28 June 2013

Earthdawn: Part 26 - Lightbearers

This is the twenty-sixth part in an ongoing series about Earthdawn. Introduction and Index.

As presented, Lightbearers are not one of my favorite elements in the Earthdawn setting - this should come as little surprise. There are a few reasons for this. First, with little exception they represent an unambiguous force of good standing against the darkness. This undercuts the horror elements of the setting too much for my taste. Second, their abilities are extremely powerful, varied and with minimal cost. Third, those abilities tread significantly on what the Horror Stalker already offers. Granted, Lightbearers were introduced into the setting first, but the Horror Stalker fits my interpretation of the setting much better. Fourth... I could go on, but I think the picture I'm trying to paint is clear: as presented, I do not like them.

That being said, it doesn't mean everyone has to agree with me. Nor does it mean that I don't think they have a place in the setting; I think they do, though it is an ugly role. To be up front, none of this is canon to the setting, though it does build significantly on the various metaphysical elements already in place and could easily be inserted into a game (including an ongoing one). It will rebuild the various abilities granted Lightbearer Ranks to be in-line with Third Edition and the ideas presented here.

Lightbearers

The Lightbearers are a secret society founded prior to the Scourge ostensibly to learn about the Horrors: how to fight them, erase their effects on the world, catalog this knowledge for future generations, and ultimately preparing for the next Scourge. There is a story about a dwarf named Nicolez Trund that formed the organization with these lofty and noble intentions. How he used his connections around Barsaive to gather information and gathered like-minded individuals around himself. About the lengths they went to maintaining their secrecy so that the Horrors could never strike at which they did not realize existed.

They are wonderful stories and still shared by Lightbearers, but they are not true, not entirely. Like all great lies, they are built with some truth. There most likely was a Nicolez Trund, and he was well connected, using that reach to gather others around him with this tale. Considerable lengths were gone to, and still are, to maintain the secrecy of the organization from Horrors and other Namegivers alike. The reasons as to why this was done is considerably more sinister.

From the very beginning, the Lightbearers were not what they seemed. While arguments could be made that the founding was conceived with the purest of intentions, it is impossible to know - that history has been long buried along with everyone who may know the details. What matters is that the Lightbearers have always been a conspiracy bent on influencing Barsaive. Powerful adepts are recruited in secret to their cause and directed to often mysterious ends by the leadership of the Lightbearers, the Swords of Light. Most of the time these actions lead to the discovery and defeat of Horrors, but other times the ends are not clear.

At the heart of the Lightbearers, what binds them together and grants their power, is what they refer to as the Great Pattern. All Lightbearers are bound to this Pattern by a Thread they Weave upon joining the organization. During their gatherings, conducted in secrecy, the Lightbearers theorize of the nature of the Great Pattern. The most popular theory is that it is the very Pattern of the world they have bound themselves to, that it seeks to rid itself of the unnatural pollution of the Horrors. A lesser theory, though still popular, is that it is the gestalt Pattern of the Passions of Barsaive, even the mad Passions banding together out of a desire to free themselves from their torture.

None of those are the truth. The Great Pattern is actually an extremely large and powerful variant of a Group Pattern. As new Lightbearers initiate into the organization, they select an emblem to represent their commitment to the organization and it is emblazoned with the symbol of the Lightbearers, which becomes a Pattern Item and their connection to the Great Pattern. They take an Oath to serve and maintain the secrecy of the Lightbearers at all costs. Even a new name is taken, though it does not yet replace their true Name. Even those that accompany the newly inducted Lightbearer swear an Oath to this organization (known as Oathtakers). While only the inductee is joining the Group, all are swearing a Blood Oath to them. This is powerful blood magic beyond what is commonly used - there is no duration associated with this Oath. It is forever.

All of this circles around a single question: to what end? As stated previously, every good lie is built on a foundation of truth. There are many goals that the Lightbearers further, but the most important is cataloging their knowledge for those that follow them, preserving it, preparing for the next Scourge. The Horror (perhaps Horrors?) that crafted the Great Pattern have a vested interest in ensuring that they way is paved for their return. There is nothing more they would like than to see the Lightbearers rise again when they can cross over once more.

In a more immediate sense, they feed from the Great Pattern on the Lightbearers, directly and indirectly. As a Lightbearer reaches to the Great Pattern to help them executing their duties, all of that pain, fear and blood is transferred to the Horror, who grows fat and powerful. Their very presence unwittingly sows those same seeds in the populace just as it eliminates competition. Over time, as the adept draws more and more upon the Great Pattern, their Name will change to that which they chose during their initiation. At that time, whoever they once were is lost - there is still a facade, but that is all it is. Upon the death of any Lightbearer, their very essence is drawn into the Great Pattern; all of their power and memories, their Pattern and all that they are.

The reasons this conspiracy have never been revealed are two-fold. First, virtually no Lightbearers know the truth. They believe that these secrets must be kept to protect their organization from potential attack from Horrors were they to find out. It is their own secrecy that works against them. Second, even if they were to find out, they would have to break their Oath to reveal anything. Who would trust an Oathbreaker? It's the whole point of being marked an Oathbreaker. Even if they were believed, wouldn't they be among the first struck down, clearly under the influence of an insidious Horror-driven plot? Even given all of these things, there are still their very comrades in arms that can be turned against them.

Talent

Presented here are the abilities taken from the Earthdawn Companion (First Edition), updated to work with the Third Edition rules and the ideas presented above. Only mechanics that have been updated or changed are being presented, along with a brief description of the Knack. 


The only function that the basic Lightbearer Talent provides is Shimmer, which serves to conceal the Lightbearer's identity. The rest of the abilities are Knacks for the Lightbearer Talent, which is a Novice tier Talent. Lightbearer has no default action type and each Knack has it's own action type.

Light Symbol (Rank: 1)
Step: N/A
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Effect: The Lightbearer's emblem glows as bright as a torch for Rank x 10 minutes.


Light Sprite (Rank: 2)
Step: N/A
Action: Standard
Strain: 2
Effect: A small, intelligent spirit is conjured to deliver a message. It lasts for Rank days and the Strain cannot be healed until the spirit dissipates.

Radiant Circle (Rank: 3)
Step: N/A
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Effect: A glowing white circle 4 yards in diameter is created that protects the Lightbearer and all Oathtakers within from Horrors and Horror constructs as long as the the Lightbearer remains within the Radiant Circle. The Circle lasts for Rank minutes and may be automatically renewed upon expiry. Protection is only provided against Named Horrors if the Lightbearer knows their Name and whispers it as they use this Knack. There are some Horrors and their constructs that this Knack inexplicably does not work against.

Heal Believer (Rank: 4)
Step: N/A
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Effect: This Knack allows the Lightbearer to channel the Great Pattern to heal Lightbearers and Oathtakers. Unknown to the Lightbearer, there is always a cost to the Knack paid by someone else their Pattern has touched, it may take time for the debt to accumulate, but it is always paid in full.

Karma Transfer (Rank: 5)
Step: N/A
Action: Standard
Strain: 2 per Karma
Effect: In times of need, a Lightbearer may draw Karma directly from the Great Pattern (and the dead Lightbearers that have joined it), up to their Rank. This Knack may only be used once per day. As the Karma is drawn into their body, they are wracked with pain from the memories of those before them invading their mind and glow with a terrifying light from within. After the pain quickly fades, the feeling is addictive as the power of the Great Pattern courses through their veins. This Knack often causes ripples in their Threads and Patterns, particularly through continual usage, and the Lightbearer will tend to think in terms of their name within the organization or the memories they absorbed, rather than their Name.

Ease Wounds (Rank: 6)
Step: Rank
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Effect: Penalties from healing due to Wounds are reduced, though with the same cost as Heal Believer.
>
Edge of Light (Rank: 7)
Step: N/A
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Effect: The Lightbearer's attack glows with a blazing light, increasing the damage against Horror's and Horror constructs by the Rank. Damage against Namegivers is increased by 3 and causes terrible pain as they briefly relive other moments of terror and pain they have suffered. Use of this Knack must be declared prior to an attack roll. This Knack will only work against Named Horrors if the Lightbearer whispers that Name as they use this Knack. There are some Horrors and their constructs that this Knack inexplicably does not work against.

Refuse Horror (Rank: 8)
Step: Rank + Charisma
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Effect: Resist the effects of an attack against Social Defense from a Horror or Horror Construct. This Knack will only work against Named Horrors if the Lightbearer whispers that Name as they use this Knack. There are some Horrors and their constructs that this Knack inexplicably does not work against.

Lesser Incarnation (Rank: 9)
Step: N/A
Action: N/A
Strain: 0
Effect: Bestow Talent Ranks to a lucky recipient upon Lightbringer's death. The recipient must them join the Lightbearers or lose these Talent Ranks.

Avoid Horror Magic (Rank: 10)
Step: Rank + Willpower
Action: Free
Strain: 1
Effect: Resist the effects of an attack against Spell Defense from a Horror or Horror Construct. This Knack will only work against Named Horrors if the Lightbearer whispers that Name as they use this Knack. There are some Horrors and their constructs that this Knack inexplicably does not work against.

Armor of Light (Rank: 11)
Step: N/A
Action: Simple
Strain: 1
Effect: The Physical and Mystic Armor Ratings of the Lightbearer are increased against attacks from Horrors and Horror constructs by Rank for one round. This may be renewed for 1 Strain. This Knack will only work against Named Horrors if the Lightbearer whispers that Name as they use this Knack. There are some Horrors and their constructs that this Knack inexplicably does not work against.

Heal Any (Rank: 12)
Step: Rank + Charisma
Action: Standard
Strain: 1
Effect: Similar to Heal Believer (with all of the same downsides), but will work on any Namegiver. In the long run, it rarely turns out well for the Namegiver as they will often end up with a Horror Mark.

Karma Increase (Rank: 13)
Step: N/A
Action: N/A
Strain: 0
Effect: All Karma gained through Karma Transfer has it's Step increased by 1. This Knack may be repurchased at Rank 14 and Rank 15, each time increasing the Step by 1 more. Possessing this Knack makes the effects of Karma Transfer significantly greater, for better or worse (mostly worse).

Greater Incarnation (Rank: 14)
Step: N/A
Action: N/A
Strain: 0
Effect: Similar to Lesser Incarnation, only more so.

Astral Shift (Rank: 15)
Step: N/A
Action: Standard
Strain: 3
Effect: The Lightbearer may move into or out of Astral Space (each counts as a separate use of the Knack), taking additional Lightbearers or Oathtakers up to their Rank. Each additional Namegiver costs another 3 Strain and all Strain is take at once (this may result in a Wound).