Philosophy: An Elucidation

For as long as sentient beings have existed, five conceptual forces have ceaselessly vied for domination over all. The philosophical puissances of balance, chaos, evil, good, and order exert influence upon the minds of all beings, and through them, the world beyond. Thus, concepts of morality didn't exist until intelligence did, but will nonetheless persist after sapient entities are long gone.

Where they are not polar opposites, these forces tend to flow into one another, creating eight additional conceptual energies which also compete for influence. These supplemental motivations include codification, conscription, corruption, creation, destruction, disruption, purification, and reparation. All in all, this makes a grand total of thirteen distinct ethos, all of which constantly strive to further their reach.

While a vast majority of sentient entities loosely subscribe to one of these behavioral ideals, some ardently proselytize them. And a rare few amongst the latter, so-called philosophers, can focus the power of their very morals for use in magic. With this, they work to spread the influence of their chosen ethos across the multiverse as causal crusaders, attempting to reshape all that exists to match their ideology!

The thirteen philosophical powers are briefly summed up here:

Balance: one of the five major forces of philosophy, balance is the equalizer of the cosmos, making all the same.

Chaos: unpredictability, randomness, and inspiration are the hallmarks of chaos, a major philosophical force.

Codification: where order and balance meet is codification, the bringing of order to that which has none.

Conscription: order imposed by evil is rarely accepted voluntarily, and these chains of law serve dark ends.

Corruption: when balance is tainted by evil, corruption results, twisting all with darkness until it is unrecognizable.

Creation: chaos and goodness merge to reflect the creative urge, and the rejection of entropy.

Destruction: chaos and evil, on the other hand, merge to sow entropy, and bring an end to all things.

Disruption: when chaos alters balance, the bindings of order are thrown to the wind, often with bizarre results.

Evil: dark selfishness incarnate, evil is the spreading of entropy with disregard for all else.

Good: the proponent of life in the universe, this major philosophical force strives to foster harmony in all.

Order: stability and knowledge come with order, a major philosophical force that acts to organize all things.

Purification: when balance is touched by good, a cleansing of entropy occurs, and glorious things can ensue.

Reparation: where order and good are combined, systems can be restored to their full strength and vitality.

The Philosopher

The eternal battle of philosophical forces is waged throughout creation. Whether or not they wield philosophical magic, the zealous proponents of the thirteen ethical powers ceaselessly strive to bring others around to their way of thinking. Some attempt to do this by force of arms, while others instead rely on the power of persuasion. Either way, this endless struggle has real effects on existence itself.

Though our universe is considered strongly neutral in both purpose and outlook, others swing towards other moralities. Furthermore, when enough of a location's people and matter are converted from one ethos to another, either their entire universe can begin to change in a like fashion, or the affected areas will physically shift from their current reality to one more aligned with their new attitudes.

This is why so much of the mystic school of philosophy is dedicated to spells which either manipulate philosophical energies or involve piercing planar boundaries in one fashion or another. While some philosophers may be content to stay home and play defense for their morality of choice, most know that threats from beyond rarely provide the same courtesy, and the fight will invariably come to them if allowed to.

Conceptual Alteration

The philosophical thaumaturgist is such a fervid believer in the conceptual force of morality they adhere to that they can use their magic to make it manifest in the physical world. This belief-based energy is a psychoturgical power source that bears both magical and psionic components, and is thus capable of directly affecting others as either Sorcerous or Karmic damage, whichever of the two is more effective.

More importantly, however, is the transformative effect that the direct application of such energies has on matter. Magic shaped by the belief of its wielder made real, philosophical energies carry Probability Fallout, the effects of which are to alter that which is exposed to it in a manner that reflects their wielder's ethos - or, at the very least, their perception of how it should do so.

Changes inflicted by the Probability Fallout inherent to philosophical energies are often minor, and generally transient, but are a striking reminder of who wields them and the conceptual force they represent. The victims of a proponent of chaos might see their possessions and appearance twisted in any number of random fashions, while those faced with a supporter of order may well look far too tidy for their own good.

Moral Relativity

In addition to the magic provided to them by their mystic school, philosophical wizards have access to the same, common spells all other sorcerers do. These spells function as they normally would, despite being fueled in part by reality-warping philosophical power. The only difficulty involved with wielding such sorcery is in reconciling its use against the ideology that motivates its casting in the first place.

Healing / Self may seem to be firmly aligned with reparation, while Mind Control sounds like the very definition of conscription. Even when dealing with edge cases, room can be made for such spells. Perhaps the evil philosopher only casts Healing / Self on those who will further his or her own ends, while the chaotic philosopher wields Mind Control to disrupt enemy forces with surgical precision.

Ultimately, it is up to the Judge whether or not a given use of a spell aligns with the ethos a particular philosophical sorcerer adheres to - or attempts to, anyway. And if it doesn't, that's okay! It's not like a philosopher is going to lose points with the ideological puissance they purport to support if they occasionally fail to act in lockstep with it. But wandering off the proverbial ranch can get complicated.

A Clash of Ethos

When the Judge decides a given philosopher is casting their magic in a fashion contrary to the moral force they ostensibly claim to buttress, he or she is free to inflict a penalty on their efforts. While philosophers are allowed one 'step' away from their moral compass without harm, the Judge may apply a -2 CS penalty to the FEAT roll required of the spell a philosopher attempts to cast at cross purposes.

For example, a philosopher who eagerly supports the forces of good above all casts a spell to purge an area of evil. This could be conceptualized as wielding either the forces of good or purification, neither of which bear a penalty. When forced to perform an act of corruption for what they deem the greatest good, however, that same philosopher will suffer a -4 CS penalty against their efforts.

The same applies when wielding direct, unfiltered philosophical forces. A philosophical chaos mage can use an Eldritch Bolt to discharge chaos, creation, destruction, or disruption without penalty, balance, good, or evil at a -2 CS penalty, and codification, conscription, corruption, purification, or reparation spells at a -4 CS. Note that philosophers cannot wield the force diametrically opposed to their own.

Exceptions of Equilibrium

On the other hand, proponents of balance function differently in this regard. They may wield the energies and motives of balance, codification, corruption, disruption, and purification without penalty. They skip the next 'step' to wield conscription, creation, destruction, and reparation at a -2 CS penalty. Finally, philosophers of balance can attempt to wield chaos, evil, good, and order at a -4 CS.

The reason for this exception in the guidelines other philosophers are bound to is in the very nature of balance. Balance seeks to equalize everything, after all, so it would naturally have an easier time with a puissance between two other extremes than with the extremes themselves. Furthermore, as their morality sits at the center of the wheel of ethos, they lack a force which they are forbidden to utilize.

However, their road is indeed the hardest path to walk. Proponents of balance either work hard at remaining neutral, or strive to level the playing field, in all things - both of which often force one to choose between their own wishes and that of their chosen energy of conscience. Other philosophers, not understanding the nature of balance, often deride those who support it for not 'picking a side'.

Even if they already have.

Alice Aplomb: A Sample Philosopher

Students of the philosophical school of magic have to deal with ceaseless ambiguity in the course of their magical careers, what with the casting of each spell being weighed against the nature of their convictions. However, creating such characters in the first place shouldn't be so stressful! As such, a sample philosophical thaumaturgist is generated below, using the systematic character generation method.

Let's see what we can do with fifty points, shall we?

Determining Alice Aplomb's Basic Abilities

Thinking of building a direct action philosopher, I opt to pour a bit more points into their ability scores than I typically do for spellcasters. Thus, I choose Excellent (20) Fighting (two points), Good (10) Agility (one point), Typical (6) Strength (no points), Excellent (20) Endurance (two points), Remarkable (30) Reason and Intuition (three points each), and Amazing (50) Psyche (five points).

Adding up this character's Fighting, Agility, Strength, and Endurance gives us a Health score of fifty-six, while doing the same for their Reason, Intuition, and Psyche grants them a Karma score of one hundred and ten. Their Resources will be a particularly low Feeble (2), which will recover four of the sixteen points spent so far, leaving us down only twelve, and I will leave their Popularity score at zero for now.

Determining Alice Aplomb's Background Information

As always, I like to give characters quirks to make them a bit more unique, and to possibly poke my brain to help fill out their story even more, particularly when I'm making them up on the fly as I am here. Hoping to toughen this philosopher up a tad, I take Hardiness, boosting their Health score to sixty-seven. I counter that with Alien Culture, though at level one, we're left with a one point deficit. Ah well.

Moving on to talents, I start with Skill / Knives, along with Quick Draw and Two Weapons for those same implements. That allows this character a +1 CS to hit with knives, a free bonus attack with them, a +1 CS to their Fighting to gain a third attack with them if desired, and a +1 initiative modifier when using such weapons. And that only costs three points. I am pretty happy with that, really.

This philosopher will have a level 3 mentor contact in the form of a large, plane-spanning organization dedicated to whatever moralistic puissance he or she will devote their life to, which also trained them in the magic they know. An additional contact here on earth will be aiding and abetting their effort to chip away at our universe's stark, overwhelming bias towards balance. Together, these cost five points.

Determining and Quantifying Alice Aplomb's Magical Abilities and Appliance

I inverted the usual process I follow when generating spell casters by beginning with their magical artifact(s). They are the Blades of Aplomb, twin daggers infused with the Eldritch Palm spell at Amazing (50) rank, channeling ordered energies into our philosopher's foes on contact. Furthermore, their material strength is augmented to Class 1000 rank, making them all but indestructible for the most part.

However, the Blades of Aplomb are weakly limited, in that they only work for characters who ascribe to codification, conscription, order, and reparation, and only work on those who don't. Similarly, they are portable and likely hard to replace, giving them a second, strong limitation as well. This lowers the cost of what would normally be a fourteen point (pair of) magical artifacts to only eleven points.

With eighteen points remaining, I opt for Aura at Good (10) rank, for eight points (it costs two points per rank), Offensive Portals at Excellent (20) rank, for five points, Philosophical Sense at Good (10) rank, for four points, and then Astral Projection at Feeble (2) rank, with their last point. This final, albeit weak spell is necessary to keep in touch with that mentor organization, which is headquartered in another, alien plane.

Determining Alice Aplomb's Origin Story

As a child, Alice bore witness to a titanic battle between the forces of order and chaos in her village. There were no survivors amongst her friends, family, and neighbors, and Alice was left orphaned by the foreign combatants. Though the chaotic contingent were content to leave their dead, their counterparts came to honor their fallen allies, only to discover Alice mourning the loss of everyone she cared for.

Vowing vengeance, she seized the closest weapons at hand, only to astonish those who had found her. This is because they were the Blades of Aplomb, which could only be wielded by a powerful proponent of order. Since Alice's family was gone, they offered to take her in, and to give her the training she needed to procure justice for her family. With a fire and fury she'd never felt before, Alice took them up on that.

Years later, Alice Aplomb, who had taken the name of her trusty blades, was banished back to her home world in a battle with her mortal enemies. Now thinking her planet is horribly disorganized, and that it could use help fixing that problem, she's decided to stay for the time being. Alice is aided in her mission by her mentors from afar, and locally by a man whose life she saved shortly after her arrival.

Philosophical Spells

While they can wield conventional spells as can any other caster, philosophical mages have a special selection of magic abilities that reflects their nature as causal crusaders. Each of their thirteen spells reflect the nature of either the school itself or the mission of its students, allowing them to manipulate the like amount of psychoturgical, philosophical forces, or to extend them across planar boundaries.

Known philosophical school spells include the following:

A C D E F H I O P T U

A

Aura
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: 1d10 turns + maintenance, if desired
Cost: 2 points per rank

An aura is a protective sort of shell that a character may produce around their body. It can be comprised of either matter or energy, as is desired, but a character typically only begins play with one form of aura. In order to acquire more auras, a character must either purchase them as weak enhancements to this power during character generation, reduce its power rank by -1 CS for each, or develop them later as power stunts.

If material, an aura can consist of any form of matter desired, though the power cannot produce a protective coating of a material strength greater than its own power rank. For example, a Typical (6) ranked aura could readily concoct an ice or wood cocoon around its possessor, but could not do so with titanium steel. An aura can simulate materials of a higher m.s. than its power rank, but its m.s. is capped at this intensity.

An energy aura, on the other hand, can be of any form of such extant in the Universal Heroes system. An energy aura can be comprised of anything, from lightning to darkness to spectral flames to antideionic life force! Such an aura will inflict its power rank in damage, of the appropriate type, upon direct physical contact with others - which makes an energy aura a great aversive defense.

The form of matter or energy that comprises an aura will determine any additional effects the power can provide, if necessary. Fire, for example, will have a tendency to cause things in the character's vicinity to ignite, while buckyballs will make someone almost impossible to grapple. Effects that would neutralize or commandeer an aura (a fire extinguisher, or perhaps the appropriate matter control) must defeat its power rank to work.

Characters with an aura can move normally while it is active. The possessor of this power subconsciously shapes their aura around their body when movement is required, preventing it from harming them (if applicable). Alternately, the power can produce uncontrolled, 'jointed' auras, resembling a suit of armor made out of whatever the aura is comprised of, though this creates holes in the protection it provides (weak limitation).

If made of energy, an aura will offer its possessor power rank protection from assault per a personal force field (possibly modified by its energy type). On the other hand, a character with a solid aura will receive like body armor - if their aura is at least two inches thick. If one's aura is smaller in thickness, it cannot fully protect its possessor from injury, and thus provides -1 CS protection from attack instead.

If an aura is destroyed, the character must simply make another one, which takes up a full action. This may not be immediately possible if the cause of the previous aura's demise is still present (a character with an aura of fire being doused in fire retardant foam). If taken over by other powers, one must either rebuild their aura anew or reclaim control of it from whoever stole it.

C

Chaos Shift
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: maintenance
Cost: 8 points (flat cost)

Chaos shifting is a specialized movement ability one can directly use to great effect in combat. In battle, the chaos shifter can rapidly pop in and out of either space and/or time around his or her foe (depending on their power set and the player's desire). This has the practical effect of making him or her much harder to target by others, while at the same time giving them something of an advantage against their opponent.

In game terms, this translates into a +1 CS bonus to hit against the foe one chaos shifts around, while inflicting a -1 CS penalty on others' attempts to strike him or her. The former only applies to a targeting roll by the chaos shifter, while the latter applies to any FEAT made against them. This is because, after spending half of the turn outside this space-time, a chaos shifter is harder to grasp with most powers.

D

Defensive Portals
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Defensive portals are just that, one-way rifts in space-time created for the express purpose of protecting oneself from injury. Only energy can pass through these unidirectional holes in the universe, not matter. Thus, a burst of radiation directed at this power's wielder would be completely shunted elsewhere, while only the energy from a hail of bullets would be, the actual projectiles landing in a pile at his or her feet.

A defensive portal provides power rank protection against incoming attacks that are comprised purely of energy, though this protection is reduced by -1 CS if the damage from an attack is delivered through a physical medium (whether from bullets, a hammer, or even a fist). The wielder of this power must perform a shield maneuver with it in order to acquire the indicated protection.

But where does all this energy go? It's hard to say, really. It may be shunted into a realm of potential energy, or perhaps into a large mass such as an asteroid or even the Sun. Or something even stranger may occur, and a defensive portal may redirect the energies it blocks into the offensive portals wielded by others now and then (possibly making for a highly random string of attacks with that ability).

E

Empathic Hammer
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

While the ability to control emotions is most often used in a subtle fashion to alter the behavior of others, it has other applications. In fact, this knack can be used in an offensive manner, rapidly and randomly altering the emotional state of others in order to cause general pain and confusion. Such a technique is known as an empathic hammer, and can be considerably debilitating.

If targeted by such an attack, the victim must pass an Intuition (awr) FEAT roll against the empathic hammer power rank, or suffer like Karmic damage. Once struck by this power, the target will demonstrate multiple emotional states, seemingly simultaneously, as the changes roil through their minds. In addition to suffering this damage, the victim will lose the benefit of positive initiative modifiers for 1d10 turns.

The empathic hammer ability can strike any animate target within Near distance of its possessor.

F

Flaying
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Flaying is the ability to literally shred matter. Flaying works by applying a razor-like line of force along an object, slashing said object at a considerable distance from this ability's wielder. Though this is an energy-based attack, the result is that the flaying energy manifests in a distinctly physical fashion, thus inflicting power ranked Edged Attack damage on its targets.

While flaying may be utilized against any target within Near distance of its possessor, it is primarily useful against those within Very Near distance. This is because the force used by this power to slice and dice things is rapidly diffused by each object it passes through, and for each thing a flaying beam cuts on its way to its primary target, it will lose 1 CS of its overall effectiveness.

This means that whether one's target is hiding behind a brick wall, a sheet of glass, or even business attire, the force which flays will lose some of its edge once it finally comes in contact with its target. And, more distressingly, anything wandering into the path between a flayer and that which he or she would like to flay will also attenuate the damage they would inflict as it is flayed first.

Forensics
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Forensics involves reading the essential residue left in dead matter, using it to determine various facets of the deceased material. This basically involves learning precisely when the formerly living matter died, what killed it, and how. This is where the power gains its name, as it is quite handy for 'filling in the blanks' where the dead are concerned - even if the information involved isn't all that 'scientific'.

The power is a lot more useful than that, however. Thanks to this lingering life force, the wielder of forensics can actually speak with dead matter, after a fashion. The corpse, temporarily bolstered by the effects of this power, will readily supply whatever information it can about itself, including details regarding events that occurred around it both before and after its untimely demise.

Being a communication with the shell of the dead, and not the actual spirit of such, forensics is not privy to the thoughts of the body - either before its demise or after. But just about anything else regarding the flesh of the deceased is up for grabs. Specifically, forensics can 'dredge' dead matter for information a number of days back equal to its power rank number.

After that, further communications are simply too muddled to be of use, the impressions of the dead body's lingering essence merging with that of other life forms that have since come and gone.

H

Hostility Screen
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: maintenance
Cost: 2 points per rank

A hostility screen is an aversive field which prevents entities actively hostile to its possessor from approaching. A strange combination of both empathy and antigravity, hostility screen scans the area within Very Near distance of its wielder while active, and applies a repellant force when beings directing aggression towards said wielder attempt to wander any closer to him or her.

This repellant force works with power rank intensity, and requires overcoming its might in order approach any closer to its projector. Of course, the wielder of this power can use its repulsive properties to push themselves away from offensive individuals who can overcome it, doing so with like force - as if the hostility screen were a similarly ranked propulsion power.

While a hostility screen is great against animate opponents, it's sort of at a loss against the unliving. Unfeeling machines, reanimated zombies, and even bullets are completely unaffected by a hostility screen - primarily because its empathic component cannot sense them whatsoever. This limitation can be bypassed, however, if the possessor of a hostility screen has access to the pertinent sympathy powers.

Device sympathy, for example, would add the ability to screen out non-sentient robots, while object sympathy would cover those bullets and zombies.

I

Inferiority Complex
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Wielding this insidious ability, a character may induce an artificial inferiority complex within his or her foe. This complex will overwhelm the target with feelings of inadequacy so severe, in fact, that such an individual will find themselves unable to do much at all. They feel totally useless, thus presuming that any action they might take wouldn't make a difference in any event.

Inducing such a state requires that the target first fail a Psyche (will) FEAT roll against this power's rank. An artificial inferiority complex will last for 1d10 turns, during which time its victim cannot spend Karma at all - even to save their own life. Of course, one may attempt another FEAT roll to shrug off the inferiority complex on each subsequent turn, so it may not always persist for the full duration.

Inferiority complex only functions within Near distance of its wielder.

O

Offensive Portals
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Offensive portals are just that, one-way rifts in space-time created for the express purposes of harming another. You see, the portals opened by this power access locations throughout reality that are hostile to life, which then spew forth whatever hostility is present at their terminating points. When used in this fashion, a hole in the universe can be used to attack another in almost any manner imaginable!

When first gained, this power is keyed to a singular hostile location. When activated, it will project whatever form of harm its possessor has chosen, staying open just long enough to vent power rank damage appropriate to wherever its other end is. An offensive portal opening on the Sun's surface might emit plasma (AP SD Energy damage), while gating to realms of evil might release darkness (Sorcerous damage).

The only real limits to the forms of damage an offensive portal can inflict is the imagination of its wielder. This is because, while the offensive portals power is initially keyed to but one location, additional deadly areas may be acquired as power stunts. When properly developed, this one power can be wielded against a foe in any number of different fashions - it all depends on how much a body works with it!

P

Philosophical Sense
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: 1d10 turns + maintenance, if desired
Cost: 1 point per rank

This curious sensory power allows its wielder to look into the very hearts and minds of those around him or her, in order to sense where their morality lies. It can be used to perceive whether a specific entity leans towards a Good, Evil, Orderly, Chaotic, or Balanced mindset - or if they rest somewhere between these philosophical extremes. It can be used to probe a specific target or everything within Near distance.

The former will indicate the philosophy of its target, while the latter will only indicate the overall nature of the area scanned. If someone is attempting to mask their philosophical nature from others, this spell must defeat the intensity of the masking power(s) before it can determine anything specific about an individual's morality first.

Keep in mind that a 'blank' reading doesn't mean someone's hiding their nature... it could just mean they're philosophically neutral.

Purge
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: instantaneous effect
Cost: 1 point per rank

Purge is a spell which philosophical mages can use to, well, purge a person, place, or thing of a particular philosophical taint.

It works by bathing the target in a wave of philosophical power diametrically opposed to that which the sorcerer wishes to purify (or defile). For example, a philosopher of good magic could bathe an area in like energies to quell the evil left behind by a demon, while destructive energies could be used to negate restorative power.

Any form of philosophical energy can be emitted with the use of this spell, though a philosophical mage cannot negate his or her own chosen form of energy - no philosopher can wield the energies opposed to their own, preferred power source. Not that they should want to - the whole point of wielding a specific form of philosophical energy is to promote its growth in the cosmos, after all!

Purging a target of specific philosophical energies requires a successful FEAT against the intensity of the taint within. If this FEAT is successful, the taint is removed permanently in an inanimate object, willing subject, or an area within Very Near range in a non-aligned universe. A purging of unwilling beings, animate objects, or plots of land in aligned universes lasts for a number of turns equal to this spell rank number.

T

Temporal Windows
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: maintenance
Cost: 1 point per rank

A temporal window is a specialized, one-way portal which allows its creator to peer in on other time frames. This skill can look into the past or future, going as far forwards or backwards as one would like. The rift it creates can only transmit audiovisual information through to its creator, and is invisible to most conventional senses - but certain specialized sensory powers may well spot a temporal window's eavesdropping.

The process of creating such a portal is rather easy, when you get down to it, the only problem being that time is vast. Very vast. A green power FEAT roll is generally all that one needs to open a temporal window - the trick is knowing when to do so. A different color of FEAT is normally necessary only in the face of effects that prevent a portal from opening, such as dimensional static.

U

Universal Windows
Type: Philosophical Spell
Duration: maintenance
Cost: 1 point per rank

A universal window is a specialized, one-way portal which allows its creator to peer in on other universes. When invoked, this ability will craft a limited doorway between the planes, one which only allows audiovisual information through. This minor rift in space-time is invisible on the other end, at least to conventional sensory apparatus, but certain specialized sensory powers may well spot a universal window's eavesdropping.

The process of creating such a portal is rather easy, when you get down to it, the only problem being that the multiverse is a very large place. A green power FEAT roll is generally all that one needs to open a universal window - the trick is knowing where to do so. A different color of FEAT is normally necessary only in the face of effects that prevent a portal from opening, such as dimensional static.

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