Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Way of the Spirit

As ever, as I move towards the last, the mire grows deeper and less pleasant.  Instinctively, I know what is going to be simplest with these things and I always know what to leave to the end.  By the end, however, I am more than ready to have done with it.

This field, or "way," concentrates on what is known and what is felt.  I have no easy explanation for it.  There are four studies, or paths, upon which the monk can focus: calligraphy (meditative writing); insight (knowledge gained from within); mindfulness (heightened awareness from within); and tranquility (the discovery of inner peace).

I have accumulated 31 abilities for the field, more than any of the previous categories: 9 amateur, 9 authority, 7 expert and 6 sage. These were hard to invent and contain elements that are wholly unlike what one normally expects for D&D.

I will need to say some things about calligraphy.  I have been deliberately non-specific about the "characters" employed; I feel that in some religions these will be letters, in some they will be phrases and in others they will be iconographic.  Fundamentally, whatever the religion, I am treating them as the written word and not works of art.

These are not spells.  Calligraphy will not make much of a study for a player, I think, though one might be interested enough if they gain some skill as they move up levels.  The various characters must be written on either permanent structures, vessels or vehicles large enough to house persons or carry great weight, or upon expensive parchment.  The words must be written with a brush, not a pen, and large enough to take up a whole page or to be seen at a distance.  Finally, if the characters are written on parchment, it must be upon a specific sort of table that cannot be simply carried around in a backpack.  Such a table could be carried in a vardo, however (a wagon used as a home). The expectation would be that it takes time to set up to create calligraphy (in keeping with most of what I've seen when writing appears in a wuxia film).

At present, I don't have the niggling details sorted out for calligraphy yet, but then I don't have those details nailed down for any of the monk abilities.  This is just an overview.  As a limit, the character will be allowed to create one of any kind of calligraphy once per day, and will only be able to keep the power in as many calligraphy characters as the player or non-player has levels.

On the whole, I wouldn't describe the abilities below as particularly earth-shattering or powerful.  They are generally quite specific and much more useful for non-player characters than for players.  Still, it rounds out the monk and provides opportunities for game adventures.

Amateur Way of the Spirit
  • Characters of beneficence (calligraphy).  Drawn on the surfaces of commercial buildings, wooden vehicles or vessels, these five characters will increase sales, lessen theft, reduce accident or damage, ease the effects of storms and help residents find their way home.
  • Commune with magic (insight). The monk is able to detect the presence of magic in weapons and armor, sufficient to describe the base power of the weapon but not specialties or details that would require an identify spell.
  • Sense attention (insight).  The monk will be made aware of any individual who is watching the party ~ spying them, where they are and how far away.  This will be known without the watcher's awareness.  Range is 120 ft, within line-of-sight.
  • Sense vibration (insight). The monk will feel adjustments being made to floors and walls, indicating activity taking place, the danger of collapse or vibration caused by other sources.
  • Resist fear or curse (mindfulness).  Provides a +3 saving throw against fear and curse spells and magic (including calligraphy).
  • Wakeful sleep (mindfulness).  Enables the monk to remain semi-conscious while "sleeping."  The monk is considered awake for calculating stealth; if an individual comes within the range necessary to be detected, the monk may attempt to awake from sleeping by making a successful wisdom check.
  • Meditation (tranquility). The ability to engage the mind at length while the body remains motionless. Does not provide the ability of inner sight (see below), but for each hour after sunrise spent in meditation, the monk gains a +1 modifier to a specific saving throw against magic or unnatural forces. Four hours of meditation would provide four +1 bonuses to four different saving throws that day.  The benefits of meditation cease when the sun rises again.
  • Rested state (tranquility). The monk may replace 1/2 hour of required sleep per night with 1 hour of meditation.  Enables the monk to rise earlier and sleep less.  Typically, 6 hours of sleep are considered a minimum for two days, followed by one night of at least 8 hours of sleep.
  • Smile (tranquility). A disarming, beautific smile that has the ability to compel aggressive others to seek parley.  If the monk wishes (it must be an expressed desire), the monk's outward aspect becomes passive.  Any aggressor moving into an adjacent combat hex must save vs. poison.  A fail indicates the aggressor will seek parley, even if all around others are fighting.  The monk, in turn, cannot take aggressive action either, but can defend, as can the former aggressor.  Can only affect creatures of average intelligence or greater.  Can only affect any given aggressor once.

Authority Way of the Spirit
  • Character of speech (calligraphy). Drawn upon parchment.  When the parchment is crushed in the hand, sends a silent message to close ally of the monk, within line-of-sight (up to 240 ft).  Can be used once.
  • Character of warning (calligraphy). Drawn upon a structure.  Promises all who see it that the consequences of improper entry or behaviour will bring bad luck (effectively, a curse).
  • Characters of propriety (calligraphy). There are four characters of propriety. The first is drawn in the home, to preserve the family and keep them whole. The second is drawn upon gravestones, to remind the living of the dead and to keep their influence strong.  The third is carried on standards, to ensure loyalty and a strong union.  The last is drawn for students in schools and places of training, to ensure honesty and right thinking in knowledge.
  • Commune with reliquary (insight). Determines the base nature of any magical item, including artifacts.  However, details and the degree of effect that the item has will not be known.
  • Inner sight (insight).  Enables one hour of meditation per level.  During the time spent in meditation, the monk will be fully conscious of any change in the surrounding 20 feet (four combat hexes), meaning that by stealth the monk cannot be approached by closer than 5 hexes.  Does not provide other meditation benefits.
  • Mind rest (mindfulness). Simulates the effects of rest in a shorter period, so that the monk may "rest" within a period of one third of a day, or eight hours.  This is done through contemplation (meditation is not necessary).  The full effects of rest are gained.  Mind rest can only be employed once per day.
  • Close mind (mindfulness). Strengthens resistance against ESP, sleep and charm spells, providing a +2 saving throw against each of these.  The monk may make a wisdom check to effectively cease the benefits of ESP into the monk's mind.
  • Master (tranquility). Provides the skill necessary to teach other monks right action and right thinking.
  • Serenity (tranquility). Strengthened ability to dispel aggression.  Like smile (see above), the monk's serene appearance will affect all within six hexes, so that each must make a saving throw.  Most likely, if more than half fail, or if the leader fails, a general parley will occur.  Can affect creatures with low intelligence or greater.

Expert Way of the Spirit
  • Character of alarm (calligraphy). Drawn upon a structure.  Promises all that the consequences of improper entry will do more than sound an alarm, it will predict the invasion so that the speedy arrival of allies will ensure conflict; further, it shall rose the wrath of the sleeping ancestors.
  • Character of revenge (calligraphy). Drawn upon parchment, which is then burned.  Will call justice against a deservedly wicked and malevolent individual who holds public power, ensuring that there will be an attempt on the life of that person within ten days.  It does not promise that the attempt will be made by an assassin or that it will be successful ~ that is left to the gods.  But if the target is deserving, then an attempt will result.
  • Cast eye (insight).  When the monk meditates, necessitating remaining in one place, the monk is empowered to "see" from any place that is within 10 hexes of the monk's body.  The monk can only watch from one position at a time, however, so the monk must declare what is being observed.
  • Other world eye (insight).  The monk is able to see into the ethereal plane.  In my game, the "ethereal" is a dual world that co-exists with the prime material, but those in the ethereal plane may move freely about without being observed, while choosing or not choosing to observe the prime material.
  • Banishment of fear (mindfulness).  Provides complete immunity from fear spells or magic.
  • Spirit sight (mindfulness). Reveals the true nature of a creature, whether shape-shifted, possessed or something that might be an illusion.
  • Freedom from mind  (tranquility). Empowers the monk to pass time without the notice of time.  Of questionable value in a D&D game for a player, perhaps, but nevertheless interesting and worth noting.

Sage Way of the Spirit
  • Character of protection (calligraphy). Drawn upon a structure.  Promises that the building itself will act to repel those who would dare improper entry or behaviour in this place.
  • Character of upheaval (calligraphy). Drawn upon parchment, which is then released from a high place upon the wind.  Has the power to raise an army of thousands, who will gather against a state that deserves to fall.  This army does not come under the control of the monk, but of the gods, and will succeed if the gods so choose.
  • Script of the darkness (calligraphy). Enables communication back and forth with a demon of the underworld; the monk may gain information, but at a price: the demon is entitled to information about the material world, about which the monk must be forthcoming.
  • Other world sight (insight).  Enables the monk to visually locate entities upon the astral plane. The monk must meditate to obtain this vision, and must have some object or personal experience associated with the entity being observed.
  • Appeasement (mindfulness). Enables the monk to force out unwelcome spirits, mental invaders or demons seeking to possess the consciousness of the monk.  Provides complete immunity to ESP and makes the monk aware of clairaudience or clairvoyance when these are employed, either by spell or with a magic item.  The monk may make a wisdom check to disrupt either clairaudience or clairvoyance when they begin.
  • Pass into the ethereal (tranquility). Enables the monk to pass into the ethereal plane at will. [effects on stealth may need special rules, at present undetermined].

And there we are.  That's a monkey off my back.

There would have to be more abilities than this, particularly in the higher levels.  This is all I can come up with in the space of, what, nine days? Seriously, nine days ago all I had were a few ideas, certainly not 98 separate abilities.  Whew.


Kismet said...

"and will succeed if the gods so choose"

This one comes up a few times.
But, I assume since monks, unlike clerics, are not representatives of their god(s) this is more of a factor?

Freedom from mind (tranquility)
On this one, I think that there are uses. I think perhaps if ennui ever becomes a thing it would probably greatly help.
Also, there are some other times, perhaps some form of solitary imprisonment.
The only downside is there's no freedom of BODY on this one. Heh.

Kismet said...

Also, more of a general work process question.

Do you usually find it better to work on the hard stuff first or last?
Any particular thing that helps you see them through to completion?
Have you found it easier over time to see things through to completion? Presumably as you do it more often it becomes easier to do it again?

I tend to have a hard time seeing things through to 'completion' and have a habit of blaming many things, most of which are not myself, but wonder if this is a thing that can be learned by just doing it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I always work on the hard stuff after working on the easier stuff. This is for two reasons: first, because it gives me longer to think about the hard stuff, in between the times when I'm resting from work. I can't work all the time, but in the off-times I can contemplate what I've done and contemplate what is left to be done. The harder stuff takes more contemplation.

Secondly, I learn from the process itself. I get a better sense of what needs to be there, what sources have proven more valuable, what needs to be addressed and so on. I gain experience.

I suppose we can also include that the easy stuff gives ideas for the harder stuff to build upon. There's no question that knowing what the combat abilities (easier) were helped define the non-combat abilities (harder).

People try to do the hard stuff first, "to get it out of the way," thinking then that they will be able to do the easy stuff after, coasting to the end. This never works. The hard stuff is simply hard, there's no confidence built up and after a time even the easy stuff seems hard. There's no progression forward to give confidence and the whole project seems insurmountable. Then people quit.

We have to get to Everest before we climb it. Getting there helps prepare us for the inevitable worst part, the part that comes at the END.