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  • #31
    I think it was referring to the suite as a whole. The evocations you get up front are stuff the magic sword just does, and probably wouldn't count.

    Basically they let you keep stuff you've actually invested exp in.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by aluminiumtrioxid View Post
      Another thing is the House colors – some of these combinations are staggeringly ugly (V’neef’s green and purple takes the cake, but the Nellens brown and silver is also pretty bad). Note that the Houses with the worst color schemes are the ones with the least amount of prestige. Also: V’neef herself is characterized as „a charismatic and dignified woman with the Empress’ social savvy and beauty” – in other words, a probable trend-setter in Dynastic society. Wearing House colors is out of fashion now. Coincidence? I think not.
      That House colors are out of fashion felt strangely out of place to me. I would have expected that section to note wearing family colors came back into fashion with the disappearance of the Empress and the Great Houses asserting dominance over the organs of the Realm.

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      • #33
        Originally posted by Shinjo View Post

        That House colors are out of fashion felt strangely out of place to me. I would have expected that section to note wearing family colors came back into fashion with the disappearance of the Empress and the Great Houses asserting dominance over the organs of the Realm.
        I think it's a purposeful kind of trying to avoid the Great Houses looking like the L5R clans and having some utlity in the idea that the folks who do use house colors are nerds or suck-ups.


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        • #34
          I'd expect them to use the house colours for the uniforms of their armies if they end up going to war on each other.

          Team colours are useful in certain situations.

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          • #35
            Cathak — Fire That Marches Against the Tide


            …An „interesting” inversion of Kimbery’s sobriquet, that’s for sure.


            In a nutshell, they’re militaristic, honorable and devout. Kind of vanilla, but you know what? Vanilla is actually a rich and complex flavor. Nothing wrong with vanilla.


            So, apparently Gateway was invented by a Cathak. You learn something new every day!


            I’ve no idea how battlefield tactics and stratagems are supposed to translate to political maneuvering. Oh god please don’t tell me their courtiers are like those insufferable managerial types who think reading The Book of Five Circles and The Art of War has prepared them for every eventuality.

            (…Probably not. I imagine Cathak scions are many things, but „wannabe” is not one of them.)


            Okay this is actually my favorite quote in the entire book:
            House Cathak strongly encourages daughters to join the military. This creates a need for husbands skilled in finance, administration, and the like. Cathak marriage negotiations are tense affairs, but because they value skill over status and pedigree, they offer lowborn sons of Dynastic families fallen on hard times the hope of improving their station. Such marriages are thought to be warmer and more passionate than most, contributing to the starry-eyed way in which many young male Dynasts dream of marrying into this house. Poetry and romances about the impoverished son of a falling branch being swept off his feet by a Cathak officer of wide experience and taken off to a life of luxury and adventure are popular.

            I can’t help but imagine that at any given point in time during the school year, there is at least one nerdy-looking accountant guy in the Spiral Academy looking out on the window and daydreaming about an impossibly perfect military waifu who will magically help him turn his life around and transform it into the awesome adventure he always thought he deserved to live.

            I also can’t help but imagine that a vanishingly few see those fantasies turned into reality, and fucking hate it. (Awesome military adventures are considerably less awesome when you have the chiseled physique of the average accountant.)


            I love the expression „the dragon’s share”, even though it gets overused in this chapter. The reason I like it is that it works on three levels at the same time: out of setting, it works because dragons have been associated with greed ever since Fafnir, so it’s immediately obvious what it refers to; in setting, it works in places where Immaculates hold sway, since the Dragon-Blooded are at the top of the Perfected Hierarchy and the bounty of Creation belongs to them; and it works in the Threshold as well, because so much wealth is flowing into the Realm that „a portion that’s about the size of the part of our economy that these assholes are taking away” can credibly work out to mean the majority of it.


            The legions also fatten House Cathak’s coffers by providing escort services for goods and personnel throughout the Threshold, exacting fees that, while far smaller than what House V’neef earns from escorting tribute shipments, are nevertheless significant. The house usually has a few such assignments in progress at any time, and they provide an excellent excuse for a young Cathak to see Creation.” – I like this part, it serves as an excellent hook for a group where every character comes from the same House. (Which I prefer. Few things kill my fun both as a GM and a player as quickly as a group that tears itself apart in internal conflict.)


            Others have already pointed out that the Cathak strategy of profiting for the impeding civil war is pretty ingenious, but I guess I’ll add my voice to the chorus.


            Of the House’s holdings, it’s interesting that they’ve got Harborhead, but more interesting is Fajad. The awesome preview paints a very vivid picture, and one that is very gameplay-friendly (as opposed to redolent with details a GM could just improvise on the spot – a mistake many setting books make). It would serve well as a homebase for the Cathak escort campaign concept floated above, with the political situation deteriorating even further between adventures until things come to a head.


            Scions of note!

            Cathak was also a famed ascetic plagued by doubt and dark thoughts, spending months in seclusion writing military treatises and contemplating spiritual matters, then emerging for days of wild debauchery” – yeah, that sounds like a distinctly Fire Aspect approach to asceticism. I like it.

            …Wait, we’re getting stats for Cathak Cainan? Awesome.

            Garel feels like the essence of House Cathak distilled in one person. She’ll make a fine matriarch.

            I bet Elanda has the Giant merit. It’s weird that we’re not getting stats for her, because she would be a good opportunity to showcase how a build that foregoes Dex in favor of Strength can be effective on its own right.


            Evocations for the demonic tattoos gained from the Pact with Mara sorcerous initiation || Pyre-Kindler (Soulsteel and Red Jade Grimscythe, Artifact 3) || Tenebrous Descent (Stormcaller's Black Jade Reaver Daiklave cousin, Artifact 5)
            Advice for running the corebook shikari antagonists

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            • #36
              Originally posted by aluminiumtrioxid View Post


              I’ve no idea how battlefield tactics and stratagems are supposed to translate to political maneuvering. Oh god please don’t tell me their courtiers are like those insufferable managerial types who think reading The Book of Five Circles and The Art of War has prepared them for every eventuality.
              ​For every eventuality, sure, but The Art of War is mostly about cultivating a mindset of assessing one's resources and recognising and seizing opportunities.

              Originally posted by aluminiumtrioxid
              I also can’t help but imagine that a vanishingly few see those fantasies turned into reality, and fucking hate it. (Awesome military adventures are considerably less awesome when you have the chiseled physique of the average accountant.)
              ​Well, Lore allows them to shoot elemental bolts.

              ​I agree that Cathak is still the least interesting House to me, but the overall bar has been raised to the degree that I still find it very vivid and powerful. Things like them having a general enthusiasm for competition and being marked as the single strongest military power in the Realm help.


              I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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              • #37
                Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post

                ​Well, Lore allows them to shoot elemental bolts.

                Sadly, it won't help them march for days, nor will it make the experience of sleeping in a ditch any more pleasant, so the main problems remain. Poor, poor Spiral Academy graduates.


                And our next House is…


                Cynis — Wood Nourished On Tears of The Fallen





                …Actually, „wood nourished on tears” sounds exactly like the kind of kinky I’d imagine a Cynis scion to get up to.


                I like that they seem to be a genuinely popular House now, instead of the creepy kids everybody visits because hey, free drugs, but nobody actually likes. (Which is the impression I’ve got from their earlier incarnations.)


                Interesting that three out of the ten major Houses seem to have spying as a major focus – and they’re all different kinds of spying, too.


                …So apparently medicine joins prostitution, slaves and drugs as one of the pillars of their economy. Yeah, I guess it fits them.


                There’s an interesting point being made about the Cynis information advantage and the difficulties in actually turning that advantage into tangible influence, lemme get a quote:

                Those who’ve accepted Cynis hospitality — and there are few who haven’t — know that the Cynis reputation for discretion is well earned. No matter how great the improprieties committed at a Cynis gala, a Dynast may rest easy knowing that her reputation is safe. Of course, House Cynis, watches, reports, and records. There’s no piece of information too small to be used.
                Using this information, however, is an option of last resort. Release news of a scandal too publicly and no one will ever let loose at a Cynis celebration again. There’s no way to tell how the information will spread once released, so most play their cards close to their chest and work through insinuation. But if a particular political rival needs to be burned, a Cynis scion might mention something to an Immaculate monk, who’ll discreetly censure the blackmailed party while leaving House Cynis blameless of any breach of hospitality.

                Now, the part that is unclear to me is why would the Immaculates – who are noted to harbor serious misgivings about House Cynis in general – trust any of the information they’re given this way. It’s not like it could be corroborated with audio recordings or video evidence. Ah well.

                (…I mean, a courtier who can’t subtly plant the idea into the head of an Immaculate who spent most of his time improving his martial arts prowess at the expense of delicate social maneuvering must be really bad at her job.)


                Experimenting with Creation’s flora and fauna in search of the next high or cure has given House Cynis an unparalleled knowledge of toxins, venoms, and other deadly substances. Many compounds in the house vaults cannot be replicated without their massive trade network, nor can their antidotes. House Cynis discreetly offers these poisons to Dynasts and criminals willing to pay, and uses its extensive information-gathering network to ascertain the victim’s identity to determine their next step. If it’s someone the house wants gone, nothing further needs doing, and they’ve been paid for the privilege of having an enemy assassinated. If they’d rather see him live, they arrange for him to meet a Cynis physician, who’ll cluck her tongue and talk of summer fevers or winter chills while administering antidotes made from ingredients plucked from gardens and grottoes thousands of miles away. The value of the patient’s gratitude is equaled only by the steep cost charged for the service.

                Yeah, getting paid twice for the same end result as not doing anything seems like a very Cynis approach to work. I approve.


                To the surprise of nobody, Cynis and Sesus are really closely intertwined. Screw stories of starry-eyed Spiral Academy graduates and dashing Cathak heroines, what I want now is a romance between a Cynis courtier and a Sesus spy.

                I imagine Realm literature has ample examples: syrupy takes on the redemptive power of friendship and love, probably featuring unlikely circumstances in which the star-crossed lovers form a Sworn Kinship with an overly earnest Earth Aspect and a passionate Fire Aspect who teach them the value of honesty and opening up emotionally. Heart-wrenching generational epics where personal feelings must be sacrificed on the altar of House politics, betrayals great and small abound, and with the passing of centuries, the relationship turns more and more antagonistic, with things eventually coming to a head in a spectacular kung fu battle between elder Exalts (tragic reconciliation as one party succumbs to their injuries is optional, but common). Thinly-veiled Immaculate morality tales in which unchecked lust and impiety lead the lovers down a dark path of consorting with demons and blasphemous Anathema, which end with one of them consumed by their twisted desires but the other finding the strength to repent, turn against their new blasphemous masters, and earn redemption in death. And, of course, just plain old porn (albeit „debauched Cynis leads a naive Cathak into a world of new experiences” is probably a more widespread subgenre there by a wide margin).

                I also imagine the relationships portrayed in these are nothing like the real thing.


                Holdings are not very interesting – I imagine Pangu will work out pretty well when The Realm drops, but it’s hard to do miracles in two paragraphs.


                Scions of note!


                A trailblazing explorer, master merchant, and inveterate hedonist, Cynis herself died centuries ago of an overdose of heroin laced with dreamstone dust.” – I adore this. If I was a Dynast, I’d want to be like Cynis when I grow up. (Not even on regular heroin! It’s extra-super-special-bad-for-you heroin that may or may not have had Wyld stuff added to it. I have no idea what dreamstone dust is but it sounds awesome.)

                I have to admit, the way Cynis Wisel is described here annoys me slightly. We can’t have a character who is just a talented poet; no, somebody who cannot inflict horrendous violence on others is apparently not worth mentioning :P

                Petalin is an interesting one, because the text frames her as a candidate for the throne, but she… doesn’t seem to be a very effective leader? She’s popular among the troops, but apparently hasn’t really managed to improve the quality of the house legions since she was put into a leadership position. (Maybe it happened recently?)

                I enjoy the idea that loving one’s husband causes an image problem among the Cynis, and therefore it must be prevented from becoming public knowledge. Probably not what the writer was thinking of, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

                …Wait, souls can go missing? How does that even happen? (I mean, one way is obvious, but there is explicitly no coming back from that one – albeit I guess the text doesn’t say that Umara is going to put back the original one…)


                Evocations for the demonic tattoos gained from the Pact with Mara sorcerous initiation || Pyre-Kindler (Soulsteel and Red Jade Grimscythe, Artifact 3) || Tenebrous Descent (Stormcaller's Black Jade Reaver Daiklave cousin, Artifact 5)
                Advice for running the corebook shikari antagonists

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by aluminiumtrioxid View Post
                  Now, the part that is unclear to me is why would the Immaculates – who are noted to harbor serious misgivings about House Cynis in general – trust any of the information they’re given this way. It’s not like it could be corroborated with audio recordings or video evidence.
                  I'm not sure how serious you're being here.

                  Like, if I were to tell an authority figure, "I saw Alice strangle an eight-year-old," I don't think there's any point in history where the authority figure would just tell me to come back next time with some video of it.

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                  • #39
                    I'd imagine Cynis is decently good at making sure they keep some form of record or evidence in the event that the material might stretch their credibility. Otherwise I'd presume probably a mix of proxies passing along the information, you know the concerned servant slipping under their master's notice to inform on problematic behavior, or just the old fashioned method of having people who do generally trust you, or know that there are circumstances where you're not going to attempt to mislead them and keep those sacrosanct.

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
                      I'm not sure how serious you're being here.

                      Like, if I were to tell an authority figure, "I saw Alice strangle an eight-year-old," I don't think there's any point in history where the authority figure would just tell me to come back next time with some video of it.

                      I… genuinely don’t think most Dynastic blackmail material is quite the same magnitude as strangling children, though? I imagine most of it is something to the effect of „I happened to overhear Alice bragging to Bob about how skillfully she managed to embezzle something or subvert the Imperial justice system”, which... you could report to the Immaculates, who will eventually prompt the authorities into launching an investigation and uncovering evidence of misdeeds (or, at least, forcing Alice to waste a bunch of her time and money on trying to obstruct the process and issue extravagant bribes), but it feels like there’s a superfluous extra step involved there. Especially considering that the IO is packed to the brim with people who are loyal to Cynis’ greatest enemy.


                      Ledaal — Air that Raised the Bones of Giants


                      …Yeah I have no idea what that is supposed to mean either.


                      So House Ledaal is basically the Holy Inquisition of the God-Empress of Mankind. I… can live with that, and even see how that is compelling, but after having spent an overwhelming majority of my time as a roleplayer either running or playing in W40K, I can’t say that it makes me particularly enthused about them.


                      Yeah, they’re not even trying to get on the throne. Honestly, I feel like this is the strategy Cynis should’ve chosen as well – I imagine a lot of their current trouble with Mnemon would simply not be present had they not gone and pissed her off by running against her.

                      …I mean, you could argue that a devout Mnemon on the throne would be pretty bad for their business, but I can’t really imagine her being in a position to strongarm a House that has conserved its power throughout the civil war just after the dust has settled and everybody is licking their wounds. Also, I imagine she’d move against V’neef just out of sheer pettiness, which would give Cynis the opportunity to muscle in on their turf and shift their image to a more restrained and doctrinally acceptable one.


                      But enough about Cynis, this is the time for discussing Ledaal! (Favoritism? What do you mean favoritism?)


                      Interesting – two out of the three founders we’ve seen so far have been adopted by the Empress.


                      Yeah, they seem to have the Crab shtick of desperately trying to call attention to the massive existential threats next door while everybody around them is content to play petty politics.


                      House Ledaal’s approach to their satrapies seems like a rich vein to mine for conflict:

                      Many households reside in the Threshold, soaking up local culture and bringing back wealth and craftsmanship. It doesn’t endear them to the locals, though —tributaries under Ledaal’s thumb know they represent nothing more than a resource and a staging ground for the Shadow Crusade. Constant vigilance against the rising dark makes Ledaal satrapies among the safest places for citizens of the Threshold to live, but in exchange they sacrifice privacy and autonomy. The yoke of Imperial oversight grows heavier as the house scours its holdings for Anathema sympathies, and demands increasing resources to shore up its grip on Arjuf and fund Wyld Hunts.

                      On one hand, you can see the growing frustration of the Ledaal, desperate to help as their family members are getting maimed and killed fighting against Anathema and other threats with each passing day, and viewing the locals as ungrateful little bastards who don’t even have the capacity to appreciate what the House is doing for them, because it’s so far removed from their experience. On the other hand, you have the misery of the common folk who see their country gutted and bled for every obol just so that their Dragon-Blooded overlords can wage war against threats thousands of miles away – and sure, dying to the Fair Folk and the hungry dead ain’t pleasant, but neither is starving in the winter because tax collectors took away the last of your grain, not to mention that if the wealth of their country wasn’t siphoned away into Ledaal coffers for centuries, maybe they could’ve put up some meaningful defenses of their own already. Then you have the PCs decide which viewpoint has more validity in their eyes. Good stuff.


                      I like how their position manages to be strong yet precarious at the same time, both in military and politics.


                      House holdings!


                      So Howling Heart Prefecture has the following: „Through sorcery and reverse-engineering ancient artifacts of Anathema make, they’ve developed a still-theoretical protocol to dramatically amplify a Dragon-Blood’s Essence for a short period, at the cost of major decreases in lifespan and blood purity. They haven’t deployed it yet, for it carries the risk of inciting Essence fever nigh unto madness, but the resurgence of the Solar Anathema may force their hand”. I’ve got to say, I’m not a fan. This feels like a cheap way to provide „level-appropriate combat challenge” to rapidly developing Solars without breaking the setting in half by suddenly revealing elder Exalts in every corner. I’m especially not a fan of it having a good chance to turn the affected into ravening madmen, because the one thing worse for Exalted than having NPCs whose narrative role begins and ends with „appropriate combat challenge for high xp solars” is implicitly saying „and it’s morally okay to put them down, they’re mentally unstable, violent lunatics anyway”.

                      (Funnily enough, they would actually be fine antagonists in an Infernal game, underlining a point about tearing away your humanity bit by bit on a quest for Real Ultimate PowerTM.)

                      (Also: this is one reading of the passage in question. It’s entirely possible to interpret it in a considerably less negative light! My issue is that the reading which would result in cliché and lazy storytelling is a very obvious one. Reminder: „the Yozis escape from Hell” was a popular campaign event even back in 1E despite the fact that the book explicitly called it out as impossible.)

                      (…Man it feels weird to rail against badwrongfun just a page after having said that there is a tendency in the fan community to focus on internal consistency and setting minutiae to a degree where it shuts down play instead of enabling stories.)


                      I’ll just quote this in its entirety without comment because it’s awesome:

                      The city-state Perch, in the Southern land of Zephyr, sprawls along the east bank of the Elidad River, whose rich soil yields fine harvests. But the west bank hosts only the Twilight Grove, Perch’s shadowland necropolis. There, the dead keep their hearts close at hand to better recall the passions of life, and spectral princes called aeons ride sphinxes that are their own hungry ghosts. The satrap, Ledaal Yasmet Imara, treats as an equal with the seven archaeons that rule the dead city, bargaining for occult secrets and Underworld gossip. Other than burial rites, she forbids intercourse between the two cities, but turns a blind eye to the many little flowerings of Perch’s ancestor cult. Though she’d love to extirpate the cult root and branch, Perch has seen too many uprisings in the past, and Imara does not dare tempt another at this delicate time.


                      Scions of note!

                      …I will never cease to adore the term „masculine intemperance”.

                      Ledaal Kebok Coren is interesting. How does somebody get a demon great-granddaddy in a House of demon hunters? Also: custom Charms can be used reflect extraordinary heritage now? I thought the Exaltation burned such things away in previous editions.


                      Evocations for the demonic tattoos gained from the Pact with Mara sorcerous initiation || Pyre-Kindler (Soulsteel and Red Jade Grimscythe, Artifact 3) || Tenebrous Descent (Stormcaller's Black Jade Reaver Daiklave cousin, Artifact 5)
                      Advice for running the corebook shikari antagonists

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                      • #41
                        Ledaal Kebok Coren has been a demon-blooded dragon-blood with magic demon storm powers since the 1e DB hardcover; material that claimed things like "You can't be a demon-blooded dragon-blood with magic demon storm powers because Exaltation burns those away!" post-dates her, and seems largely to have been written by people with oWoD experience who thought it was their job to stomp down on vampire-werewolf hybrid abominations and the munchkins who want to play them. This is Exalted, though, and Ledaal Kebok Coren has always been cool, so we're running with her.

                        (A given Exalt's powers are already so diverse there's no real harm in letting someone diversify a bit more, provided they're paying XP for the Charms. Also, "I make it storm when I'm angry" isn't super game-breaking.)

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                        • #42
                          Is playing a character like Coren something that will get wordcount when you get around God-Blooded? Or is it more of a play it by ear thing, where it's just "special circumstance lets the character wield a very narrow selection of custom designed spirit Charms as would be available for Eclipse Keyword"?


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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by glamourweaver View Post
                            Is playing a character like Coren something that will get wordcount when you get around God-Blooded?
                            Oh, definitely. If the God-Blooded rules don't let you play Ledaal Kebok Coren, then the God-Blooded rules are wrong.


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                            • #44
                              Mnemon — Earth Carved in the Image of One


                              Immediately in the second paragraph, we’re given a very good reason why we’d want to play one:

                              A slim majority of scions receive Immaculate training at the Cloister of Wisdom. But while some grow rigid in their piety, others study at far-flung Threshold temples and cities, exposing them to many of Creation’s most outlandish and enthralling aesthetics, cultures, and spiritual paths. As a result, they have a distinct flair of exoticism bordering on salacious, and a wisdom bordering on heretical.

                              This is good stuff. „The devout House” is a pretty narrow niche. However, the contrast between being an exemplar of Dynastic values and someone with a foreign outlook and insights, that is a rich vein to mine for character concepts. Oh, and you get to know magic kung fu. Awesome.


                              …Was the House always so focused on construction? I don’t seem to recall that from earlier editions.


                              When your allies include the biggest naval power and the House with the strongest legions, everybody else being against you doesn’t seem too bad.


                              Paragon is surprisingly conflict-free.


                              Honestly, Isator Levi has already said all there is to say about the Inner Circle and Mnemon’s character.


                              If only the rest of the Dynasty wanted another Scarlet Empress, she’d sit upon the throne right now” – that’s a pretty good line, and I think it summarizes the Dynasty’s relationship with Her Redness succintly.


                              I like Rulinsei’s characterization as a „middling” sorcerer. Not every elder Exalt needs to be an omnicompetent, transcendent genius. Sometimes, being „just” a master geomancer is enough.


                              I like how Pallan’s writeup manages to sneak in some setting details about the perception of infidelity – albeit this is elaborated on to hilarious effect in a later chapter. (Apparently husbands whose infidelity is known to have resulted in an unwanted pregnancy sometimes have a valet assigned to them indefinitely, with the sole purpose of carrying around maiden tea and reminding them to take it. I love this.)


                              Mnemon Rulinsei Ghova is possibly my favorite NPC in the entire book, and his shtick will never cease to be a chasing the dragon pun for me (no matter how much Minton insists to the contrary). He’s a very conceptually dense character, possibly serving as a source for a character’s cool bling with unique aesthetics, illustrating the effects of Wyld exposure, dropping not one but two plot hooks (I don’t know what „the irreal Noumenon” is but it’s cool-sounding enough to jumpstart a GM’s imagination), and describing an awesome heresy while subtly implying that your Mnemon could have similarly outlandish interpretations of the Immaculate Philosophy without facing overt censure for that. If only every NPC writeup in the book could accomplish this much in a single paragraph.
                              Last edited by aluminiumtrioxid; 04-04-2018, 07:40 AM.


                              Evocations for the demonic tattoos gained from the Pact with Mara sorcerous initiation || Pyre-Kindler (Soulsteel and Red Jade Grimscythe, Artifact 3) || Tenebrous Descent (Stormcaller's Black Jade Reaver Daiklave cousin, Artifact 5)
                              Advice for running the corebook shikari antagonists

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                              • #45
                                Originally posted by aluminiumtrioxid View Post
                                I don’t know what „the irreal Noumenon” is but it’s cool-sounding enough to jumpstart a GM’s imagination
                                ​Suddenly it sounded vaguely familiar to me... something to do with a wasp? Is it an obscure reference to something of Jenna Moran's? Or am I just thinking that because it sounds vaguely like "ichneumon"?


                                I have approximate knowledge of many things.
                                Watch me play Dark Souls III (completed)
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