Monday, 14 September 2015

Denizens of the Wicked City 8: The Mindblade Orders (psychic warrior character class)

Naturally enough, after the rise of the Diamond Mind order, there were plenty of kings and generals who speculated whether the astonishing abilities developed by its members might be turned to military purposes. The Diamond Mind Adepts themselves had their uses, of course, but their whole training was devoted to suppressing the kind of destructive psychic outbursts which made the Blighted so dangerous. But what if complete suppression and total lack of control were not the only options? What if a variation on the Diamond Mind method could be developed, one which, rather than shutting down all access to the chaotic and destructive psychic potential of the individual, instead permitted them to use it in a controlled and deliberate fashion?

'We'll round up a bunch of mentally unstable teenagers with uncontrollable psychic powers, put them all in the same place, and then give them all swords! What could possibly go wrong?'

This line of thinking led to many disastrous experiments, most of which ended with the deaths of everyone involved; but in one nation, the already highly militaristic Grand Duchy of Yun, they led to something more. Long after everyone else had given up on the idea of weaponising the Blighted, the Grand Duchy persevered in secret, until finally its work bore fruit in the form of the Mindblade Order: psychically gifted individuals who, rather than suppressing all their emotions like the Disciples of the Diamond Mind, instead cultivated the art of the tightly-controlled emotional outburst, blasting their victims with the kind of psychic whirlwinds which had previously been seen only in the uncontrolled mental flailings of the Blighted. When the graduates of this secret Mindblade Programme were unleashed upon the world, the results were staggering: one enemy after another was routed, and the Grand Duchy soon found itself ruling over an empire several times its previous size.

At first, the Grand Duke was jubilant at his success. But he soon found that his position was weaker than it seemed: Yun was not a large or populous land, and the threat of the Mindblades was the only thing which held his new empire together. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it rapidly became clear that Mindblade training did not make for stable long-term mental health: the strain of simultaneously cultivating their passions and holding them tightly in check took a heavy psychic toll, and the Mindblades proved quite astonishingly prone to a whole range of mental dysfunctions, including paranoid delusions, psychotic berserker rages, and sudden, overpowering suicidal urges. For thirty years, the Grand Duchy of Yun tottered on, giving the Mindblade elders everything they demanded despite their increasingly obvious insanity, aware that their power was the only thing which kept the empire afloat: and while, from the outside, the empire seemed as invincible as ever, internally it was coming apart at the seams, its whole administration disintegrating under the strain of being used as a battlefield for rival cliques of half-mad warrior-psychics. Finally, in desperation, the Grand Duke called a grand meeting of the Mindblade Order, insisting that they remain in session until they had settled their factional differences and agreed to work together for the good of the nation. Unfortunately, by this stage all the senior Mindblades were far too mad to compromise on anything: so what happened instead was a horror-show of psychic tornadoes, nightmare epidemics, large-scale poltergeist activity, and exploding heads. The Mindblade elders who survived the initial carnage called in their loyalists and private armies, and Yun collapsed into a civil war from which it has never really recovered.

Generic Sci-Fi: The Pilot by jeffsimpsonkh
You seeee me now, the veteran of a thousand psychic waaaaars... (Image by Jeff Simpson)

The Mindblade Order did not quite die out, although it did splinter: and today there are many different Mindblade Orders, each tracing themselves back to one of the adepts who managed to escape Yun's meltdown with mind and body more-or-less intact. These days, their training places much more emphasis on staying sane, and much less on large-scale psychic carnage; some Mindblades serve in armies, although they are never trusted with leadership positions, while others sell their skills to the highest bidder. The rate of mental instability amongst them remains extremely high. 

The Wicked City is the one place where someone manifesting Blighted traits is much more likely to end up being trained as a Mindblade than a Diamond Mind Adept. The Mindblade schools recruit aggressively, there, feeding off the weirdly high rate at which the Blighted manifest amongst the city's population, and Mindblades make up a notable element of the city's armed forces. Of course, they still go crazy all the time; but really... this is the Wicked City. How many people are going to notice the difference?



I Shall Not Cease From Mental Fight: Playing a Mindblade requires Intelligence 12 and Wisdom 10; their discipline is just as mentally demanding as that of the Diamond Mind, but doesn't require quite as much self-control. Game information is as follows:

  • You can use simple weapons and light shields. You cannot use heavy shields, or any armour heavier than a chain shirt (AC +4).
  • You get 1d6 HP per level.
  • You gain a to-hit bonus to melee and ranged attack rolls equal to one-half of your level, rounded down. You gain a to-hit bonus to psychic attacks equal to your level. 
  • You must keep your emotions ruthlessly restrained at all times. If you ever allow yourself to behave in an emotional or impassioned manner, you must immediately make a WILL save. If you fail, roll on the Psychic Outburst table as though you had a Psychic Instability of 3. (Exception: see the Controlled Outburst ability, below.)
  • At will, you can perform feats of telekinesis on nearby objects (maximum range 10' + 5' per level.) For as long as you stand still and devote your entire concentration to moving the object with your mind, it moves around as though it was being lifted by someone whose Strength and Dexterity were equal to your Wisdom and Intelligence, respectively. This movement is slow, and cannot usually be used to make attacks. You can move a number of objects equal to your level, but you must divide your total psychic ‘strength’ amongst them: so a third-level Mindblade with Wisdom 12 could move two objects as though each was being moved by someone with Strength 6, or three as though each was being moved by someone with Strength 4.
  • At will, you can launch a psychic attack on a nearby target by directly striking at their mind, inflicting 1d6 damage. Subtract their WILL save number from 25: this is their effective AC against this attack. You may apply your Wisdom modifier as a bonus to both the attack roll and damage roll.
  • In moments of extreme emotional stress, rather than keeping your emotions tightly under control as usual, you may attempt to make a controlled psychic outburst. Roll on the Psychic Outburst table as though you had a Psychic Instability of (8 + Mindblade level), and make a Wisdom roll. If you pass, you may control who, if anyone, is affected by the Psychic Outburst you have just caused: single-target effects hit a single target of your choice within range, while area-effect results only hit whichever sections of the specified area you actually choose to target. If you fail your Wisdom roll, however, the effect is uncontrolled as normal. 
  • By looking directly at someone and concentrating, you may attempt to discern their current emotional state. (If they are thinking ONE BIG THOUGHT at the time, you might also be able to detect it, but otherwise you can only read emotions.) They will be subconsciously aware that you are doing this, and may resist it by making a WILL save; if they pass, you take 1 damage from psychic feedback and cannot attempt to read their mind again that day. Otherwise, you are aware of their emotional state for as long as you maintain concentration and they remain in your visual range.
  • Every time you go up a level, you run the risk of suffering mental deterioration as the strain of keeping your powers in check gnaws away at your psyche. Make a Wisdom roll; if you fail, roll 1d6 and gain the first trait listed. (If you already had that trait, you gain the second listed trait, and so on; so a Mindblade who rolls a 3 while she's already Melancholic becomes Depressive, instead.) It is possible to heal these afflictions, but this usually requires the aid of shamanic vision-questing, Diamond Mind mental surgery, and/or a positive, loving relationship with a really supportive partner who's prepared to keep talking you down from your craziness every night for years on end. 

Mindblade Instability Table (roll 1d6)
Roll
Result
1
Suspicious. Very wary of everything they're not already convinced is safe.
Paranoid. Thinks everything is a sign of people plotting against them.
Acutely paranoid. Convinced they're surrounded by conspiracies. Barely functional.
2
Bad tempered. Reacts badly when challenged.
Rages. Suffers uncontrollable rages when under stress.
Psychotic. A danger to everyone nearby.
3
Melancholic. Gets really miserable all the time.
Depressive. Setbacks can trigger spiralling feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
Suicidal. Needs constant emotional support to prevent self-harm or suicide.
4
Impulsive. Often acts recklessly, without really thinking things through.
Manic. When stressed or excited, behaves in a manic, hyperactive fashion, often making poor decisions in the process.
Uncontrollable. Usually does the first thing that comes into their head, regardless of the consequences.
5
Focussed. Tends to ignore everything except the thing they're currently working on.
Obsessive. Has mental tunnel vision. Won't eat or sleep properly while in pursuit of their goal.
Monomanaical. Has one thing which they pursue to the exception of everything else. Cannot be persuaded to devote any time or attention to anything else.
6
Fantasist. Lies a lot, and has trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality.
Delusional. Convinced that certain delusional beliefs are actually true. Cannot be persuaded otherwise.
Hallucinations. Suffers full-blown audio-visual hallucinations in support of their delusions, which for them are indistinguishable from reality.


Mindblade Summary Table

Level
Hit Points
To Hit Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
Psychic attacks
All other attacks
1
1d6
+1
+0
14
14
14
2
2d6
+2
+1
13
13
13
3
3d6
+3
+1
12
12
12
4
4d6
+4
+2
11
11
11
5
5d6
+5
+2
10
10
10
6
6d6
+6
+3
9
9
9
7
7d6
+7
+3
8
8
8
8
8d6
+8
+4
7
7
7
9
9d6
+9
+4
6
6
6
10
10d6
+10
+5
5
5
5

Starting equipment: Chain shirt (+4 AC), light shield (+1 AC), musket (1d10 damage, 3 rounds to reload), slightly feverish air of forced tranquillity, 2d6x10 sp. 

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