Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Faith like lightning (OSR)

Anime + Patrick Nagel = This. Art Mostly By: Me

Art Mostly By Me: So I used a few very basic outlines of some old photographs and public domain images, I am really bad at proportions and distance but passable at shapes and shading. Using the rough shapes and tick marks, I make my pictures. So... yeah, partly tick marks and a few lines, mostly me.

Author's Note: I don't write for realism, I write to play with crazy ideas and images. Now, if you found something wrong with this post please see the following two 'points' to know how I will feel about you.

If you find that my writing is difficult to follow, written strangely, poorly worded, hazily described, or anything having to do with how I wrote the post, please say so. I want to become a better writer, and the only way to do that is to know my short-comings and work to fix them. I know I have faults that I am not aware of, by pointing them out you are helping me, for which I am very grateful.

If you are saying to yourself, “This is preposterous! This thing he is writing about could never happen in REALITY!!!” please see the following youtube link. (CLICK HERE) See that guy who asked the xylophone question then ate a candy bar? Yeah, that's you. I am going to play my magic xylophone with the poly-tonal bars over here while ignoring you.

Now, for our feature presentation...

Anonymous “How it hits them like a bolt” Undiluted Truth (Infinite City) 24th of Gamelion 6M – 282 pg. B4

We have seen them, they are impossible to miss even when you are pretending to be blind to their pleas. Men and women, huddled in alleyways, leaning on lampposts, shivering in winter's nightly gusts. Their standard issue helmets are always close by, wired like a madman's impression of a telegraph switchboard. 

A well crafted example.
Eyes sunken to pits, staring out of heaven's waiting room, hoping to score just a few more coppers for cheap batteries to send them back to paradise. It's not just in their eyes, it's in the way they look at the world when they aren't riding the current; like a child who just watched the circus leave town. It's in the two spots on their bodies that they will meticulously care for, closely shaved areas on the left sides of their heads and the bases of their skulls.

We all know why they're like this, and we should know how, though many don't like to remember. Remember the war? Sure you do, vaguely, like the rest of us. Our beloved City Works Agency making sure our memories stayed vague with the Redaction. All of it for our own safety, they assure us.

During the war, the Marchen had such destructive weapons, that medicine and drugs couldn't cope. The pain these weapons caused was so intense, that our beloved poppy and its child Morpheus couldn't hope to fix. Options? One. Kill the patient. You'll never find a doctor that will admit to it, but there were more than enough 'accidental' overdoses that will tell you how they felt about the possibility of alternatives.

The doctors and their machine.

In comes the Process Company, a business started to 'assist' the city's war effort. Their 'assistance' entailed vast amounts of capital being funneled into projects the City Managers didn't want to soil themselves with. They gave the hospitals and doctors a new way of fighting pain. No more worries over addiction, they said, we have something that doesn't use drugs at all.

This innovation couldn't fix our soldiers, but it meant they could die in peace. The Process Company gave the world, the 'Pain Relieving Process Helmet', you see how humble they were. Shave two parts of the skull, attach electrodes, apply electricity, and the pain was gone. Our fighters were allowed to smile as their bodies melted, ossified into teeth, disappeared, became other or myriad of alternatives that all lead to death.

They were right, the Process Company, no addiction, the voltages were low enough just to cut off the pain and induce a mild tingling feeling and slight sense of euphoria. As with so many inventions meant to ease pain, it was quickly perverted by the pushers and hustlers.

Within a year, back alley electricians were selling 'Love Helmets' and 'Pleasure Caps', offering their own form of hard relief to those who've been broken by the casual cruelties so often found in life. These weren't the 'medical models'. No, the voltage had been spiked has high as it would go before it could kill most people. Rest assured, this exact voltage had been reached through rigorous experimentation on the those unfortunate enough to 'volunteer'. 

Medical miracles.
Now, we have zaps, volt-heads, sizzle-brains, and a host of so many other euphemisms to add to our language, thanks to the Process Company and folks with too much ingenuity without any compassion to fortify it with. It seems no matter the problems we fix, the solutions always find a way to create more.

But the question, no matter how much of a prude you are speaking to, is always the same. How does it feel? This is how:

L-like... Like home. Like everything is great, and always will be. Your body feels light again, like you're a kid and it's summer, like you're on your way to the circus. There is nothing like it... No... It's like before my wife and kids got burnt up in that apartment fire. Like I still have something to give to the world.” - Alistair Bencroft. Alistair was a Meritorious and Valorous Service Medal recipient. Before losing his wife and children, he was an accountant for the Aderist Bank. Three days after my interview with him, he was found dead, having succumbed to exposure due to the extreme cold of the previous night. His 'helmet' was still strapped on.

Anonymous “Our god lives in the wires and waves” Undiluted Truth (Infinite City) 11th of Skirophorion 6M – 283 pg. A1

The rumors are out there. Zaps, volt-heads, and sizzle-brains creating their own religion from the insanity they find in their 'helmets'. Have your pub-buddies, co-workers, and temple-mates been telling you the truth?

Yes, and no. As with all things in this world, the reality is far more complicated.

They call themselves the 'Electric Life Church', and their popularity has been growing steadily, despite crackdowns by the City Works Agency. Their purpose? To expand the mental abilities of all sentient races, and to come to understand their god/goddess/deity that is in essence electricity itself.

While their claims border on the ramblings of madmen, they have proof to add credence to their teachings. This proof is hard to dispute, and I witnessed it with my own eyes.

I met with a high-ranking member of the church named Sister Kells, a dark skinned woman in her early thirties, with a number of brain-filled tubes running down the center of her head. 

Sister Kells. Art Mostly By: Me
I know I look like something out of those penny-dreadfuls by that William Son of Gib character. By the way, he spent quite a bit of time with us before writing those things, so not all of those books are fiction.” she told me as we entered one of their 'Electro-Temples'. I had to be blindfolded while I was transported there, their main source of security from the City Works Agency is secrecy.

It was a open area, with a number of use-worn pews leading up to a podium, two statue-sized glass tubes, and a meshed speaker-box the size of a horse-cart. The box was emitting a static laden hum that was actually quite pleasant to listen to. I wasn't the only one who seemed to feel the same, because many of the pews were filled with men, women, and children who were enjoying the sound in each their own way.

Sister Kells:
It's our god.” she told me as she motioned to the speaker-box. “Our god lives in the wires and waves.”

What came next was three hours of explanations of their beliefs and exhibitions of the proof behind those beliefs. While it would taken an entire encyclopedia volume to completely cover all that I saw, felt, and heard, I will try to relate the core of it here.

Our belief is pretty simple. Electricity is life. Your body generates it, and your brain is completely run by it. Without it, you're just meat.”

Thing is, it's more than just a force or phenomena, electricity doesn't just promote life it is alive itself. There is a being, or perhaps beings, each of us has our own pet theories, that either is electricity or lives within it. It, or they, are very difficult to talk to, but very easy to listen to.”

Our founder, Doctor Ephram Coleridge Azif, was an electrical enthusiast. While playing with a primitive radio, he stumbled across The Frequency, the exact amplitude that you heard earlier in the gathering hall. Whatever he heard, inspired him to look deeper into the manipulation of brain functionality through the use of electricity.”

Diagnostic equipment used by the church.

Through the assistance of The Frequency, he developed a whole new kind of technology to improve the thinking and reflexes of people. These tubes on my head are the most recent development of this new technology.”

My tubes contain the brains of rats. Yes, I know that sounds like madness, and begging for the plague, but hear me out. The brains have been re-purposed to augment the processes my brain engages in all the time.”

Pointing to each tube she listed off its function: language reception and expression, spatial perception, visual perception, hearing perception, empathy, and procedural logic.

Each brain had its original functionality removed from it, and was changed to fulfill a new function. These augmentations aren't quite as swift as if they were truly part of my brain.”

Despite our incredible developments, there is still quite a bit of latency between input and output. Granted this latency only adds about half a second to the whole process, but as far as the brain is concerned, the augmentations move at a snail's pace. We have developed a system to improve the overall reflexes of an individual, but it works using a completely different setup than my rodent friends.”

We know we have been painted as volt-heads who have found religion, but I assure you that you won't find anyone here with the telltale signs of electro-cerebral-stimulation abuse here. While the science behind the 'Pleasure Caps' formed the foundation of our achievements, everyone here knows that the helmets are a dead end path.”

Capable of strange powers.

While it is always dangerous, and can even be deadly, to apply voltage directly to the brain, it can lead to some incredible results. Someone using a 'helmet' can only really expect two things: an incredible euphoric experience that always ends, and the subsequent addiction to the experience. Using our technology, you can exceed the very limitations that your body places on you.”

We're even developing technology to completely replace the body itself, though we have yet to begin human trials. There was a Thought-Whale from the Inner City Sea, that desperately needed a way of becoming terrestrial. I am proud to announce that we successfully helped 'I am the one whose mind swims deep in the Mathematical Places', Thought-Whale names tend to be very long. 'Math' only gave us the briefest portion of her name, any shorter and it would have been 'unspecific'.”

While we have, and continue to, improve the abilities and lives of normal folks like you or I, we are now focusing on improving the lives of the mentally and physically indigent. We give parents the ability to finally be able to converse with their children, and those who were too physically and mentally broken a chance at a normal life.”

We don't know why the City Works Agency wants to shut our practice and worship down. We can only assume it has something to do with the Smilers and their Radio Idols. While some of our clergy possess the ability to use faith arcana, it is no more or less intrusive than all the other religions who are not hounded by the city as we are.”

All we want is to be heard, by the people who need our help the most.”

While I was with Sister Kells, I saw incredible feats of cognition and physical prowess that I would not have believed were possible:

  • A 5 year old girl doing, what I was told, was advanced mathematics.
  • An 18 year old man who was able to accurately guess the exact playing card that was being presented face down after watching the deck being shuffled face up. He did this with all 52 cards.
  • A 29 year old woman, who was previous mute, exhibit the 26 languages she now spoke fluently, and the 3 that she had created herself. Her goal is to learn a new language for each year of her life.
  • A 47 year old man, who accurately described: my breakfast, dinner, and supper as well as the newspapers I read while eating them. He did this after giving my clothes a cursory inspection before having me walk around the room once.
  • An 8 year old boy, who was previously unable to speak, dress, or feed himself bring his mother and handful of flowers before saying how much he loved her.

After the boy, I was convinced of how much our city needs the 'Electric Life Church'...

In Plain Language
These folks believe that by applying electricity to the brain and body, you can improve and even heal it. I used real terms to make this stuff official when you're telling your players about this stuff. This idea is rather old in the real world, but has some data to back it up. If you want to learn more about real Electrotherapy, I have provided a link to Wikipedia. (CLICK HERE)

Back to the fiction. So, the Electric Life Church believes that there is some kind of god/goddess/deity/being that either is electricity or at least lives in it. Their hidden temples each have a huge radio that they use to tune into their electro-deity's messages, the point on the dial they find these messages they call 'The Frequency'.

They mostly gork-out to the weird euphoric static that comes through, improve people with Teslapunk devices, and invent more stuff after prolonged periods of 'Tuning In'. As Sister Kells stated before, their radio proclivities bear a striking resemblance to the Smilers and Radio Idols. Don't remember/know who they are? (CLICK HERE).

Below, you will find some basic NPC stats for a cleric of 'The Frequency' as well as some nifty gadgets the church can hook you up with for a sizable donation towards their more charitable augmentations. Be forewarned, if you are caught with these things around the Infinity City, be prepared to either run, fight, or try to explain your way out of getting arrested by a City Works Agent.

I am presenting the cool do-dads first so you know the rules for the NPC stats later.

Most temples have a cleric who is experienced in the installation of Electric Augmentations. The cleric will have a base 70% chance to correctly install the augmentations, this chance receives a bonus equal to the character's level. The chance receives a penalty of -3% for each piece of Electric Augmentation the character already has installed.

A roll that would normally fail, results in the character having to make a saver versus Paralysis or permanently lose 1 point of Constitution. A roll of 100% results in the character permanently losing 1 point of Constitution (no save).

Wear and Tear:
Each time a character takes a critical hit, there is a 25% chance that one of their augmentations will become broken in the process, roll randomly to see which one. While broken, the augmentation is useless. Cerebrum Expansion Ports and Expansion Tubes are considered two different items.

Someone who is skilled in the crafting of these Electric Augmentations will charge 10% of the item's total value in order to fix them.

Poor Mister Bananas. Art Mostly By: Me

Cerebrum Expansion Tubes:
Using a rat's brain, cat's brain, or squirrel monkey's brain that has been re purposed for a specific brain process. How they re purpose the structures of these brains is a proprietary secret that the church closely guards, but undoubtedly it involves the use of electricity. Once someone has been fitted with expansion sockets, it is an easy task to add or remove tubes.

Each tube takes up a single port on a character's head. The number of tubes a character may have active is equal to the number of ports they have available.

These expansion tubes can increase certain skills, or even increase mental statistics. Rat and cat brains are used to augment specific brain processes (skills), while the squirrel-monkey brains are used to improve more general processes (Stats).

Rat and Cat Brains
As stated before rat and cat brain tubes provide bonuses to certain skills. Rat brains provide a bonus to skill values, I am presenting, X out of 6 skill type, Skill Proficiency type, and Thief Percentage Skill Type.

X out of 6
Rat brains provide +1 while cat brains provide +2. A character may only ever have a +2 bonus to a single skill.

Wernicke and Broca Augmentation: Bonus to Languages skill.
Auditory and Visual Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Search skill.
Right Parietal Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Sleight of Hand (It's all about timing)

Skill Proficiencies
Rat brains provide +5 while cat brains provide +10. A character may only ever have a +10 bonus to a single skill.

Wernicke and Broca Augmentation: Bonus to Languages skill.
Visual and Auditory Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Perception based skill checks.
Amygdala Emotion Cognition Augmentation: Bonus to Disguise, Etiquette, and Forgery.

Thief Percentage Skills
Rat brains provide +10% while cat brains provide +20%. A character may only ever have a +20% bonus to a single skill.

Wernicke and Broca Augmentation: Bonus to Read Languages skill.
Visual Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Find / Remove Traps skill.
Auditory Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Detect Noise skill.
Right Parietal Cortex Augmentation: Bonus to Pick Pocket skill. (It's all about the timing)

Owl Monkey Brains
Larger than the Cat and Rat brains, they can handle the processes of more general portions of the brain. This grants bonuses to one of the 3 mental statistics. Each Cerebrum Expansion tube used grants a +2 bonus to its designated stat. A character may increase a single stat by up to 18.

Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPC) Augmentation: Improves working memory, organizational skills, reasoning, problem solving, and abstract thinking. (Intelligence)

Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) Augmentation: Improves impulse control, maintenance of set, monitoring ongoing behaviors, and socially appropriate behaviors. (Wisdom)

Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) Augmentation: Improves overall 'drive states', this improvement results in higher levels of confidence and determination to complete goals. (Charisma)

A quick sketch I did of the SMPS Augmentation. Art Mostly By: Me

Spinal Motor Pathway and Signal (SMPS) Augmentation:
Using a number of biological and electronic components, this augmentation improves the reaction time and reflexive capabilities by expanding motor transmission pathways within the spinal cord, allowing more information to be passed at a time. The augmentation also boosts certain signals it receives from the brain, decreasing the time between brain command and muscle reaction. This augmentation takes the form of small metal boxes anchored to the vertebrae, that are connected to each other with thick wires. While this augmentation speeds reaction times, it causes the user to have minor, but numerous, muscle twitches as the signal boosters produce “false alarm” or “echo” signals. The side-effects of this augmentation are generally an impediment to normal/daily activities, resulting in the augmentation system being given an off/on switch. Activation/Deactivation requires a Standard Action that provokes an Attack of Opportunity, the effects of activation/deactivation are instantaneous.

Bonuses: +/-3 Dodge bonus to AC, + 3 Equipment Bonus to Save versus Breath, +3 Equipment Bonus to Initiative.
During Use: -3 (Skill Proficiencies), -1 (X out of 6), or -15% (Thief Percentage) to all skill checks requiring fine motor control. -1 to all ranged attack rolls due to slight uncontrollable twitches, all range penalties are also increased by 1.
After Deactivation: A character can neither run nor charge and takes a –2 penalty to Strength and Dexterity after using the augmentation for any amount of time. These penalties go away after 8 hours of rest. A character may have the unit activated for a number of rounds equal to their current Constitution score without adverse effect. After exceeding this number of rounds, the character must make a saver versus Paralysis at -1 for each round over their Constitution limit. Character's who fail the save take 1D6 points of temporary Dexterity damage, due pulled and sprained muscles. The accumulated rounds of use reset after 8 hours of rest. A character regains 1 point of Dexterity damage for each full day of rest.

Costs (GP for standard DnD Economies, SP for LotFP)
Cerebrum Expansion Port: 2,000 gp/sp
Rat Brain (Low Skill Bonus): 2,250 gp/sp
Cat Brain (High Skill Bonus): 13,500 gp/sp
Owl Monkey Brain (+2 to Mental Stat): 6,000 gp/sp
SMPS Augmentation (AC, Reflex, & Initiative Bonus): 44,000 gp/sp

The Frequency
Alignment: N (Though the Electric Life Church treats him/her/it as being Neutral Good)
Granted Power: Shocking Grasp (Use Cleric level for caster level) 1/day +1 for every 4 levels after the 1st (ex: 5th, 9th, etc...)
Favored Weapon: Handgun (Must choose specific type)
Holy Symbol: A brain emitting two lightning bolts

They can have strange powers.

Electric Life Church Cleric
Type: Humanoid
Activity Cycle: Any
Diet: Normal Human Type Food
Intelligence: High (Int: 12+)
Treasure: Pepper Box Pistol (As Wheel Lock Pistol but w/6 Shots), 2 Owl Monkey Brain enhancements (+2 Wis each), and 2 x Cure Light Wounds Potions
Alignment: Neutral (Good)
No. Appearing: 1 OR 2 to 4 (1D3+1)
Armor Class: 16 / 4 (Leather Armor and Dexterity)
Movement: 40 ft
Hit Dice: 2
THAC0/To-Hit: 17 / +3
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage: 1D6 (Club) or 1D8 (Pepper Box Pistol: S – 25', M – 50', L – 100')
All Saves: 14
Experience: 800
Special Abilities / Attacks -
Prepared Spells:
Caster Level 2
Granted Power: Shocking Grasp 1/Day
1st - Bless, Cure Light Wounds, and Sanctuary

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