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beak

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beak last won the day on June 30

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  1. Dear amenities, I've spent the afternoon looking at your post and I'm forced to conclude that I can't participate in this fight any longer. I have no interest in debating the particular metaphysical reactions of magic with antimagic, particularly considering that Michael's character sheet does not indicate that he even has the ability to produce an antimagic crystal. As far as the manipulation of light is concerned, his sheet indicates that he can produce illusions, but nothing on the order of what's been described in this thread so far. Add to this the peculiar ability for this invented crystal (which, again, features nowhere on Michael's sheet, or anywhere on the site that I can find) to discharge only one preparation's worth of antimagic upon its destruction while also continuing its miles-long execution of an attack that at least appears to derive from a satellite the likes of which does not exist on Earth, and I'm left... flabbergasted. If the residual antimagic energy discharged from your invented crystal can still discharge its effect after being destroyed, well, what was the point of the crystal? If you'd just planted a free-floating forty-foot-diameter orb of antimagic into the fountain at the beginning of the fight and begun connecting it to other sources of antimagic literally miles away, Amelia would have cringed, said "I love that for you," and left immediately. The issues with the fight, which I've worked hard to correct, simply keep multiplying and since I wanted to roleplay combat, not argue imaginary qualities, I withdraw my character. But I thank you for your time. I wanted to get a sense of what combat on Valucre entailed so I could gauge what a reasonable level of investment in the site would look like. In this respect, you delivered in spades. If this is the sort of behavior I can reasonably expect to encounter on Valucre, I think that, to save my own time in the long-run, it's probably appropriate for me to find another place on the internet to spend my time. Thank you kindly, beak
  2. Amelia recognizes Chesterfield as a city where unimaginable good and unimaginable evil are equally possible. She must establish a reputation, a residence, and a degree of authority in the city so that she can do her part to guide the city toward the good and away from the evil. She is currently unknown in the city, a hostel-surfer, and the only authority she has is the authority to govern her own conduct (and even this only insofar as she follows the law). The babiest of baby steps.
  3. "Wilson once said that ants possess a better understanding of duty than humans do," said Odd. He turned away from the railing, then. "Because an ant's duty to its colony is absolute. It has no feelings on the matter. It could not refuse its queen's orders if it wanted to. But, more importantly, it would never want to. He said that this, not sheer reproductive capacity, was why there were ten billion billion ants and only a relative handful of people. He said that until we understood the truth of duty, humans could never domesticate ants, only control them. He also said most people had no hope of understanding it and so would settle for mere allegiance. All allegiance, he said, was self-allegiance. "Everyone saw John with the faulty canisters and knew he was straying too close to the pit. We could have stopped him. Even in the end, when one of the worker ants, not even a soldier, grabbed him by the leg, there were a few seconds when we could have pulled him back, maybe. He'd have lost the leg, but there are spells for that. But the canisters had fallen on the ground around him, which meant that more ants would be on the way. So we—" "You kicked the canisters into the pit," said Amelia, as though reading the words from a book she had memorized as a child. "Past him. And you let it drag him down." The words sat heavy in the air. "But maybe it was his duty to die," said Odd. "For the good of the city, the colony. Maybe Wilson would have said—" "That depends," said Amelia. "Was it a choice? The canisters or him? Or could it have been both?" Odd turned back to the railing and gripped it, his knuckles like a pulsing string of pearls. Amelia stepped forward to place her hips against the fence. She tilted her torso toward the pit, slightly. "Then I guess you have your answer," said Amelia, quietly. "Because John, whatever his faults, was part of the colony. Your duty included him. And if the queen, or the city, has any virtues whatsoever, they lie in her fidelity to this one truth, which she, unlike us (and it can be sad to be human, I know), finds inscribed inalterably in her anatomy. She alone knows the colony is not for the queen; the colony is for the colony through her." The gentle creaking of the ants endured with the force of silence. Amelia watched one ant slowly tap its way across a catwalk, its body suspended above the pit as though in the naked air. It looked, she thought, like a blind man probing a sidewalk with his cane. "But Wilson's wrong," said Amelia, "you know. Ants don't have a better understanding of duty than humans do, because ants don't understand a god-damned thing. They react. The queen doesn't know what she knows or doesn't know. I know next to nothing about giant ants, and nearly everything I do know I learned from you, but I'd imagine that a species that eats its dead probably doesn't experience a lot of grief when one of its members expires. And it certainly doesn't care about the degree of brutality involved in their death. It doesn't imagine their final thoughts, or fears, or simulate, with a sinking dread, their panic. "But you do," said Amelia. She spoke with a series of gentle nods. "We do. Right? Grief is a species of love. Love is the foundation of duty. And if Wilson domesticated an ant queen, it isn't because she taught him how to be dutiful. It's the other one, the one he taught her. The one that feels like spoon-fed nectar, you understand? You know which one I mean." "I know which one you mean," said Odd. He bit his lip and stared across the worker pit. "You do," said Amelia. "By truth, by truth, you do."
  4. Discernment: 1-5, Ignorance 6-8, Inkling 9-10, Understanding
  5. "Wilson returned and stove the worker pit, personally," said Odd. "Those present likened it to an act of Gaia. A team of engineer-alchemists layered the exterior with transparent vakar Wilson had already prepared for the occasion. Through manipulation of the young ant queen's pheromones, Wilson recruited a handful of worker ants from another colony to build the young queen a chamber in which to spend the rest of her life. The rest was a gradual modification, the results of which you can see before you now. Feeders take an elevator extending from the surface to the queen's chamber at the bottom of the pit. Because the elevator shaft is a direct route to the surface, Wilson argued, and endangerment of the queen such a provocation to the ants, mere vakar would not do. I'm not permitted to share the exact specifications of the shaft with non-feeders, but I can recommend that you never try to scale it, up or down. "We feed her deer carcasses. The herd we maintain topside is her private stock. Why? Well, Wilson discovered that, while all ants emit pheromones to some degree (which is how they communicate and disseminate the queen's imperatives), a queen ant's pheromones, which she produces at rates far higher than a worker, bear, for some reason even he couldn't explain, greater significance to other ants. He theorized that this might have something to do with motherhood, but he couldn't account for the effect of his ant queen hatchling's pheromones on members of another colony, which is how, after all, he found her first mate and thereby created a new species of giant ant. (Every giant ant you see below is a Chesterfield Ant; despite being a prolific inventor, Wilson never forced his name onto anything.) "Before entering the queen's chamber, a feeder injects a frozen deer carcass with alchemical substances that elicit specific pheromonal emissions from the queen: attack; soothing; distress; you name it. The chemical formulae of these substances are privileged information in Chesterfield. Even I don't know them. Specialized GASP alchemists prepare them topside, then we administer them below. Feeders gather and store the queen's pheromones in canisters and take them to the surface, where they are stored until such a time that GASP, or the Chesterfield board, deems their deployment necessary. Our job is dangerous: the only job that even management won't allow an unlicensed worker to attempt. We bathe in soothing pheromones before entering the queen's chamber, but it still isn't enough to keep her from emitting distress pheromones that attract soldiers to her defense. From the moment of our entry, we have roughly three minutes to feed the queen, milk her for hormones, and close the elevator doors. Sometimes, not even that long. We live and die by Wilson's elevator shaft, which every feeder calls "the Light." Had John been a feeder and not just a utility hire, nobody would have blinked at the news of his death. The board expects a couple of feeders to die each year. Structured compensation for their families is baked into the GASP budget. "Before the collapse, Wilson did all of the feeding," said Odd. "He was the one she knew. The man who fed her nectar from a ladle on her long journey home. It's just politics, I guess."
  6. "The worker pit sustains the colony without meaningfully taxing its resources," said Odd. "A worker, mandibles to stinger, measures about six feet. Its lifespan is three years. When one generation of workers dies, the next one eats them. The only exception is the queen, who lives fifteen years and births her replacement before dying. In this respect, giant ants diverge from their minuscule counterparts, whose queens fly from their anthills to reproduce abroad. The giant ant queen, however, breeds once a year (and you'll know it's time when you spot some wingers prowling the catwalks; don't worry, though, the ants are too heavy to fly). That's a feeder's only vacation. The colony so fiercely protects its young that our job becomes impossible. A feeder feeds the queen. The queen, Wilson discovered, is the key to the colony. "It's too dangerous to try and reach the queen through the worker pit," said Odd. "The soldiers would kill you if you tried. Wilson built this place with transparent walls and see-through catwalks precisely because of the threat posed by a giant ant in its natural habitat: underground, where its chitin-creak echoes deceptively and its sense of smell and antennae yield an absolute advantage in the dark. He thought ants, which humans could only control, not domesticate, were too dangerous to be used for military purposes. But he'd already invented the pheromone canister by then, intended to halt the encroachment of giant ants on human homesteads in the Chesterfield countryside. Later, when the city convicted him of criminal negligence, he stated under oath that it was the only problem he had solved too well. The city had seized on the military applications of his invention and Wilson, determining that he was the only person who could attempt such a project without destroying the city, founded GASP with the understanding that the program would proceed under his direction, to his specification, and without bureaucratic interference. "Wilson spent the next decade looking for an ant queen hatchling. The problem, you understand, was not merely one of geography, but also timing. Since a giant ant queen lives fifteen years and births her replacement before dying, you could find an active colony and still have to wait fourteen years before you had the opportunity to seize a hatchling. Wilson identified four colonies on the entire continent of Lagrimosa, each radiating from the ants' point of origin: the Great Pine Barrens. These, he surveilled constantly. He knew that removing an ant queen hatchling from her antknoll spelled doom for her colony, the destruction of which would disrupt the surrounding ecosystem, potentially irreparably. He also predicted that a fresh species of giant ant would emerge from the Barrens once every fifty years. "Still, he wrote in his memoir, when the day of the hatchling theft arrived, 'the larger part of [him] hoped the attempt would resolve only in the fact of our grim and miserable deaths.' Wilson brought close to a thousand fighting men with him onto the Zuhl Plateau. Of the three that returned, one went back to his home, kissed his children goodnight, and threw himself from the roof of the nearest building, one committed himself to the Gaian clergy and is now a well-respected diocese, and one was Edmund Oscar Wilson, who bore in his arms an ant queen hatchling which he fed nectar from a ladle. Both survivors have sworn to take the fate of the Zuhl Nine Hundred to their grave, but Wilson's hard and fast rule at GASP was, and still is: don't approach the queen from inside the worker pit."
  7. "It's transparent vakar," said Odd, anticipating Amelia's question. "A Chesterfield original. The founder of GASP, Edmund Oscar Wilson, invented it. He also developed an odor-neutral variant, then sold both formulas to a mining company in Last Chance for a fortune. They're still our sole supplier. Before the collapse and Wilson's ban from civil service, the mining company supplied GASP with vakar at cost, which is what made the project affordable, even profitable. Understand: they were, and still are, making money hand over fist selling transparent vakar to hunting and poaching caravans. You need it if you're going to hunt the big game (and I mean you-don't-even-leave-your-gyroscopic-sphere big), which is where the real money is. With Wilson's help, the mining company had cornered an entire market, so they had a special relationship with GASP that ended the day the city fired Wilson for saving his workers' lives. I wonder if the members of the board would have done it if they'd realized how much money they stood to lose by doing so. "That's a lie," said Odd. "I don't wonder at all." He stretched his hands over the railing, palms open, as though he could hold between them the creaking colony that busied itself below. "Wilson was a genius. Ants, especially giant ants, are mostly blind. They depend on scent and their antennae to navigate. He built the transparent catwalks that transverse the pit from a specially cultivated strain of silveril, grown in soil saturated with sonical (types A and W) and auryl crystal powder in an unknown ratio. The metal absorbs some of the sonic energy of the ants' chitin-creak and converts it into vibrations in the catwalk that they can follow with their antennae to cross the pit without falling. He never sold the formula to anyone. Every administrative head of GASP since Wilson has started their workday with a prayer for the catwalks, since if they ever break, Wilson is the only one who knows how to repair them. You try explaining that to the board. "The worker pit functions by incentivizing certain behaviors in the ants and disincentivizing others. Ants, Wilson argued, cannot be domesticated, only controlled. The vakar cliffs, for instance, disincentivize climbing because the hooks the ants use to climb are damaged when they pierce the material (and they can pierce it, or any simple metal, easily). But ants don't feel pain; they don't suffer. They merely disprefer being damaged. So the vakar cliffs only disincentivize climbing; they don't prevent it, which John would have known if he'd passed the licensure exam on his own. Even though a solid foot of vakar lines the pit and more encloses the colony, the only thing that prevents any single ant from breaking through the barrier is mere disinclination. Even this railing is mostly symbolic." Here, the bright-eyed feeder tapped the railing with his right hand. Amelia shrunk from the edge of the pit while trying not to appear to do so. "Don't worry," said Odd. "You're not carrying ten faulty canisters of attack pheromone. They probably don't even know you're here. Even if they did, you're no threat to them. You might be food if they got hungry enough, but we keep them well fed. Each spring, druids repopulate the small forest at the bottom of the worker pit from the seeds produced by its previous iteration: another Wilson innovation. You can't see it from here, but there's a small lake at its center. Artificial, of course, but sourced from a clean, plentiful aquifer. Around the lake and throughout the forest, Wilson planted lupine, dandelion, and thistle he'd cultivated to extraordinary size and nectar production rate in the Great Pine Barrens. The strains are unique to the worker pit. From time to time, we'll find the body of a meta-botanist who decided to try her hand at corporate espionage down there. Then, of course, there's my job: the feeder."
  8. "I knew John," said Odd. "He was a nice enough guy, though stupid: no cunning to him, which meant he was easy to trust. He definitely paid for his license. He'd tried his hand at light salvage with a smaller crew but didn't like it. Claimed it was because he couldn't stand to be away from his family, but he seemed the sort to say that instead of admitting that his legs got too tired hauling all that junk back to the city." "The few times I did see him around his wife and kid, it seemed like he didn't know what to do with them. The kid especially. He'd hug and kiss his wife occasionally, little things that had more to do with him than with her, but whenever the kid stood next to him, John would reach out and just put his hand on the kid's shoulder, not as, like, a gesture of affection, but ownership. The same way you might put your hand on a shovel while surveying the hole you've just dug with it. I didn't hold it against him, though. He was one of those people who needed every little thing explained to him, which I knew since he always expected me to do the explaining. Around here, at least. And since no one could explain what he felt for his child, or what he should do with that feeling, he did as best he could. Probably thought he was doing a hell of a job. Hell, maybe he was. What would I know about it? Regardless, he thought this would be an easy gig." "Hold on," said Odd. "You might like to see this." He waved Amelia onward and made a shuffling run toward a fence that bordered the northern end of the GASP compound. Only, as Amelia approached, vaguely annoyed at the latest in a series of preventable delays, she realized that she hadn't seen the boundary for what it was. "Here's the worker pit," said Odd. "It has railings now, after John. We saved ten percent of the used canisters for months until we had enough vakar to build them. It came out of our wages, but here they are: bought and paid for." Amelia had expected something with the name "worker pit" to be little more than a hole in the ground. But as she peered over the railing (cautiously), she understood the magnitude of her error. The worker pit was a hundred-meter-deep hexagonal crater pierced, quite intentionally, she understood at once, into the earth, vast beyond reckoning. Even from the lip of the canyon, she could hear the muffled creak of shifting chitin below, where, through the sheer cliffs of glass that constituted the crater's walls, she caught her first glimpse of the colony's machinery.
  9. Oh, I don't mean "at" the man. Just "toward" him. She cannot indicate him exactly, but can deduce that he is behind the sculpture.
  10. "The last GASP HQ, which was also the first GASP HQ, collapsed during the faction wars," said the feeder. "Supply lines became too unreliable and couldn't ship enough of the material required to make the pheromone canisters that fuel the operation. Or they could ship enough of it, just not on time. Aluminum won't cut it. The colony's sense of smell is sensitive enough that even the slightest change to a pheromone's odor could mean a catastrophe. We depend on Last Chance, on the other side of the continent, to ship us odor-neutral vakar, which a feeder can transmute into a control pole in a pinch. Alchemists fashion the canisters on-site. But, eventually, the trains from L.C. just stopped arriving. Either that or arrived empty. Luckily, the guy in charge saw the collapse coming and pulled the work-force, so nobody got hurt. The city still sacked him and put him on trial for criminal negligence, but it wasn't his fault. Nobody in the world's trained to care for giant ants while there's a full-blown war going on. He was convicted and barred from future civil service. After that, most of what you'd call the "skilled laborers," I guess, took private sector jobs. Said they wouldn't work for a city that would treat its own like that. At least the profiteers lacked pretense. I wasn't there, but you hear stories." Amelia followed the feeder across the center of the GASP compound toward the freezer containing, among other things, the deer carcass Amelia meant to inspect. The man had introduced himself as Odd, which had proven confusing to Amelia, at first. Finally, the man had smiled and, with the air of an apology, clarified that while, yes, he could be considered odd, his name was also Odd. And that he, therefore, had been in no way seeking comfort or validation from Amelia, which would have been unprofessional and, if she didn't mind him saying so: "more than just a little odd." She had laughed maybe a little too loudly, fidgeting with her hands as though each held (and sought) the secret to make the other hand complete, her cheeks still burning with an embarrassment that Odd graciously tried to ignore. Even so, his lips seemed, to Amelia, like an envelope barely containing his amusement. "But that's how you get a situation like John's," said Odd. "At least that's what I think. The people who know the work don't want to do it anymore; meanwhile, the city spares no expense to prettify the boardwalk for tourists instead of shelling out for top-shelf ant medicine to keep its citizens safe. There's not much profit in ants, you know, and less the more you spend. GASP makes most of its money selling used canisters to weaponsmiths who'll use the vakar to make weapons they sell to poachers, but the margins are slim because we have to invest most of our profits into buying more vakar. So most of our workers are people desperate enough to risk their lives for what little money GASP can give them out of its discretionary fund. But the city's happy because the unemployment rate goes down, at least on paper. It seems like there's a Crook terminal on every corner in this city, but do you think anyone's looking up how to become a giant ant professional when Chesterfield's the only city employing the creatures for its self-defense? Even though it's a science unique to Chesterfield, you'd have to be daft. Most of the people working here hired someone to pass the licensure exam for them. Management knows, of course, but they're more desperate than the workers are. So that's the story of city bureaucracy, subtitled: how an otherwise ordinary man gets torn to bits."
  11. I saw the spikiness and was about to apologize profusely. My intent has never been to offend you, merely to communicate my concerns and offer constructive solutions. As I think I've shown, I'm a very flexible player and I'd like to work together to produce an experience we will both enjoy. My nightmare scenario involves what should be a respectful game played between equals who are enjoying themselves devolving into a session of petty bickering between parties harboring mutual resentment. I will work within Option 2. I know that this still accords you an advantage, kind of, but it's one against which I'm fairly confident Amelia can be competitive.
  12. The Giant Ant Support Program (GASP) headquarters, located on the very outskirts of the Sunrise Quarter in Chesterfield, was an unimpressive building despite its self-important name. Little more than a farm, Amelia thought, where the city employed an assortment of butchers, breeders, and bureaucrats to manage the entomological component of its defense. Still, she supposed, there had been a charm to it. But that charm had ended where the bureaucrat seated at the desk in front of her began. "I reject the imputation," he said, "that the administrative wing of GASP has anything to do with the queen's—" He paused to consider his phrasing. "—current indisposal and furthermore challenge any of the fair shareholders of our city to do a better job than we already do." "So," Amelia tried to continue, "as I was saying, what I'd like to do is see what's left of the last deer carcass used to feed the queen. Poke around a bit, maybe. See if there's anything obvious—" Amelia had waited all night for her companion to arrive, but he never had. She had left a note with the maître d' and retired to the hostel for the night. The next morning, she had set down to business. "And isn't it typical," the man cut in, "for them to send an adventurer to fix a budgetary problem. You're getting paid in, what, reputation?" "It's unclear," said Amelia. "However—" "Roaming hordes of interns," he said. "That's what they send us. Do you know how much it costs to import a breeder buck from Timber Creek? You've got to ship them through Casper: mag-vac or freighter, and they know they're the only two games in town and there's no difference between'em. They'll gouge you either way. Especially when they hear it's Chesterfield. It's like they think we print money. And we might! But not to feed giant ants, I'll tell you that much. No. For ants, you can have two silver pieces and you're encouraged to rub them together if you think it'll make more." "Right," said Amelia. "So, the wonderful thing, then, about me, in this scenario, is that I'm free. At least as far as you're concerned. You pay me nothing. I look at the deer carcass, maybe ask the breeders and feeders a few questions, and then I'm on my way. Like I was never here." The man across the table leered across the desk at Amelia. "You think this is easy," he said. "I can tell. Easy to take the blame. Easy to bear the weight of every failure of an outfit like this one. When you didn't tell poor John to carry the leaking pheromone canisters past the worker pit. How do you work on a giant art farm without realizing ants climb? And then his wife Martha, trying to act like it's my fault we don't have the money for proper railings. Their son clinging to her leg, still asking after the man we had to carry out in pieces days later when the colony calmed down enough for you to be able to hear again. That's what they don't tell you; that's exactly what you don't know. That much chitin, on that large a body, on that many bodies, creaks. Like the whole colony was laughing. Loud enough that you could barely hear John scream." Amelia swallowed. The man paused and considered her again. "So it isn't easy," he said. "Don't think for a second what anyone does here is easy. But have at it, if that's what you want. At least if you die, I don't have to tell your widower that he won't see a Zengi-cursed copper. Not because I don't want to give it. I'm not a psychopath. But because I don't have it to give. And even though she hit me, and cursed me, and blamed me for it, even though I stood there and accepted every blow, looking straight into the eyes of that, her, his, I mean John's child, thinking I somehow deserved it, deep down, not for this but for other things, in some strange way grateful I could be, could prove useful to her, his wife, you see, at least as a body, because a body can be struck, of course, struck or ripped to pieces, unlike the thing that moved her to strike, which would quite possibly never leave her or the, you know, the child, even though he was too young, then, to know how to say it, or even how to feel it, entirely, but still I could see it stirring up the mud in his eyes, like each passing second made those clear waters go, darker and darker, then darker and darker still, and who knows, given enough time, what such a pair of eyes might see?"
  13. I, too, would like to thank @jaistlyn, because I think this visualizing tool is going to help this along greatly. I have created an accurate visualization of the Swann Memorial Fountain superimposed onto a satellite image of the same. I have also taken the liberty of constructing, or attempting to construct, a realistic timeline for the events as described in the thread, mapped onto the visualization. With respect to your contesting of Amelia's initiative, I don't mind. It changes almost nothing. Since Michael, at a running pace of seventeen miles per hour, will take five seconds to cross 130ft, she has ample time to execute her water hammer. Mostly, I just think the passive is cool. 😊 As for Tori, I think I understand that she is, essentially, another character who acts in Michael's interests. Hence: I'm willing to accept that. However, the fact that you are, in effect, playing two characters creates a practical asymmetry that threatens the fairness of the game. In essence, you claim an advantage in the form of an extra quickdraw action, performed by Tori as an independent actor, each turn. I know this is true because that's exactly what happened last turn. Michael quick-drew a defense against the water pursuing him while Tori quick-drew an attempt to lift the crystal out of the water. Simultaneously, two crystals, each a mile away, emitted (eventually magic-cutting) lasers capable of correcting for refraction across a rapidly changing mass of water. They, too, resemble independent actors. All of this happened without the expenditure of a single preparation. In theory, if this continues, Michael can drop a crystal every round, each with the intelligence required for extremely precise and adaptive arcane processes, all of them performing actions at no cost. The only viable solution to this asymmetry is its correction. As far as I can tell, it can be reasonably corrected in two ways. Option 1: Michael, Tori, and any additional independent actors remain in play, but Amelia gains actions equal to the sum of actions available to the independent actors she's fighting. Option 2: Michael, Tori, and any additional independent actors remain in play, but split between them the actions per turn available to Amelia as a solitary independent actor. My solution, so far, has been to imagine what the fight would look like if I exercised my rights under Option 1, then ignore the quickdraw action of any independent actor Amelia's ability set could realistically counter (so goes Tori's attempt, so will go the magic-cutting light if it ever gets the chance to arrive). These questions are simplified in the cases that have emerged in the fight so far, because all two-three independent quickdraw attempts were leveraged against phenomena operating at a magnitude of one preparation. While I'm willing to pursue either option, it seems to me like Option 1 is going to get very messy, very quickly. We're already having difficulty tracking the events of the fight as it is. Additional actions will increase complexity at an exponential rate. We will find ourselves trampled by a gish-gallop of counters and side-effects accumulated over an extraordinarily cluttered timeline. Option 2 appears, to me, to be the more reasonable course and also, at least from what I've seen elsewhere on the site, pretty standard. But, like I said, I'm amenable to either. As long as things are fair and proportionate, I don't care much about the details.
  14. Notes Accompanying the Post I anticipate that you might not enjoy particular aspects of my post. Therefore, I will clarify, here, some of the decisions I was forced to make as I composed it. First, we should talk about Tori's attempt to lift the sunbeam crystal. My feeling is that since the sunbeam crystal is surrounded by the effects of an action with a magnitude of one prep (Arcane Magnetism), Tori's quickdraw attempt to lift it out of the water fails. It's too heavy, she's too far away, and she's not a player character (or shouldn't be) and therefore lacks the requisite strength. You will note that, this post, you take somewhere between three to five arcane actions. They are: Tori lifts the crystal, Michael explodes a half-punch's worth of water off his back, Crystal 1 connects to, Crystal 2 connects to, Crystal 3 connecting to Crystal 1 (all three emitting magic-cutting light). Four of these five actions, by the text of your own post, do not involved Michael whatsoever. In fact, they are auto-completing actions that, in this case, advance Michael's interests independently from him. So, in considering the impact of Tori's attempt, I had to view that quickdraw action alongside the host of other actions in the post. The way I see it, diversification of labor can achieve a variety of effects across many things, but focused labor can achieve greater effects in one. I'm not sure that I like both Michael and Tori employing two quickdraw actions in the same turn while the light crystal triangle auto-completes, but I'm willing to accept it, provided Amelia is afforded the same privileges. That's what made the decision for me, here, because if Amelia were afforded an extra quickdraw action per turn, she would simply assert an aqueous barrier the moment she determined something was trying to maneuver the sunbeam crystal out of the fountain. Quickdraw versus quickdraw, Amelia's defensive barrier gains cumulative advantage against Tori's brute-force attempt (per Amelia's being-for-truth perks, though the battle of wills is virtually decided before it begins by virtue of the fact that Tori is an NPC accessory) while the water hammer executes. So, if it helps to see the alternative spelled out, and keeps us from spiraling into a regressive feedback loop, that's the other way this could have played out. I chose what I consider the more appropriate route. While I can simply scale the number of Amelia's quickdraw actions to keep pace, it hasn't been necessary so far and seems inelegant in any case. Second, Amelia gained initiative when Michael turned his back on her and changed his plans, so to speak. This isn't that important, but it's the reason why her action begins as soon as he turns his back. I couldn't find a way to notate this without ultimately cluttering the post. She'll probably gain it again if/when Michael turns back after the crystal breaks. Third, Amelia's character sheet will confirm that her field-effects are Therefore, while the crystal should be destroyed before we even reach this point, the logic should be roughly equivalent to that governing the effectiveness of Tori's attempt. That is, since no actual preparation has been expended on this magic-cutting light (as confirmed by your notation), and one preparation has been expended on the field-effect it's attempting to disrupt/dispel, and especially since there is no player character involved in this quickdraw action, it should fail, point-blank. But, again, the alternative is that Amelia gains quickdraw actions equal to the quickdraw actions employed against her. That's fairness. In which case, her aqueous barrier would serve just as well against the magic-cutting light as it would against Tori's attempt. If she can layer two quickdraw effects onto each other, the aqueous barrier will become endowed with Amelia's naturalist perk: Then, we have a stalemate, which, by virtue of her advantages as a defensive-type character designed to break stalemates, she will win. Therefore I implore you! Let's not wage a pointless war for your lost crystal. The fight's just beginning and it would be a shame to get hung up here. Beak Edit: A floating fourth concern is: how can a floating gem "appear to attempt to" lift a crystal? It seems like intentionally slippery language to me. However, since whatever she actually attempts (while appearing to attempt to lift the crystal) will be a quickdraw action theoretically countered by the quickdraw action Amelia gains for the sake of fairness, I let this one slide as well.
  15. Despite his self-deployed credentials as an out-in-the-field guy, Amelia's opinion, as an expert in many fields, was that the man was not about that life. As he turned his back to her, before he had even thrown his small Warmind companion into the air, she acted. The water attracted by her main-gauche was a loving thing, though she could see how someone might see it as a greedy thing, instead. At a rate of eighteen miles per hour, a quantity approaching twenty gallons of water channeled through a three-inch-diameter pipe-like length to the hilt of her main-gauche (its aquamantic channeling decreased the drag that 167lbs of water might have otherwise exerted on her arm). She thrust this water from her with due force mid-step as the man jettisoned his small Warmind companion into the air. It appeared that the gem was an independent actor. (A two-v-one? How unsporting.) No matter. Teeny tiny topaz Tori could try with all her might to lift the sunbeam crystal from the two-hundred-sixty-pound sphere that contained it, but with nearly all of the man's amassed energy invested in the sunbeam crystal itself, there wouldn't be enough left over for Tori to execute her plan. Formally, engineers referred to the pressure surge generated by sudden directional changes in water as hydraulic shock, but Amelia preferred the civilian phrase: water hammer. It was the force of that hydraulic shock that she channeled and amplified through the three-inch-diameter "pipe" projected from her main-gauche's hilt. The pipe threaded the water like a needle through a piece of cloth, focused and contained. Her target? The crystal, where amassed an increasing concentration of arcane energy Amelia found distasteful. Best to nip that right in the bud. Conveniently, the crystal's light was "unrivaled" by the fountain's brightness, so it proved an easy target even from eighty feet away. Furthermore, the bulb of water surrounding the crystal broadcast its exact position; since the crystal exerted an equal attraction on every molecule of water around it, she would find the crystal at the center of the circle the semi-spheric bulb traced along the bottom of the fountain. Her water hammer would strike the crystal directly as it began to emit two beams of light toward indeterminate destinations. Amelia lifted her right hand to shield her eyes, which she averted, just in case. Crystals enjoyed a reputation for hardness. Hardness meant the degree to which it was difficult to scratch a given material. Only diamonds could cut diamonds. However, when it came to toughness, or the ability to withstand force without fracturing, crystals did not fare so well. A healthy, adult male could break a diamond using a simple hammer (hence the delicacy of jeweler's tools compared to their household alternatives). Amelia's water hammer would strike with a force magnitudes greater than such a man's, more likely to pulverize the crystal than fracture it. In the wake of the impact, during which the force of the blow would disperse through the surrounding water (in the form of a visible ripple breathed across the fountain), the fragments of the man's crystal would likely prove small enough to be subject to the dissipative current, quickly sucked into the fountain's draining mechanisms and ferried to the Schuylkill or Delaware River, depending on Philadelphia's infrastructure. The question of the crystal's energy, however, was undecided. The arcane energy it had contained might distribute itself passively among the fountain's waters, the only evidence of its lingering presence the protruding bulges of water that would accompany it. The man might try to reclaim the arcane energy (despite having "turned off" his arcana) but could not do so without pulling toward him the swelling mass of water it continued to attract. However, Amelia's money was on volatility: a reactive explosion. To the extent that the crystal did explode when pulverized, she would disperse the control she had focused into her water hammer into the semi-sphere of water containing the crystal (which, attracted to the arcane energy so involved, would be all too happy to oblige). This would constitute around the explosion an aqueous barrier, which would employ the hydraulic pressure the crystal's destruction could not have exhausted to mitigate the explosion's effect. If the explosion was strictly concussive, its mitigation meant that the force would be distributed through the soft matter of the fountain's water (producing a series of waves that would cause water to spill over the fountain's rim on all sides). If the explosion was strictly exothermic, its mitigation meant that it would vaporize the water around it, but the mass vaporization (itself an endothermic reaction) would cause the explosion to dissipate quickly. If, however, the explosion was concussive and exothermic, its mitigation meant that the thermal component of the explosion would vaporize the water surrounding it while its concussive element, lacking any soft matter through which to distribute itself, would destroy the closest miniature frog fountain (which would be skipped across the water to the northwest) as well as part of the fountain's rim (through which water would begin to pour a few seconds later). If no explosion occurred, however, Amelia would let her water hammer disperse and keep advancing along the fountain's edge in an arc that distanced her the requisite ten feet from its magic-seeking waters. If anybody had been around to see it, they might have been alarmed by the barest hint of activity in the water as Amelia crossed the nine-foot mark. But nobody was around to see it, since, across the fountain, the man was busy "exploding" twenty pounds of water away from his fleeing body. The gesture, of course, would need to be repeated and Michael was well-advised to keep running since, although being struck by the twenty-pound mass hurtling at eighteen miles per hour had only caused him to stumble (since his relative speed and momentum had absorbed most of the force), the one-third cubic foot of water that pursued him carried with it a whopping 924 pounds of force. The typical human body could withstand, at a maximum, fifty pounds of force per square inch (psi). However, a sphere constituted from one-third of a cubic foot of water would possess a front-facing surface area of 78 square inches, which meant that the man's body would bear the brunt of 11psi where the water struck him: about half the impact force of a typical punch. Fortunately for Amelia, the man didn't appear to know that. He was more of an out-in-the-field guy. All the better and Godspeed. Because while the man ran, Amelia continued an arc that would locate her, in a matter of seconds, forty feet from where the tiny Tori hovered in the starry sky (Amelia forty feet from Tori, the man one hundred thirty feet away from Tori, the man one hundred seventy feet away from Amelia). How high in the starry sky? Nobody knew. Let's say twenty feet, for simplicity's sake. Amelia tilted her head to look skyward, but not so far that she couldn't see the man if he tried anything. She couldn't be certain, but she thought she discerned an intelligence in the floating gem. "You know," she said, "you'd have more fun with me than you do with him." She raised her arm, holding her main-gauche parallel to the ground, its tip pointing across the fountain toward the man, hilt-guard angled toward the gem in the sky. "I wouldn't ask you to try to clean up my messes."
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