowly change their shape, as has the course of their lives.


— They change to long, wretched wails.

 

Commander in Chief Xylik slowly lowers his shield and the rest of his unit follow.

 

Everyone looks. They look at each other, the guards, the “survivors”.

 

It’s silent.

 

Xylik breaks the silence and walks towards the capital, looking for something, anything.

 

And for as far as he can see, down every road and alley and out of every window and door was emancipated bodies, drained of all blood. Their loose skin and meat dripping down everywhere as their open mouths cry out a silent symphony of fear.

 

Without a word, he turns around and walks down the street, the same route that he takes every day, back on his way home from work.



He’s back home now, The man rubs his eyes, smearing some strange substance over it, as he heads up the staircase to their bedroom.

 

He walks into the bedroom, the door strangely already opened, and breathes a sigh of relief seeing that she is where he had left her to hide, and throws off his light leather armor as he creeps over into bed, back where his night had started before the invasion started.

 

Xylik lets out a long and drawn out sigh as he decompresses and relaxes next to his wife.

 

His hand stretches out, holding hers as their fingers intertwine.

 

A chunk of her wet and wrinkled skin falls onto him.

 

Xylik closes his eyes.

 

It’s fine.

 

Tomorrow he’s going to wake up and find out that this was all just a nightmare and his sons will wish him a good morning as his wife scolds him for getting home late.

 

The man yawns and goes to sleep.

 

There is a scratching beneath their bed.

 

Rats?

 

Tired, Xylik leans over sideways, looking down beneath the bed.

 

— Something that is there takes his Blood and then his head.

His “wife” smiles.

(I know the vampires don’t work like this, but suspend your disbelief please 😃)
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m1895

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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2022, 02:48:16 pm »

Spoiler: Contest Submission (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2022, 03:05:54 pm by m1895 »
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NUKE9.13

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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #18 on: December 25, 2022, 03:30:02 pm »

Turn 4 - Mid Summer
TURNTURNTURN
The beasts below, they march to war
On slimy leg and skittish paw
Not even gods know their true goal
And unaware do kingdoms fall
So the fire burns, no end in sight
Let us now see what flames alight




Western Protectorate - Vast Steppe
The Steppe in midsummer is a sweltering, dusty place. Eldritch forces must be a little more cautious than before, as a reckless advance might cause such a dust cloud that even the borderline-oblivious scouts of the Protectorate might notice something amiss. Fortunately, the bulk of angelic forces are slowed down by the carts carrying Liquid Light Elementals, while their demonic rivals must move cautiously, ever in fear of the roaming Drakegulls.

But their fear is somewhat alleviated this month, as they bring mounted troops of their own to the field: cultists, wielding crude recurved bows (enchanted with Hate), conveyed at surprising speed on the backs of giant spiders. They may be lower in number than their avian rivals, but the spider-riders have two advantages: for one, their mounts have excellent night-vision, allowing them to operate when the birds cannot; two, their bows allow them to attack at range, while their mounts are fast enough to avoid reprisal.
Or at least, that was the plan. Unfortunately, Muu has not rested on her laurels, but has made considerable strides in upgrading her cavalry. The Drakegulls are now ridden into battle by strange slimy creatures, consisting of a twisted fusion of humanoid form and cephalopod substance. While their appearance is disconcerting, this would not be enough to faze demonic cultists, but unfortunately they also wield improved equipment- leather... let's call it a vest, since it covers what could generously be called a torso, a teardrop shield faced with coral (beautiful, but also remarkably sturdy for its light weight), an iron sabre, and most unfortunately for Nar-Carok's spiderfriends, glowing javelins that cause a burst of Good-infused light on impact (in addition to conventional damage).
While the spider-riders' bows do outrange the gull-riders' javelins, it reduces the margin considerably- and whereas an arrow is not always crippling, a single hit by the empowered javelins is usually enough to put a cultist or their mount out of the fight; severely injured, if not slain outright. Combined with the Drakegulls' superior numbers- being roughly four times as prevalent-, the demonic forces are again on the back foot with regards to scouting and skirmishing- though spider-scouts do provide better warning of impending Drakegull raids, they cannot prevent them.
Spider-riders strike back at night, raiding the angelic camp. Though they cannot get too close, thanks to the illuminated perimeter, they can fire a volley of arrows from a distance, causing minor casualties, then melt back into the night before the angelic forces can muster a response. The Good Doctor is on the case, though. She is able to keep pace with the spiders, but does not chase them too far, lest she leave the camp undefended for too long. Indeed, when one night she does chase the spiders for an extended period, she returns to camp to find that it has been raided by the Vampire Lord.
These nighttime raids continue for some time, until one night the Vampire Lord gets too cocky. He raids the camp after seeing the Good Doctor running off after the spiders- unaware that the Doctor purposefully made a show of chasing them, while actually looping around the perimeter. She catches him as he leaves, once again dealing a serious but non-lethal blow. While not out of the fighting for good, the Vampire Lord does take a more back-seat role, and without his leadership the efficacy of demonic night-raids drops.
With the Vamp's injury, the demonic army takes a more proactive approach in seeking a direct confrontation with their rivals. With the angelic army slowed down by LLE carts, and with spiders providing nocturnal scouting, they are able to force a battle.

Other than their improved cavalry, the only noticeable difference on the angelic side of the field is that they appear to have brought a lower ratio of Sea Servants than in previous months- no doubt due to the effects that Agony of the Soul has. They have suffered minor losses to demonic raids, but are otherwise fresh and eager.
On the demonic side, there is a notable addition (on top of the spider-riders guarding the flanks). Most of the Cultist Spears have been replaced with a new unit- humanoid roaches, walking upright on four legs, wielding a rectangular shield and sturdy spear. Though less numerous than cultists, they show improved discipline, marching in tight formation with a determined attitude. Their tight formation and reduced numbers (especially with some troops held in reserve to counter Drakegull flanking attacks) does mean the demonic front is considerably narrower than that of their rivals, putting them at risk of being enveloped. Demonic numbers have also been reduced by angelic raids, though the scouting provided by the spiders has allowed the survivors to rest slightly more easily, making them less weary than last month (with the exception of the spider-riders, whose nocturnal antics leave them less energetic for this daytime conflict).
The sides advance; a number of demonic cultists drop dead as the Soul Magi empower themselves; Hateful Bowmen launch volleys of arrows, with their angelic counterparts returning the favour shortly afterwards. As the sides draw closer still, magic flies back and forth. Lightning arcs through the angelic ranks, demonic arrows clatter off of angelic wards, angelic arrows embed themselves in the roach-men's shields. Spider-riders cautiously harry the Drakegulls, making sure not to stray into javelin range. The ranged combat favours the demonic side by a decent margin, and their angelic rivals advance quickly, hoping melee might be more in their favour.

Liquid Light Elementals lead the charge. Those sections of the demonic line made up of Ratmen are predictably devastated, with the rodents barely kept from fleeing by the Skitterpriests driving them. Some of the Cultist Spears held in reserve are immediately sent forwards to stabilise the Ratmen ranks, before the angelic infantry breaks through their faltering formation (worth noting here is that without the numbers provided by the Ratmen, the demonic lines would be so short as to make envelopment an inevitability). The roaches, on the other hand, are much more suited to absorbing a frontal charge. While by no means unharmed by the impact of the glowing goliaths, their solid formation and superior equipment- not to mention the extra bracing provided by their four legs- mean that unlike their furry comrades, their ranks remain intact.
When the angelic infantry make contact with the insectoid spears, their worth is immediately proven. Not only are their shields and spears superior, but their chitin also provides natural armour (akin to light armour- by no means impenetrable, but a lot better than what cultists have)(most also wear metal face masks, with an appearance like the front of a Murmillo helmet). This added resilience often lets them weather blows that would cripple a cultist, and they are reasonably skilled with their spears (which they occasionally drop in favour of short stabbing swords), resulting in a lopsided fight in the demons' favour.
On the stretched demonic flanks, the fighting is less one-sided. The familiar skeletal contingent on the right causes significant damage, but are too aggressive to hold the line- as they charge ahead into the angelic ranks, the forces behind are left vulnerable. On the left, some extra roach-men help keep things steady, but are at risk of being overwhelmed- and certainly not in any position to, say, counter a flanking attack by cavalry.

Oh, hey, would you look at that. A flanking attack by cavalry. Though the spider-riders do their best to slow them down, the Drakegulls and their squiddy companions outnumber and outclass the demonic cavalry. They wheel around the flanks, and charge. The spiders' efforts are not wasted, in that they give the remaining reserve Cultist Spears a chance to move to block the charge, and for archers and casters to whittle the gulls down- but it is not enough. The gull-riders launch a volley of javelins at short range, knocking out dozens of spearmen, and tear into those still standing with talon, beak, and sabre.
Though the charge was devastating, the demonic troops fight on, attempting to surround the gulls and pin them down- but as soon as the tide start to turn, the gull-riders all unleash a cloud of black ink, obscuring their presence, allowing them to safely disengage and pull back. They then turn, and charge again- this time into the disorganised, disoriented, dismayed demonic forces. Even though the clouds of ink obscure the gull-riders vision just as much as their foes, a short-range volley of javelins doesn't need to be aimed precisely- while a few fall short, plenty hit someone. The Drakegulls then scythe through the demonic rear, scattering the spearmen, cutting down archers left and right, and penetrating into the depths of the formation where the Soul Magi and Vampire Lord are lurking. Though the Soul Magi are resilient, this resilience comes at a high cost in cultist lives. The injured Vampire Lord manages to kill a few gulls and riders, but suffers more injuries in the process.
Having sown chaos, the Drakegulls retreat again. Although those who penetrated to the centre have a harder time getting out unscathed, plenty of them get out- enough to make the prospect of a third charge seem very real and potentially lethal. While the melee front is still in the demons' favour, the angels now hold the ranged advantage, threatening to whittle down the roach-men and Ratmen until they break.
The Vampire Lord takes no chances. He orders the Ratmen to charge, and a third of the roach-men to hold the angels back, while the rest of the army beats a hasty retreat. The Ratmen duly charge, until they notice the rest retreating, at which point they break and flee as well. The picked roach-men stoically hold, forming outwards-facing circular formations- doomed, but able to hold on for long enough for the rest to escape (they are too slow to run away, so sacrificing some units to buy time for others to flee is only logical (as an omniscient narrator, I can tell you that they do so only to save other roach-men, rather than having an attachment to the entire demonic army)).

With the bulk of angelic infantry held up, and spider-riders screening against the Drakegulls (the ones who don't stop to feast on the corpses now that the battle is won), the demonic army is able to retreat in fairly good order. However, they have no stronghold to retreat to, and are thus forced to fall back all the way to the borderlands of the Pestilent Marshes. The angelic army cannot be reckless in pursuit- they do not have the speed to catch them for a second battle this month without overexerting themselves, potentially giving the demonic army an advantage.

While the angelic victory was not as complete as last month, with the introduction of spider riders giving the demonic army the means to fight back against angelic cavalry, the improved Drakegulls tipped the scales back. Nar-Carok's insectoid infantry held the line admirably, and might have even turned the tide had the demonic army been capable of more complex tactics. Had the Good Doctor not been present, the Vampire Lord may well have been able to cause more significant damage to the angelic camp, which may have also helped.


The Angelic Army pushes the front line in the Western Protectorate by 2 segments, bringing their control of the Vast Steppe to 8/8. They receive 1 Wealth Token. Next turn's fighting will occur in the Pestilent Marshes.



Chegitha - Sheltered Fjords
Though Nar-Carok (once again personally leading his army) has some new tricks up his sleeves, crossing the water between him and the angelic army is not a simple task. Especially when the new angelic cavalry shows up (able to swim across the fjord, they harass the demonic forces as they approach the shore and start assembling a fleet), he opts for a cautious approach.
A probing raid is launched to test the waters (aha). As the demonic boats approach the shore, their bowmen make use of their superior range to drive back the angelic forces on the beach, and once they get a bit closer, Soul Magi launch Agony of the Soul into the shallows. The Sea Servants predictably lurking beneath the waves are thus gradually flushed out, eventually allowing a small group of Cultist Spears to wade ashore, make some crude gestures at their foes, desecrate some corpses, and then quickly reembark before the bulk of the angelic army arrives. While a relatively successful raid, it was too time-consuming to enable a full landing.
Having ceded the initiative, it is Muu's turn to make a crossing attempt. Likewise leading her forces personally, she sets sail a few days later.

Like their angelic rivals, the demonic forces cannot be certain which beach Muu intends to land on, forcing them to split their forces (a quarter each to two beaches, half in reserve). It happens to be the easternmost beach this time. Unlike Nar-Carok, Muu wastes no time plinking away at the forces on the beach. Sea Servants disembark into fairly deep water, an environment that causes them little trouble, and help pull the angelic fleet ashore, allowing for rapid disembarkation. Though the demonic forces whittle them down at range, they are quickly outnumbered by the angelic infantry.
The roach-men present form a circular formation, with archers and casters on the inside. Though not invincible, this does extend their resistance. Though Muu personally causes serious damage to the formation, it manages to hold out for long enough that the reserve half of the demonic army arrives as they are fighting.
However, the demonic forces on the beach are bedraggled by this point, and Muu is easily able to redirect the bulk of her forces to face the reinforcements, leaving a few units to contain the survivors.

Drakegulls- who had been harrying the demonic reinforcements the whole time- charge in once the forces are engaged, while Muu personally leads a unit of synced Sea Servants that outmatch even the roach-men. Combined with a numerical disadvantage, this puts the demonic forces on the back foot, although it isn't lopsided.
Of course, Nar-Carok and Muu have to duel. There is no choice. Nar-Carok (boasting a lower body resembling a spider) opens the fight with an empowered Agony of the Soul, which breaks through Muu's wards and leaves her staggered (although it does not chain from her). Muu closes the distance to strike back with the glowing javelins of her improved cavalry, and sends her puppet Sea Servants forwards to distract her rival. However, Nar-Carok is able to dispatch the Sea Servants with a few well-placed Agonies, and blocks the first javelin with a rectangular shield (as wielded by the roach-men), though he takes some damage from the blast of light it unleashes on impact. After a second javelin smashes his shield, he surges forwards with spear and sword, engaging Muu in hand-to-hand combat. The duel drags on for some time. Though Nar-Carok has the upper hand, there's not much in it, and his attention is split between Muu and the Sea Servants that she draws into the fight. Eventually, his Soul Regalia is recharged, and he unleashes another empowered Agony at Muu at point-blank range. The lightning leaves her multi-hued hide blackened and charred, and she is forced to retreat.
Nar-Carok has no time to celebrate, however. Cyclical flank-charges by the Drakegulls has left his forces reeling, and while he is able to cause significant damage to Muu's underlings now that she has pulled back, he cannot turn the tide alone. He is forced to call a general retreat, leaving the blood soaked beach. The victorious angelic army, however, is in no state to launch an immediate pursuit, having been severely depleted themselves.

The angelic army secures their foothold on the southern shore, but is not up to advancing further south this month. Superior amphibious infantry and cavalry make crossing the Fjords much easier for Muu than her rival. The demonic ranged advantage, defensive infantry, and the fact that Nar-Carok can beat her in a duel were not enough to prevent this- though they did make it a closer thing than Muu would've liked.

   
The Angelic Army pushes the front line in Chegitha by 1 segment, bringing their control of the Rolling Hills to 1/8.
   


Thpenos
Gridlocked Polis
Tokchoko's Carnival is celebrated, colourful costumes and festive music fill the streets. Grudges are set aside, and compassion and cooperation receive a temporary boost.


While the senate is divided in every direction, the Extremist faction takes things to the... well, you know. They are not nice people. They want to fix the ongoing gridlock, yes, but their methods and motives are abhorrent. They wish to turn Thpenos into a one-party state, where military might is used to suppress dissent, and the common people are reduced to slaves for the elite, while slaves are reduced to sub-human thralls. To this end, demonic assistance suits them just fine.
Nar-Carok will be expected to help them secure the support of the population- by any means. They do not have the necessary clout to overthrow the Thpenian government yet, so for now their goal is to secure electoral victories- by intimidating rival voters, and encouraging their own voters through a combination of outright lies, favouritism, and more intimidation.
Intimidation is something they know a thing or two about, and even a Demon might be able to learn something from them about the application of fear.
         
Sickening though the compassionate atmosphere may be, it does not actively hinder demonic efforts in the Polis. Masters of Rites weave pro-Extremist messages into the sermons, steering the population towards both evil and absolutist politics. This goes down well with Extremist senators, who thank their demonic contacts for their efforts. However, one also mentions concern for Muu's association with the Centrists, encouraging a proactive approach to suppressing their community-building.
Nar-Carok's cult comfortably solidifies their support in the Polis, though converting more senior senators and officials will require more support from adjacent regions, and means of persuading (by word, bribe, threat, etc) more powerful (and thus head-strong) folks to risk joining a demonic cult.
3/5      


While the senate is divided in every direction, the Centrist faction is convinced they can nevertheless create a consensus if they just keep trying. Of course, there is no room in their coalition for the Extremists- the Centrists are, after all, broadly in favour of the status quo (the pre-gridlock status quo), and the Extremist goal of suspending Thpenian democracy and creating a totalitarian state is not reconcilable with that.
If everyone who was opposed to the Extremists got together, they could easily force them out- but many of the other parties see the Centrists as just as bad as the Extremists. Thus, the Centrists seek angelic assistance to convince politicians to give centrism a chance- or at least to recognise the threat the Extremists pose.
Having spent years parleying with politicians of (almost) every political leaning, the Centrists are at least well-practiced in brokering deals and negotiation- their failure to unify Thpenos is not due to incompetence, but due to the ludicrously divided electorate. Angelic cultists might well be able to use those negotiation skills (in concert with supernatural augmentations) to achieve great things in the future.
         
Without the Impossible Thief's sabotage, angelic missionaries are able to exploit the festive atmosphere and their solid (ever-expanding) base of en-Worm'd converts to exert pressure on more prominent people. After all, with the electoral situation so fraught, low-ranking politicians cannot afford to ignore a petition by an entire community. This provides angelic missionaries with the opportunity to meet with a number of senators from the Centrist faction, who agree to cooperate with Muu's cult.
2/5 -> 3/5

         
Bountiful Quarries
Prospectors identify a new potential mining site, but after investigating it more closely determine it isn't viable. Exciting stuff.


It is not remotely surprising that Muu sided with the Communalists (note spelling). Their radical approach to managing industry gives power and protection to the ones doing the actual work. There might be some short-term disruption... but that will only harm the greedy landowners in the capital (aka the capital-ists). Care is taken to ensure that the workers themselves do not suffer in the new system.
With angelic aid, they hope to encourage the workers to unite, and to protect the budding revolution from reactionary elements who would disrupt it.
Needless to say, an ally of the Communalists is an ally of the workers. While they might not be well versed in esoteric subjects, they know that so-called mundane labour requires considerably more skill than the elites give credit for. When it comes to devising new and exotic inventions, they can't provide much help- but when it comes to ensuring those inventions are produced quickly and efficiently, they shine.

Uniting the workers is practically Muu's raison d'etre, and the proliferation of Worms of Muu and Corals of Community do good work in drawing the local population into ever closer cooperation, and a Gadfly dutifully goes to their death to amplify the workers' cause. Senior members of the Communalists (firsts among equals; the ones who develop the novel theories and snappy slogans that define the Communalist cause) take note. While they remain dedicated to the revolution, a little more persuasion might see them willing to officially sign on to the cult. For now, they at least tolerate Muu's growing influence with the masses.
3/5


The Meritocrats, realising their rivals have enlisted outside assistance, quickly determine that the optimal course of action is to find allies of their own- and their ruthlessly efficient mindset allows them to ally with a literal demon without losing any sleep. The Meritocrats do not have a problem with corruption. They have a problem with inefficient corruption. Why take 30% of a trickle of income, when taking 15% of a fortune yields better results?
Demonic assistance in finding evidence of corruption- or planting it if none can be found- will help the Meritocrats get rid of the old guard of overseers. A word in the right ear (or bribe in the right pocket) would also be appreciated to ensure that the most deserving candidates fill the vacated positions.
No doubt Nar-Carok's quartermasters and treasurers are shaking in their boots at the prospect of Meritocratic aid- they don't know exactly what a 'spreaded sheet' is, or what a 'quartered performing review' entails, but it can't be good news for them. Nar-Carok himself, however, is likely to admire the boost in efficiency that such ruthless business practices offer.
         
Unfortunately, Nar-Carok has little to offer the Meritocrats specifically this month. Conventional conversion methods (eg bringing targets to Recovery Centres, and/or having acolyte missionaries use Dark Seduction) do make some progress in bringing junior Meritocrats on board, and the spreading of demonic influence amongst the lower classes continues apace. But it will take at least another month before any significant demonic presence will be found in the meticulously organised office spaces of their potential allies.
2/5


Restless Satrapy
The recent uptick in rebel activity inspires the new governor to order an investigation into possible connections between the rebels and officials. This sees a number of minor figures arrested for corruption, and others quickly divesting themselves of any suspicious connections.


Some Federalist officials cut ties with Nar-Carok, although often with promises that it is only until the heat dies down. This disrupts demonic efforts to directly increase their influence, but continued efforts by Masters of Rites build up their network of controlled rebels, which will strengthen their hand in future negotiations. While this may help prevent backsliding in the future, demonic influence takes a temporary hit this month.
3/5 -> 2/5


Though Assimilator officials might not be cooperating with the rebels, they still seek to avoid excess scrutiny of themselves and their potential dealings with eldritch forces. Though Muu's cultists are able to spread her influence amongst the lower classes, solidifying a foundation of support, entry into the halls of power is not in the cards this month.
2/5



Xyrania
Schism'd Capital
Tokchoko's Carnival is semi-celebrated. Colourful costumes and festive music fill some streets, while in other streets angry preachers decry the debauchery on display.


With more support from the Pirate Haven, and a riled populace more susceptible to eldritch messaging, the angelic missionaries in the Schism'd Capital are able to make some progress, expanding their communities to encroach into the social circles of the movers and shakers of Xyrania. While not as well positioned to target the upper classes directly, by converting a few servants, angelic cultists can ensure Worms of Muu are added to the meals of the lesser nobility. Combined with the gradual proliferation of Corals of Community and a well-executed Gadfly campaign, it is should tip them over to-
[This part of the entry has been stolen]
-and given the extensive sabotage, expanding their influence is not on the table this month.
2/5


The high priest of Tokchoko's Grand Solarium steps up to the pulpit, and prepares to deliver the sermon of Tokchoko's Carnival to the congregation before him. He hesitates, despite having given this sermon every four years for over twenty years. For some reason, he just can't remember how it goes. After several minutes, the audience grows restless, and eventually a junior priest is called up to give the sermon in his stead, with the high priest excusing himself as 'feeling unwell'. He later resigns, after discovering that he can't remember even the fundamental tenets of the faith.
In addition to stealing (or making copies of) the religious knowledge of various senior priests, the Impossible Thief sabotages angelic efforts, acquires blackmail material, and helps to reduce the overall debauchery of Xyranian society by confiscating ostentatious jewelry. With the Impossible Thief's assistance (frustratingly cryptic and roundabout though it may be), demonic missionaries and Masters of Rites are able to contact, manipulate, and ultimately convert a number of nobles and (faithless) priests (the truly faithful being a more challenging target for eldritch forces; fortunately they are not the majority).
2/5 -> 3/5


Raiders' Roost
The bizarrely young and energetic leader of the Archaeologists recklessly distributes her share of a recent expedition to the public. While it later emerges that the golden coins were cursed, there are a fair number of people who are willing to risk a curse when free gold is on offer, and the Archaeologist faction receives an influx of new members.


Reckless. Unchecked ambition. A bizarre fondness for ancient creatures buried beneath the earth. The Archaeologists are a natural ally for Nar-Carok. Though they may once have had noble intentions, their morality has been eroded by years of obsessive study (and use) of cursed artifacts, to the point where they barely hesitate to make an alliance of convenience with a literal demon.
With demonic assistance, their acquisition of relics (by means fair or foul) will surely accelerate, and their attempts to unlock the mysteries within (through study, ward-breaking, or restoration) will become increasingly maniacal.
Nar-Carok, meanwhile, will hope to learn the secrets behind their relic-finding flair. Some say they use scrying magic. Others say they employ an army of sleuths. Yet others claim they just know which way up to hold a map. The truth is probably a combination of all three- regardless, there might not be anywhere to hide from Nar-Carok in the future.
         
The Masters of Rites are able to provide Archaeologist contacts with access to a number of still-in-use tombs, and though the hauls are not especially noteworthy, they never say no to an opportunity for graverobbing. Conventional efforts, and the induction of already-converted citizens into the Archaeologist ranks ensures that Nar-Carok's foothold in their organisation is secured. As mentioned elsewhere, expanding the influence into senior ranks will not be so straightforward, but a solid foundation never goes amiss.
3/5


Conscientious. Slow and steady. Extravagant. The Reliquars can find common ground with the forces of Muu, and Muu can appreciate their efforts to protect the world from Evil. Some relics are too dangerous, for a variety of reasons. Destroying them might be even more hazardous, so the Reliquars lock them up. Some might accuse them of hoarding, but it is the only way to keep the world safe.
Like their rivals, the Reliquars will surely seek angelic assistance in collecting dangerous relics, but more importantly in keeping them safely stored away. Many covet the content of their vaults, and help in keeping thieves, saboteurs, and tax collectors at bay are always appreciated.
Mind you, their vaults are already impressively protected, with layer upon layer of magical wards, reinforced walls, and steadfast sentries. While the Reliquars are hesitant to share the contents of their vaults with even their closest allies, they would be far more open to sharing tips on how to keep things safe and secure.
         
The angelic cult has little to offer the Reliquars in terms of relic-hunting or -securing. They do have their magical Coral, but they explicitly do not want that to be locked away in a vault. Spreading Worms, selling Coral, and using a Gadfly to rail against the recklessness of the Archaeologists gradually expands Muu's cult, but more influential converts will require more resources from the Schism'd Capital, or a more appealing offering.
2/5


Pirate Haven
A large-scale raid sees a major town looted. The army's response is to march in and execute dozens of suspected collaborators and burn "pirate safehouses"- leading to the local population feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.


An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. The Privateer faction know that pirates are just desperate people- there is no way to destroy them without destroying the land that is supposedly being protected! It's not the most clear-cut morality, but in the Pirate Haven, clear-cut morality just doesn't exist, and Muu knows their hearts are in the right place. Regulating pirates, getting them to work with the system, is better than slaughtering innocents.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and the Privateers will surely desire angelic aid when it comes to persuading pirates and magistrates to negotiate, and creating ceasefires and backdoor channels that will allow said negotiations to take place.
The Privateers can't operate as openly as their rivals, but then they know how to keep a low profile. Their pirate contacts likewise know how to blend in- with crowds, fog banks, or rough terrain. Muu might be able to convince them to share these skills with her cultists, leaving Nar-Carok in the dark. I suppose he'd probably like being in the dark, but you know what I mean.
         
The recent chaos is an opportunity for angelic missionaries to rake in a additional noteworthy converts, solidifying their presence in the region. The Privateers are quite desperate to gain allies in the face of the military's increasingly reckless actions. However, their more senior members are hesitant- though they are obviously willing to negotiate with unconventional allies, they must also be cautious not to expose themselves. And while they appreciate the offer of support, Muu's community-building is not as well suited to creating bonds between pirates and officials, who tend not to hang out at the same dinner parties.
Angelic presence in the province is secured, but expansion will have to wait.
3/5


The pirates are an economic drain on Xyrania, so they must be destroyed. It doesn't matter what methods are used to achieve this, or how many civilians lose their lives in the process. This is the ruthless 'morality' that the Blockader faction uses to justify their policies, and one which does not preclude enlisting demonic aid to counteract the eldritch assistance that their pirate-friendly rivals have employed.
While the Blockaders will appreciate demonic assistance in keeping the local population resolute in their anti-pirate stance, they will surely also be interested in the potential applications of demonic powers in naval warfare, as rebuilding Xyrania's navy and using it to cut the pirates off from the sea is their primary goal.
The Blockaders have support from Xyrania's military apparatus, and while Nar-Carok has little to gain from their military technology, their military mindset is interesting. Even demonic cultists could have their fervour improved, and certainly could benefit from some military discipline.
         
The efforts of Masters of Rites to harden the population's stance towards pirates is definitely appreciated by the Blockaders, but it is a description of Agony of the Soul that truly causes some heads to turn. With the increased aggression on the part of the pirates, the Blockaders are eager for anything that could help to fight back. With Dark Seduction used to make the promises seem more credible, a number of Blockader officials sign on to Nar-Carok's cause in exchange for magical-military assistance in the future (the demonic missionaries conveniently fail to mention that Agony cannot at present be used by Acolytes, let alone mortal wizards, but the Blockaders are desperate enough that they do not ask questions).
2/5 -> 3/5
« Last Edit: December 26, 2022, 03:10:00 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2022, 03:30:59 pm »

EVENT - The Chronicler - Result
So, I'm not going to explain my evaluation of every entry. Suffice to say they were all entertaining in their own ways, but only one could be the winner.

And that one is... Rockeater's "Murder Mystery". It's an amusing scenario, and I liked the genre-shift to 'detective drama (or comedy)'. It's a slice of life of active participants in the conflict, but engaging in a different sort of activity than I tend to focus on. It also does a good job of painting a large picture with minimal brush-strokes, as it were, letting the reader fill in the blanks of the wider context.

The runner-up would be Failbird's Surgical Report. If you didn't get it at first, it's worth highlighting. It's an exotic perspective, that portrays the otherworldly thought process of the Good Doctor. Very original.

Prizes have been distributed in each team's thread (a Tome Token for both teams, and a Mystery Prize for the demons). Rockeater's piece may also be considered canonical, as you may have seen allusions to above.



new turn who dis
owo

Angelic Advances
It was a big, pricey project, but the impact of the Hussars of Muu is clearly significant. Though the Drakegulls are the same, the Cuttlefishkin riding them are all-new mutants created specifically to ride Drakegulls. With their signature pilum-esque Spears of Light, they can cause significant damage from a distance, before charging in to swing their iron sabres, protected by coral-faced shields and leather vests. With a primary goal having been sufficient numbers to render conventional Drakegull riders obsolete, much effort was spent to streamline the creation and training of the Cuttlefishkin, and the acquisition of their equipment (aided by generous purse-strings), successfully rendering this a straight upgrade to the former unit.
Now, I know the main question on everyone's mind: What the hell does a humanoid cuttlefish look like? How does that even work??
For my answer, allow me to quote a founding figure in eldritch horror: "The thing cannot be described - there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy."

Muu attempted to split her efforts to fix issues with both Drakegulls and Liquid Light Elementals, but (in part due to the split attention) both projects were abject failures.

Demonic Developments
The Roachman Empire is a vast subterranean realm, which Nar-Carok broke into from the catacombs of the Buried City. Its provenance is mysterious, its boundaries inexplicably distant, its politics enigmatically convoluted, and its military unmatched by any surface force. Fortunately for Muu, Nar-Carok has little hope of annexing the entire empire- even negotiating with the Magistratus of a backwards border region required an embarrassing degree of humility. But fortunately for him, the Roachmen are tainted by Evil, and so open to cooperation. He has thus managed to hire Cryptarii- the common footsoldiers of the Roachman legions- to serve in his armies.
Cryptarii are trained in formation fighting, and despite only being mercenaries are quite reliable. Their numbers are limited, but they represent a significant step-up in quality compared to Cultist Spears.

One might accuse Nar-Carok of being little more than a scavenger, subsisting off relics of the past buried beneath his dark fortress. And, well, I'm not saying he is, but his other project this month- the Hound Spiders- was also extracted from tunnels beneath the Buried City. Not the same ones as the Cryptarii, although conventional geometry would have the tunnels overlap (we don't go in for conventional geometry round these parts). Anyway.
Hound Spiders are giant wolf spiders, native to pitch-black caverns and tunnels (hence the night vision). They are (with difficulty) captured, and then have a dog's (willing; the dogs in question are tainted by Evil and willing to sacrifice themselves for Nar-Carok's dark cause) soul fused into them to make them obedient. A cultist can then ride them into battle, using a crude compact recurved bow to pick off foes from a distance.

An issue with stability was then addressed, in the totally-normally-named "Spider Saddles, Spine Support, Stirrups, Stiletto Shoes, Saddlebags" project, which increased the range of the archers atop a Hound Spider. Accurate range is slightly above magic missile range, max range is slightly less than cultist archer range. It also provided more space for provisions, slightly improving the ability of the spiders to range ahead of the main force to harass the enemy.



Spoiler: Angelic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Demonic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Map (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Influence Factions (click to show/hide)

« Last Edit: December 26, 2022, 03:08:55 am by NUKE9.13 »
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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #20 on: June 25, 2023, 08:54:41 am »

Turn 5 - Late Summer
TURNTURNTURN
Far above the Rolling Hills, an observer lurks, monitoring the conflict of Good and Evil.
An old man watches for a while, then turns and walks away. The younger man maintaining the scry is confused.
"Master, the battle has not yet ended. Do you not wish to know the victor?"
The old man shakes his head.
"I've seen enough. This battle changes nothing."




Western Protectorate - Pestilent Marshes
There is no warning. One moment, the guard is staring half-heartedly into the mists rising from the bog, the next his throat is missing, the fountain of blood absorbed by the unseen assailant. However, no warning is needed. Within the ring of off-white stakes, red eyes snap open, and the bearer, skin paler than the stakes, leaps to her feet.
Though crude, the fortifications are enough to delay the Vampire Lord’s assault. Though it takes him only a few seconds to get the makeshift gate open, he does not rush in- instead peering through cautiously. A glint of silver in the dark, and he leaps back- his definitely-not-vampiric counterpart charges forth, and he does not even attempt to stand and fight.
Previously, the Good Doctor would not maintain the chase for long, so as not to leave her comrades unguarded. Yet now, the palisade offers sufficient protection from other potential prowlers that she is determined to end the blood-sucking scourge. While he is slightly faster when drawing upon his gemstone, its power is limited, whereas her stamina is comparatively boundless. The risk of being led into an ambush is insignificant, as her ability to sense nearby foes would alert her before any trap was sprung.
The Vampire, predictably, sets his thralls upon her path. They present little more than a speedbump, and any minor wounds she suffers whilst eliminating them is more than compensated for by absorbing their blood (she’s not a vampire). The mists, mud, rotting vegetation, pools and streams- these could all pose an obstacle to regular folks, but the trail of her quarry cuts through the mist like a beacon, whilst her nimble feet barely register the uneven terrain.
The chase has gone on for several minutes, but she is catching up. She weaves through a rare stand of trees, leaps across a stagnant pool, all-but dances across a fallen tree laid across a deep bog… and plunges into the putrid waters when the tree suddenly vanishes.
She receives a mouthful of swamp, and struggles momentarily to untangle herself from the rotting vegetation beneath the murk. She breaches the surface, and is immediately greeted by peals of helpless laughter. Two figures stand on the opposite bank: her target, a condescending smirk on his face; next to him, the source of laughter, leaning against the missing tree now propped up on the comparatively dry ground.
She has little capacity for fury, but the grating cackles of the Impossible Thief cause even her stoic visage to twist in irritation. Irritation only strengthened when she senses a large swarm of Hound Spiders approaching. A brief moment of contemplation later, she turns to swim (/wade) back towards her camp, unwilling to face this carefully-prepared ambush on her enemy’s terms.
The spiders arrive just as she is dragging herself from the water. A few arrows pierce her skin, but nothing vital is hit. The most grievous injury is to her pride, and the news that another pack of Hound Spiders took advantage of her extended absence to kill a few more guards.


Cavalry on both sides are better suited to the swampy conditions than conventional horses might be. Drakegulls have their amphibious ability, letting them cross bodies of water with ease, whilst the spiders’ eight legs distribute their weight more evenly, preventing them from sinking too deeply into the sucking mud. Both do better on the open steppe, of course.
Unfortunately for the Hound Spiders, their nocturnal raids are less effective, as the horde of Sea Servants accompanying the angelic host now carry tools and stakes, with which they are able to erect rudimentary camp fortifications on a nightly basis. While less immediately relevant, the Sea Servants also make the camps more comfortable by digging ditches that drain the worst of the constant damp away.
The Hussars have no fortifications to overcome, and suffer only minor losses whilst harassing demonic camps and patrols. Hound Spiders end up spending most of their time in a defensive role, intercepting Hussar raids to give the rest of the army some reprieve. The Vampire Lord likewise acts defensively- while the Good Doctor is humiliated, her loss was too minor for him to risk a straight fight in the midst of a fortified camp.
The demonic forces had intended to draw their rivals deeper into the marshes, to a battlefield of their choosing, but the angelic army moves more quickly than expected. Rather than drag the carts carrying the barrels used to form Liquid Light Elementals all the way to the battlefield, the elementals are deployed days in advance, their glowing gelatinous forms flowing into massive shells of multicoloured coral. Whilst still awkward and heavy, the en-shelled elementals are able to propel themselves, and by extending their limbs further out of their shells are able to overcome obstacles that cumbersome carts could not. Combined with Sea Servants being able to set up rudimentary bridges across larger streams, and the relative camp comfort enhancing the stamina of angelic troops, the demonic army is caught off-guard by their advance.
Battle is joined in a typical stretch of bog- the ground is soft, each step squelching, and streams and pools offer plentiful obstacles to regular manoeuvres. The pervasive aura of decay saps the strength of combatants on both sides, the undead only slightly less affected than the living.

Formations on both sides resemble those seen last month, though the exact composition has changed on the angelic side. Sea Servants are present in a lower ratio than before, but they wield iron tools rather than crude clubs. The Liquid Light Elementals are similarly present in lower numbers, but encased in towering coral shells. Finally, there are fewer Acolytes, replaced by strange purple-skinned figures wearing mottled orange robes.
As the angelic army advances, Hateful Bowmen fire their first volley. Angelic casters raise wards in response. While each Acolyte raises a ward over a small section of the angelic line, the new purple-skinned casters work together in groups of five, conjuring large wards that even a layperson can tell are considerably more powerful than those the Acolytes muster. And, indeed, those sections of the line blessed with this protection suffer much less damage from arrows and magic as they advance. Even Agony of the Soul is unable to penetrate them, at least not until the ward has already taken a fair number of hits. Fortunately for the demons, there is plenty of angelic formation that is not protected by the super-wards, so it doesn’t render the ranged exchange one-sided, but it does give the angels an advantage.

Two new developments from the demonic side show themselves once the angelic forces get a little closer. Some of the Soul Magi switch from Agony to a new spell, that after a brief windup causes sections of the angelic line to suddenly float a short distance off the ground. After about fifteen seconds, the effect unceremoniously ends, dumping the floating forces back down. This is especially unfortunate in the sodden earth, as coming down hard often results in getting feet stuck in mud.
Which ties into the second thing the demons show off. Demonic Acolytes seem to have their own form of gravity-manipulation, briefly increasing the downwards pull on a single target. In the case of Sea Servants, this generally results in them falling to the ground, whilst cultists are just staggered, causing them to feel like their feet are stuck in mud (even on dry ground).
Combined, these effects break up the cohesion of the angelic formation quite well- going from a more-or-less straight line to a haphazardly staggered affair. The Liquid Light Elementals, though slightly slowed by their large coral shells, are essentially unaffected by both spells- if lifted into the air, they can simply extend their amorphous limbs and drag themselves forward, out of the area of effect, and the foot-dragging spell is too weak to hold back the bulky behemoths. However, their infantry support lags behind.

Moments before the LLEs make contact with the braced demonic forces, the purple-orange spellcasters unleash something that looks like five magic missiles twisted into a single spell, which on impact easily crushes demonic wards, armour, and bones. Though it doesn’t affect more than one or two demonic troops at a time, they churn them out fairly quickly, which leaves the demonic line somewhat unbalanced as well as the LLEs’ charge connects.
The result is not pretty. Or, well, it kind of is- those coral shells feature a delightful kaleidoscope of colours, and the bright glow of the LLE limbs makes for a rather unique tableau which is… oh, right, the battle. The LLEs are now significantly harder to kill, and have even more momentum. They don’t just smash into the demonic formation, they smash through it- which is actually a bit of a problem, since it means they are surrounded by demonic troops on all sides. Lower numbers of LLEs mean that more of the demonic line is untouched than last month.
The Ratmen are devastated, though Cultist Spears held in reserve quickly move in to shore things up. Cryptarii take a bigger hit than last month, but manage to recover, and start to hack away at the glowing limbs with their swords. Skeletal Recallers intercept the elementals charging the demonic right, and though their explosions do not destroy the coral shells, they do crack them, rendering them vulnerable to follow up attacks by Rememberers. A number of Soul Magi concentrate their attacks on the over-extended elementals as well.
By the time the angelic infantry catches up, several elementals have already been whittled down by spear or sword, or outright slain by a Rememberer’s weapon or Magi’s magic piercing their damaged shell and striking their core. Nevertheless, the demonic formation would still struggle to receive a coordinated infantry charge- unfortunately, they have a much easier time receiving the staggered groups of angelic troops that close in.
The Sea Servants use iron tools as weapons (as opposed to going unarmed or using crude clubs like before), which makes them more lethal, especially when it comes to piercing the carapace of the Cryptarii. Yet their numbers are somewhat lower, and with their formation disrupted, they are unable to overwhelm their opponents.

Of course, the angelic army does not rely on success in the frontline melee- Hussars are already moving around the flanks to prepare for a devastating charge. Once they see that the majority of demonic troops are committed, they break through the screening Hound Spiders, rapidly closing in on the vulnerable rear.
At which point, the Soul Magi tap into their Soul Gems to empower their new spell. It affects a significantly larger area, but more importantly, it doesn’t just cause the victims to float- rather, it causes gravity to fluctuate wildly in the area of effect. While the winged gulls would’ve been a lot less bothered by becoming briefly airborne (and may even have been able to flap out of the affected area), the roiling forces are much more debilitating. The Hussars are supernaturally skilled at holding on to their mounts, but are still disoriented by the dizzying effect. When it ends after roughly twenty seconds, they drop inelegantly onto the ground- which has been churned up by the magic, turning from sodden ground into thick mud, further slowing their recovery.
The demonic forces are not idle whilst the Hussars are immobilised, peppering them with arrows and magic and moving around to better receive the charge (the Vampire Lord shouting orders helps somewhat). By the time the Drakegulls reorient themselves and resume the charge (having lost momentum), a fair number have already been slain.
Even so, the volley of Spears of Light, and subsequent impact of beak and sabre causes significant damage. Not as much as last month, though, and this time around the Vampire Lord is hale enough to run around actively killing Hussars. The Hussars deploy their inkscreen, retreat, charge again- and while this is by no means ineffective, it lacks the decisiveness needed to shatter the demonic army.

Recognising the need for a coup de grace, the Good Doctor makes her move. She gives orders to a quintet of orange-purple casters, then sprints out and around the front line, zips through the lingering ink, and with single-minded determination heads straight for the Vampire Lord. She takes a few hits on the way, but nothing she can’t handle. The Vampire Lord sees her coming- sneaking up on him is not really an option-, and predictably gathers minions around himself for protection. Undeterred, the Doctor stops short of charging into a spear, absentmindedly cutting down two cultists who try to attack her from the side, and then… just kind of points at the Vamp.
The Vampire Lord is somewhat confused by this- is she expecting him to fight a duel or something? Did her injuries earlier in the month give her brain damage? Fortunately, his confusion is alleviated by the sight of a combo-missile streaking over the melee, remarkably accurately avoiding wards, on a collision course with his face. Though seldom seen in action, the Good Doctor does have an ability to share targeting information with allies, after all.
Unfortunately for the Doc, there’s one more participant in this battle, who likewise has an ability so far underutilised. Biding his time, the Impossible Thief judges this the optimal moment to make a difference, and/or the funniest use of his powers. The spiralling missile blinks, reappearing with a slightly altered trajectory. The Good Doctor doesn’t notice anything amiss until the powerful projectile hits her square in the back, knocking her off her feet, face-planting into the mud. The demonic forces around her waste a brief moment wondering what happened, but then surge forwards to take advantage. She barely manages to roll away from several potentially lethal spear-jabs, and gets back on her feet just as the Vampire Lord reaches her- but not in time to avoid his sword, which carves a deep gash across her hastily-raised arm, causing her to hiss in pain (she’s not a vampire).
Though she manages to escape before being cut down, she suffers numerous severe injuries in the process. The sight of their crippled champion fleeing has a demoralising effect on the angelic cultists, while the Vampire Lord is free to roam the battlefield without worrying about his rival intercepting him.

While the fighting continues for a while, the tide turns in the demons’ favour. Eventually the Soul Magi unleash a volley of empowered Agony of the Soul, which is the final straw, forcing the remaining angelic forces to retreat. The retreat is complicated by movement-disrupting demonic magic, though the remaining Hussars are able to provide enough screening to prevent a total rout. Fortunately, they are able to fall back to their fortified camp, which gives them a chance to regroup- but they have suffered too many losses to push on this month, and are ultimately forced to fall back further to recuperate fully.

Swampland is not a great place to suffer gravity magic, and even a ‘non-combat’ trickster can turn the tide of a battle in the right circumstances.

The Demonic Army pushes the front line in the Western Protectorate by 1 segment, bringing their control of the Vast Steppe to 1/8. Next turn's fighting will occur in the Vast Steppe.



Chegitha - Rolling Hills
The Rolling Hills are well suited for field fortifications. The angelic army is all-but untouchable when encamped, as Sea Servants are able to quickly secure hilltop positions (often taking advantage of ruined villages as a source of materials/partial fortifications). Conversely, the demonic army finds itself harassed by Hussars on a daily basis, making it difficult for them to simply camp out on a hilltop and wait for the angels to come to them.
Nar-Carok, who is once again personally leading this front, attempts to manoeuvre his forces in such a way as to draw the angels into a wide valley, but Muu, likewise personally leading, does not take the bait, instead advancing steadily from hill to hill, certain the demonic army will have to fight on her terms.
And indeed, eventually the demonic army stops retreating, as Nar-Carok decides that Muu’s latest camp is on the lowest hill she’s likely to be caught out on. The demonic army marches up the slopes, and battle is joined.

Fighting an entrenched uphill enemy is no fun. Elevation renders the range of angelic archers equal to that of the Hateful Bowmen, while having palisades to hide behind more than makes up for the disparity in rate of fire and accuracy. Thus the demonic forces continue to advance, as Nar-Carok recognises that an archery duel will not favour him.
In addition to the eldritch avatars leading each force, the demonic army is accompanied by what looks like a senior Soul Magi, bedecked in a far more ostentatious set of regalia of shimmery, semi-transparent steel set with not one but dozens of Soul Gems. As the forces enter magic missile range, he demonstrates his superior spellcasting talent by hurling forth Agony of the Soul with almost the same speed and strength that Nar-Carok himself does- though the wards deployed by the new casters on Muu’s side (and Muu herself) blunt the impact considerably. Thus, the demonic forces advance further still, as the magic duel does not favour them either.
Cryptarii stoically march in the fore with shields held high. This is reasonably effective in blocking arrows and the magic missiles of Acolytes, but the new casters’ combo-missiles can easily shatter a shield and the roachman holding it. The Ratmen are far less resilient, but necessary to provide numerical bulk to the demonic line.

It would seem the demonic efforts are doomed, as by the time their melee forces reach the angelic fortifications, they will surely be whittled down to the point they couldn’t possibly dislodge the defenders. That would be an easy battle to report on. Alas, things are not so simple.
Each time a spell is cast near or by the new demonic champion, his regalia glimmers a little more brightly. As the demonic infantry nears the palisades, this glimmering has gotten quite noticeable. In addition, where most Soul Magi’s gems have gained a modest dark lustre, the champion’s gems are almost pitch-black. And now, the accumulated power is unleashed.
First, the soul energy contained within his gems is distributed to the other Soul Magi, instantly boosting their gems, allowing all of them to cast empowered Agony of the Soul, pummeling the angelic fortifications with searing lightning and causing many Sea Servants to collapse from the impact of the accompanying ‘thunder’.
Next, the remaining power in his gems is drawn into a spell- which looks like Agony. Or maybe it’s magic missile. No, wait, it’s that new gravity spell. Hang on, is it a ward? Even Muu isn’t sure what she’s looking at, but she recognises that it is trouble, so throws up a powerful ward of her own to block it.
Unfortunately, the champion isn’t aiming at her, he’s aiming at the base of the central section of palisades. The chaotic jumble of magic hits the ground, exploding into several spark-balls that scatter over a wide area. Where those sparks hit the ground, ward-like energy spreads out horizontally, creating glowing fields of magic that intersect with the wooden stakes. Those fields begin to quiver, then explode, shards of magic tumbling through the air as a visual depiction of disrupted gravity. The palisades, though sturdy enough to survive basic attacks, were not engineered to withstand this sort of assault on their integrity, and consequently are torn apart, the bone-white stakes flung in all directions along with clumps of earth and shards of magic.

When the dust settles, a large swathe of the fortifications have been knocked over, along with the defenders manning them. A fair number of demonic troops have suffered collateral damage, but the remainder quickly charge into the breach, with Nar-Carok personally driving them forth.
Muu is shaken, but not so shaken as to avoid an opportunity to duel her nemesis, and the two quickly focus on each other whilst their armies battle around them.
The angelic defenders are on the back foot initially, but soon the Liquid Light Elementals held in reserve lumber forth, stabilising the breach. Meanwhile, Hussars- having lingered on the flanks of the battlefield, skirmishing with the demonic Hound Spiders- charge into the demonic rear. Defenders on intact sections of fortifications soon turn their attention towards the breach, firing arrows and magic into the sides of the demonic intruders.
Ultimately, the demonic attackers are forced to retreat. Nar-Carok is forced to cut his duel short as several quintets of purple-skinned casters fire combo-missiles at him, driving him to retreat along with his remaining forces.

The new demonic champion’s chimera-spell was certainly a surprising twist, but the odds were so heavily stacked in Muu’s favour that it only managed to turn a complete slaughter into a decisive defeat. The demonic army retreats a considerable distance before being able to regroup, bringing the front line all the way back to where the war started.
 
The Angelic Army pushes the front line in Chegitha by 3 segments, bringing their control of the Rolling Hills to 4/8. They gain 1 Wealth Token.
   


Thpenos
Gridlocked Polis
The Senate has gathered. A serious subject is on the agenda. Possibly the most serious thing they’ll do all year.
Decide whether to revoke the ban on cinnamon.


Meanwhile, the Polis is graced by a debutante from the East. Maybe? She’s not especially forthcoming on her origin. Her silver hair and eyes have some speculating a relationship with the imperial family of the Silver Empire. Either way, she’s making waves in the political scene, earning many admirers with her song performances. Several senators seem to be rather infatuated with her, in fact, inviting her and her retinue to a number of soirees attended by their peers.
Which is where Siren of the West and her fellow Angelic agents make good progress in swaying the upper classes towards Good. The food and drinks are surreptitiously seeded with Worms of Muu, and the Siren’s hypnotic voice is used both to directly convert key targets, and to more subtly influence larger groups.
Indeed, swathes of senators (and other important figures) are won over- and by directing them to support the Centrist cause, Centrist leadership likewise gains a more favourable view of Muu. A little hesitation remains, but another month of socialising will surely see Angelic converts sitting in on senior Centrist meetings.
3/5


In comparison, Demonic operatives have a rather boring and unproductive month. With operations in the Restless Satrapy disrupted, they’re left with fewer resources to work with than they had hoped for, slowing progress some. Not that much progress was on the agenda, as they lack means of infiltrating the upper echelons of society.
3/5

         
Bountiful Quarries
Shoddy maintenance causes the entrance to a large mine to collapse, trapping hundreds of workers within. Spontaneous protests and riots ignite as details of the poor management responsible emerge. Nobody can quite agree on who is to blame, but everyone agrees that something needs to change.


For instance, senior leadership of the Communalists change from passive acceptance of Muu’s cult, to active support. Already on the edge, the latest disaster (combined with the usual efforts of Angelic operatives) is enough to tip the scales.

Which presents Muu with a new challenge. See, to fully control the region, she can’t just convert senior leadership- she has to help the Communalists achieve dominance, through some combination of achieving their goals (which means communal ownership of mines and quarries) and weakening their rivals (the Meritocrats). Then she also has to convert/replace the person in charge of the Communalists… which is tricky, since there is no such person. So she’ll need to elevate someone to that role, persuade the Communalists to accept a supreme leader of that sort, and keep the newly-appointed leader on-side (harder than it sounds, as with great power comes great ability to resist eldritch influence).
3/5 -> 4/5


The disaster is also a windfall for Demonic efforts. Many bereaved relatives or friends of those lost in the accident turn to the Masters of Rites for funeral services and grief counselling, which the Masters use both to further spread Nar-Carok’s own influence, and to steer some support towards the Meritocrats. The Meritocrats are able to pin the blame on a number of incompetent overseers, and manoeuvre to have their own members replace them. Though they recognise that this is somewhat of a fluke event, they cannot deny that Nar-Carok helped them take advantage of it, and a number of junior Meritocrats tentatively sign on to his cult. Whether they will stick with the cult in the future is uncertain, but for now Demonic influence increases.
2/5 -> 3/5


Restless Satrapy
After the recent upheavals in the local administration, the governor promotes a number of lesser officials to fill the vacancies. Either by design or coincidence, the majority are sympathetic to the Assimilator cause.


Which includes a number of existing Angelic converts, who maintain their allegiance even after their promotion. This, combined with other Assimilators turning a bit of a blind eye towards Angelic efforts to spread the Good word (and Good Worms and Good Coral), is sufficient to give Muu’s cult a foothold in the halls of power, at least for now.
2/5 -> 3/5


While new recruits are mostly Assimilator-aligned, there are plenty of Federalists who survived last month’s purge, and with the heat having died down, they’re eager to reconnect with Nar-Carok’s cult- because they’re very loyal to the Demonic cause, obviously, the access to puppet rebels controlled by the Masters of Rites is just a bonus, promise. Would they lie to you?
2/5 -> 3/5



Xyrania
Schism'd Capital
The Shah makes a rare public speech, in which he condemns the ongoing schism, insisting that citizens should cast aside heresy in all its forms- only unwavering orthodoxy leads to salvation. Though this pleases nobody, few dare to directly challenge the Shah's word, and many distance themselves from radical religious leaders… and eldritch cults.


Tolerance sounds nice. A certain amount of tolerance may well be nice. But like all things, there is a limit. For instance, traditional Xyranian theology has a clear stance on the subject of human sacrifice: never do it. Yet this is but one of many rulings that the Myriadites consider to be overly restrictive. Who’s to say that Tokchoko wouldn’t appreciate seeing sacrifices slowly die of dehydration whilst chained to the sun-baked golden roof of his Grand Solarium? Are we to deny Slask, god of fear and murder, his bloody tithe? Xyranian theology likewise has a clear stance on negotiating with demonic powers, but it’s important to keep an open mind, isn’t it?
Besides, Nar-Carok is willing to help them spread alternative viewpoints, to lower the public’s guard towards novel concepts, and to undermine the religious establishment.
In turn, the Myriadites might share their expertise- or rather, their amateurise, since few amongst the Myriadites are experts in anything. Instead, they like to dabble in everything. While of little help in furthering Nar-Carok’s knowledge in any particular path, they can offer a first step into almost any field.

While the Shah’s words cannot sway Nar-Carok’s staunchest allies, it does cause the less entrenched to rethink their position, whilst potential converts voice increased scepticism. However, this brief stumble does not lead to a significant loss of influence, as for every wavering ally who departs, two new are brought into the fold. The Masters of Rites are especially useful, both in bringing the masses on side, and in pleasing the Myriadite faction.
Masters of Rites had been focused on simply spreading Nar-Carok’s influence, but they are perfectly poised to spread other messages as well. They continue to encourage Evil thoughts, and the New Age Recovery Centers churn out unwitting pawns, but their victims are also introduced to new interpretations of the faith- sinister, twisted, and harmful interpretations-, furthering the theological divide in the city. The Myriadites are appreciative of their efforts, rendering their leadership receptive to further conversion efforts.
By the end of the month, all the converts lost to the Shah’s speech have been replaced, and even some senior members of the Myriadites express signs of interest in Nar-Carok’s messaging. While bringing such big fish on side is likely to require more potent efforts, having a toe in the door never hurt. I mean, well, having a literal toe in a physical door could definitely hurt, but… you know what I mean.
3/5


Some may argue that since it is impossible to find absolute truth, we should not judge the beliefs of others. But such nihilism is a path to damnation, to atrocities, to discord and division. Even so, the Revisionists do not seek to impose their beliefs on others by force. Rather, they believe that as they refine the faith and get closer to the Truth, people will recognise its superiority, and join them willingly. Nobody is beyond redemption- not even eldritch cultists. While Muu’s path might not perfectly align, the Revisionists recognise her benevolent nature, and think it is possible that Angels have a role in the divine order.
They will seek her aid not only in hindering the Myriadites in their efforts to splinter Xyranian society, but also in seeking out the Truth (through research or debates).
In return, the Revisionists will help Muu in refining her knowledge. Uncomfortable as they may be with radical new ideas, once they come to terms with them, their ability to polish and optimise is incredible. They will not be able to help with initial forays into new fields, but projects seeking to improve or iterate in existing fields will benefit.

While some Angelic converts are swayed by the Shah’s speech, none of particular importance are lured away. This is due to there not being any converts of particular importance- they’re all replaceable, and the effects of the Worms, Coral, and Gadflies continue to provide a solid foundation.
Indeed, without the sabotage of the Impossible Thief holding them back, they are able to expand Muu’s influence into more prominent circles, including some junior Revisionist theologians. They appreciate Muu’s community-building slowing the fragmentation of the capital, providing her with a foothold in the Revisionist camp.
2/5 -> 3/5


Raiders' Roost
The celebrated return of an adventuring party goes awry, when it emerges that different members of the party made conflicting promises to both the Archaeologists and Reliquars. A heated argument turns into a brawl, which spirals into a riot involving dozens of adventurers on both sides. It is eventually quelled, but it still causes many to despair at the ongoing chaos.


The Archaeologists are insistent that they didn’t start the fight, and bemoan how unfair it is that they got kicked out of the gourmet tavern as well. Nar-Carok’s cultists didn’t ask, and don’t really care, except insofar as the frustrated Archaeologists are slightly more willing to hear them out regarding the potential benefits of siding with the Demonic cult.
It isn’t enough to sway more senior members, but it does further solidify Nar-Carok’s influence amongst the junior leadership.
3/5


The Reliquars concede that it was one of theirs who threw the first punch, but insist that chivalry demanded they stand against the Archaeologist scourge. Muu’s cultists didn’t ask either, and are frankly a little bewildered that this group of Reliquars sought out their hideout just to tell them. Not so bewildered as to miss the opportunity to explain the benefits of Muu’s assistance in countering Evil in all its forms, though. The Reliquars are not fully convinced, but agree to speak with the Angelic operatives again next month, which is a good sign (especially with more support expected from the Capital).
2/5


Pirate Haven
A group of pirate sympathisers are given a stay of execution by the governor, in the hopes of appeasing rampaging pirates. Though the army is furious, pirate raids do decrease in intensity, leading many to praise the governor's actions.


The Blockaders who were convinced to support Nar-Carok’s cult last month grumble a bit that they have nothing to show for it, but are ultimately willing to wait a while- the pirates aren’t going anywhere on their own, so the Blockaders are in it for the long haul. Senior members are a lot less interested in empty promises, of course, and even amongst the juniors, the Demonic hold is tenuous.
3/5


The Privateer faction is recruiting, as the apparent vindication of their policies by the governor encourages people to join up. It isn’t that hard to ensure that some of the new recruits are already-converted members of Muu’s cult. While this earns the cult a few more friendly voices in the lower ranks, it doesn’t help much in influencing the more senior members, who remain hesitant to expose themselves to outsiders.
3/5
   
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NUKE9.13

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Re: Chiaroscuro 2
« Reply #21 on: June 25, 2023, 08:56:08 am »

EVENT - The Merchant Returns
"The Merchant" is back, with fresh stocks for his stall: a massive tusk, a small jar, and an old chisel.
However... like any good pusher, the first time was free- the second time will cost you. The Merchant has put an eye-watering price tag on his items... but can you really say no? Generously, the Merchant does offer credit- interest free, even-, so it doesn't matter whether your treasury is empty or bursting.


As before: 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.
However, you must also spend 2 Wealth Tokens to make an offer. If you do not have 2 Wealth Tokens, you can go into debt, which will automagically be repaid the next time(s) you receive a Wealth Token. You are technically allowed to not buy anything, but that would be boring.

You must make your decision during the next Strategy Phase. Your options are:

-Mammoth Tusk
   This absurdly long piece of ivory is surrounded by a freezing aura, as it originates from a Mammoth- a legendary beast that lives in the northernmost reaches of the world where it snows all year round. Mammoths, in addition to being able to thrive in and control icy conditions, are known for their supernatural communication skills. It is said that all Mammoths can talk to each other, no matter how far apart they may be. 
-Midasite Gold
   This jar is full of a special oil, known to be one of the most inert substances in the world. It is the only way to safely contain the tiny piece of Midasite Gold within, a mineral that has the ability to convert almost all other materials into gold. While this process is (currently) too slow to make it a significant income source, the mineral could be enhanced in various ways- unlocking the true potential of its replication abilities (not necessarily limited to gold), or perhaps exploiting the aura of greed that suffuses it.
-Chisel of Kain
   A weathered chisel, that no amount of use seems to dull. Blessed as it was by Kain, god of construction and medicine, its longevity is assured, as is its stone-carving ability. While seemingly humble, the divine power it contains could grant a mortal effective immortality, erect a stone keep overnight, or conversely destroy a supposedly indestructible object.



Well here we are again
It's always such a pleasure.
…that being said, I’m going to shortcut this section for now. I’ll try to come back and edit in better descriptions later.

Angelic Advances
-Five Pointed Star Witches
   -Starfish-esque regen.
   -Can cast Uncommon spells. Stronger spellcasting than Acolytes, roughly on par with Soul Magi
   -Spellcasting suffers unless all five members of a quintet are present
   -Can combine their spellcasting to cast Five-Point spells, stronger variants of regular spells

-Siren of the West
   -Noblewoman of the Silver Empire
   -Mutated, given fish parts.
   -Minor shapeshifting ability (can be used to hide fish parts)
   -Hypnotic voice, able to sway crowds, charm groups, brainwash individuals (efficacy depending on target’s resistance)
   -Has the funds to blend into noble society as needed.

-Hermit LLEs
   -Liquid Light Elemental in a large shell made of enchanted coral that keeps the light-energy from escaping them too quickly
   -Slower, more expensive, harder to kill, better endurance

-Entrencher Sea Servants
   -Sea Servants with iron tools and bonehardwood stakes
   -Can establish field fortifications
   -Iron tools mean better damage in melee
   -Slightly more expensive

Demonic Developments
-Lurch of Fear
   -Uncommon spell, area of effect, short range
   -Gravity magic; reverses gravity briefly, then negates it for 15 seconds.
   -Empowered version fluctuates gravity wildly

-Ancestral Prophet
   -Senior Soul Magi
   -Fancy Glass-Steel regalia set with lots of soul gems
   -Soul gems are pre-filled, but sealed to prevent leakage. Fresh souls are used to unlock them, meaning he powers up much faster than regular Soul Magi. Can also share this power with other Soul Magi.
   -Glass-Steel absorbs spell ‘essences’, letting him add aspects of one spell to another. Can add one aspect to spells of other Soul Magi, or many to his own spells.
   -Glass-Steel can absorb hostile spell essences, but this requires the hostile spell to interact with the Prophet, either by direct hit or being ‘caught’ with a ward. This isn’t worth it for regular magic missiles.

-Faltering Step
   -Revision of Lurch of Fear
   -Common spell, single target, medium range
   -Just increases gravity for target
   
-Ancestral Guards (Utter Failure)
   -lol
   -lmao



Spoiler: Angelic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Demonic Equipment (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Map (click to show/hide)

Spoiler: Influence Factions (click to show/hide)

« Last Edit: June 25, 2023, 08:58:38 am by NUKE9.13 »
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