Ethereum: day six

By Twofer Comments (20) (Tipped by 12 people!)

Part 8 of 20 in Ethereum

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The two combatants squared off, one wiry and unarmed, the other heavyset and wielding a sheathed hand-and-a-half sword. The wiry one raised a hand with three fingers, counted down to zero, and darted forward to attack.

 

Arthur swung his sword diagonally upward; NV danced back, then tumbled under the follow-through, tapped Arthur on the calf, rolled to his feet, and tapped him again on the back before back-flipping out of range.

 

Come on!” he taunted. “Stop trying to hit me and hit me!”

 

How’s this work, anyways?” Lisa asked. “I thought casters’ stats didn’t go up from training?”

 

She, Koume, Lecter, and Gus were sitting on a boulder, watching the two boys spar. Their daemons had wandered off somewhere else in the hex. Since they would move out before Pro Toast’s turn, there wasn’t any particular need for them to stick to one stack for the veil.

 

It’s a Signamancy thing,” NV said, flipping under and out of the way of a horizontal chop. Level six plus the total defence action added up to a lot, and the penalty for fighting on uneven terrain affected the weaker unit more. “You like to sit there looking pretty –”

 

Lah, I’m gorgeous,” she said flippantly.

 

“– and maybe that works for you, but you’re not a fighter, so you don’t get fighting stats.” Arthur landed a hit on him while he was distracted, knocking him sprawling; a moment later, he flipped to his feet and switched to the offensive.

 

You don’t exactly fight either,” she pointed out, “that’s a pretty optimistic word for veiling as one of their stackmates and stabbing them from behind like a dirty coward.”

 

I’m really more of a pacifist,” NV agreed, delivering a roundhouse kick to Arthur’s forearm, making him switch to his off hand, “but I still got most of my levels from making corpses, so it counts. You know, you could probably do it too. Take someone down in thoughtspace.”

 

Not my style. I wouldn’t mind a Shock wand, though.” She eyed the scroll Arthur had stashed in his belt. Tom had scribbled it down before they left; as a Naughtymancer, Arthur was the best qualified to use it. They didn’t strictly need it, but there were five enemy stacks within a turn’s march, so they wanted to save their juice and not damage the city too much.

 

If you don’t get that feeling of sticking a blade between someone’s ribs, what’s even the point?” NV asked. He spun another kick at Arthur, missed, and followed up with his other foot and landed a solid hit to the face, costing three hits.

 

Normally, sparring would be a dumb move, since it blew their veil and cost hits without providing more XP than regular training, even if they refrained from lethal strikes. While they were waiting through the Alliance’s turn, though, it didn’t really matter, and the boys had energy they wanted to burn off.

 

They hadn’t exactly worked out who was in charge here. NV was the only master-class, giving him seniority, but he wasn’t interested in leadership, and in any case he would be heading east when their turn began. Koume was the second strongest, but she wasn’t inclined toward leading either. Lisa was the best at managing people, but she didn’t know anything about battle. That left Gus, Arthur, and Lecter, all of whom had pros and cons.

 

NV skipped out of Arthur’s way, then came in above his guard with a jump kick, knocking off another two hits. “And that’s match,” he said, flipping backward. Three levels and a mêlée build would do that. Arthur frowned, but he only had one hit left and looked rather pulverised; he sheathed his weapon and went to sit down. “Anyone else? Lise?”

 

Pass. Think you can take him, Gus?”

 

One thing about being around both stupid and intelligent people was that subtle manipulation went over the heads of stupid people, so to get them to do anything, she had to be obvious, which meant the smart people knew she was a manipulator; however, it also meant they thought she was a bad one. She was fairly sure that Koume, for example, thought Lisa had never played with her head.

 

Gus picked up his Stratocaster and rolled to his feet. This might be a bit more even, Gus had a combat build, and a lot more satisfying. She was the prettiest girl around, and he was a pest about it.

 

NV’s normal fighting style shied away from actual fighting. If he were up against a real enemy, he’d baffle, veil, and go for a sneak attack from behind. While sparring, he mixed it up with frontal attacks and feints, manoeuvring Gus onto more uneven ground. Gus, for his part, was equal parts aggression and cheap shots, kicking gravel at NV before swinging at him with his guitar.

 

You know, I think I’ve got most of us figured out,” Lisa said conversationally, too low for the fighters to hear. “I’m here because it means I can do my thing without worrying about the Great Minds or rulers who just want to gasbag with each other, and I’ve got to say most of the company isn’t too bad. The chance to level and class up is a nice bonus. Arthur’s partly here just to make upkeep, but you’re also personally loyal to Tom, and I think we’re probably a nice change of pace from the MK. I know they can be pretty brutal to Croakamancers. Koume doesn’t say much, but I think you like having someone strong in charge. It goes well with your discipline, doesn’t it?”

 

Koume said nothing. She knows I’m right but doesn’t want to admit it. Dittomancy was like Changemancy in that it was an insanely versatile discipline, but its opposite in that it got stronger the more different allies the caster had. Changemancy could do anything well, but it wasn’t top-tier at anything, so if there was already a specialist in whatever needed doing, it wasn’t very useful. Dittomancy only worked if you already had the first specialist, but could double their talents with no penalties, as long as the Dittomancer didn’t try copying something of higher level than herself.

 

That only worked well if there was a selection of other units at her approximate level, which meant she had to work under a leader who had the charisma to attract diverse and powerful followers. With so many casters around, she could switch between dittoing half a dozen different disciplines each turn. She seemed to have taken a particular liking to Gus; Lisa couldn’t understand why, but the older witch was welcome to him.

 

Thought so,” she nodded. “NV basically just wants the excuse to croak big chunks of XP without worrying about Enforcement Councils, although he’s loyal to Tom too. Tone’s mostly here to show off to girls, Titans help me, and it’s a lot easier to do that at the head of a conquering army than sitting in the Stagemancy glade, trying to tell people you’re cool while passing Hat Magicians with groupies on both arms. The others … eh, they have their own motivations. Loneliness, boredom, ambition, hunger, the usual really … there’s exactly one person I don’t get, because he hasn’t said a word.”

 

Lecter smiled slightly. It wasn’t reassuring. “You’d like to quantify me, Thinkamancer Holmes.”

 

Psh. Leave that to the Numbers people, thank you very much. No, I’m curious why that’s the first thing I’ve ever heard you say. You spoke now, but you normally don’t like speaking … under certain circumstances. In front of people you don’t like, don’t respect …”

 

Fishing, Thinkamancer Holmes? Like I’m a finite state automaton tacked to a tangle of limbs, some cheap golem distinguished from Sir Arthur’s walking corpses only by the virtue of not rotting where I stand, which a great mind such as yours could untangle like a shoelace with only a handful of probing questions?”

 

She smiled. It had been far too long since she’d faced off against someone else who knew how to play the game. “You’re not too far off the mark, Lecter.”

 

Doctor,” he said.

 

Doc,” she abridged, with her practised vulpine half-smile. He really shouldn’t advertise weaknesses like that. “See, that,” she continued, pointing with her nose as Gus swung his guitar low and NV blocked with a heel kick, “combat’s easy to think about. Check stats, roll dice. If I sat down with a pen and paper and enough time, I could work out exact odds even without Marvin. Simple. But people? We’re a bit harder. Why do you think that is?”

 

I suppose you’re going to tell me that we’re fundamentally non-Mathamantic beings?”

 

Could be, but I doubt it. Human minds are equally important to human muscles, so I think they’re similar in other ways. I think they’re equally complicated, too. They use hidden stats, so it’s harder to work out what’s going on up there, and harder to predict what any individual will do, but the principle is there, even if it’s unknown.”

 

I see. And why are you so desperate to unlock the secrets of the mind? Don’t try to persuade me it’s out of honest intellectual curiosity, I hate it when people lie to me, it’s so rude. You don’t care about adding to the literature. You’re trying to prove yourself, aren’t you?” He shut his eyes and inhaled through his nose. “You affect crudeness, Ms Holmes, but it doesn’t suit you. I smell hamburger on your breath, and Eau de Lévy on your armpits. You weren’t popped a barbarian; you popped with a royal side, you yourself are noble, and were rejected, and rejected them in turn, although traces of the Signamancy still linger. They’re probably all croaked by now. But in spite of all that you are driven to prove yourself to them … and to yourself.”

 

She flinched. That was … a much better and more detailed guess than she’d anticipated.

 

Do you know what you look like to me, Thinkamancer Holmes? You look like a brat. A bored, mendicant brat. You still haven’t any interest in responsibility for anyone, even yourself. Your hobbies include self-aggrandisement by abuse of your abilities and little else. And yet, in spite of that, you’re not actually particularly talented at it, are you? Our Overlord managed to secure over twenty followers with a single speech without resorting to your cheap mind tricks; the most you can even imagine to aspire to is to work out how he managed it.”

 

She breathed in, out, in, regained her inner equilibrium, and half-grinned, just to annoy him. He was good, but she was better. “So perceptive, Doc. You want to know what I noticed during that little lecture? It had nothing to do with anything. You really don’t want to talk about why you’re here, do you? You’re awfully private. Why might that be … a secret involving a person, a place, an idea, no, none of those …” For a non-Thinkamancer, he was good at blocking cold reading.

 

The last time someone disrespected that privacy, I ate his liver with Flava beans and maroon tea.”

 

I’m more of a coffee girl,” she said blandly, but she let it go. She’d already picked up hints, and she’d get the rest later. He couldn’t keep his guard up forever.

 

NV raised a shin to block Gus’ strike, misjudged it, and took the blow to his waist, knocking him skidding. He rolled to his feet, and at that moment they felt their turn begin. Arthur’s face flickered back to its normal gaunt but handsome image.

 

Hey, knock it off!” Lisa shouted, before NV could do Gus an injury. He scowled but backed off, and they walked over. To avoid Gus’ boasting, she put her fingers to her temple to call Sharkey.

 

« Are we still on for Ellesstee and Hedro? » she asked.

 

« Three stacks are defending each. I see one stack of six within eight hexes of Hedro and five of about thirty-five near Ellesstee. Marvin says it’s 95% that they’re mostly level one or two basic infantry from Hedro, and that with Akira and Gus, you have 98% to take Ellesstee and hold them off if they attack and you don’t wreck the walls first. »

 

« Good enough. Anything else? »

 

« Yes. Looks like Jess’ group was spotted; Maria was razed last turn. Helyo is not; they’re still going to take that, and James’ group will rebuild the ruins. »

 

« Shame. Okay, we’ll take the other two. Tell Akira I said hi. » Politeness cost nothing, but rolling natural ones was expensive. “Right,” she said aloud. “We’re good to go. NV, we might see you again when we take Helyo properly. Let’s roll.” They whistled for their mounts and set off, NV veiling himself and his ridiculous little blackbird before heading sixty degrees clockwise of their stack.

 

They had ended turn in a hill hex, where they wouldn’t be visible from any scouts on the road to Hedro Skedda. Normally this wouldn’t be feasible, as hills cost three move for most units, and the mountains they reached presently were even worse, but Loony had given them mountain-capable. Even more so than seeing units that really shouldn’t be able to support a rider’s weight, it was just weird seeing their daemons happily walk up thirty and then forty-five and sixty degree inclines like they were flats. Even flyers had move penalty on mountain hexes.

 

The terrain curved down into a gentle depression at the top of the mountain, one hex before the city of Ellesstee. It was a level three with a generous tower, obviously the work of hired Dirtamancy, and solid walls that had been upgraded by a side expecting attack from the smooth road east, not the west. There was a stack of pikers on the walls, who gave a shout as they came into view. By the time they reached the city hex, a second stack and a third of archery had joined them. Sharkey and Marvin were good, apparently.

 

Hi!” Lisa shouted, waving up at them; she wasn’t much of a commander, but she was clearly the best choice for spokeswoman. “So, we’re going to capture this city now. We have a Turnamancer and a Croakamancer; which one do you want to turn you?”

 

One piker shouted back. “You don’t frighten us, Ethereum pig dogs! Your father smelt of elderberries!”

 

Oho, scathing.” She ducked in the saddle as an arrow sailed overhead. Suggestions were wasted on common infantry; they were too simple to fool, and they came in too large numbers to affect them all at once. “You want to get started?” she added over her shoulder.

 

Gus unslung his guitar and strummed. Arthur pulled out Tom’s Shock scroll. Koume moved behind him to read it over his shoulder, which in Lisa’s opinion was one of a Dittomancer’s least fair abilities, even if it did cost juice.

 

Thunder and lightning, flesh will burn,

 

Shooting and striking, prevent their turn.

 

Twin balls of pure destruction flew from their hands, up to the waiting stacks, and detonated, spraying chips of masonry and raising clouds of dust. When it cleared, they saw the tally. Two archers and nine pikers were still standing of the original twenty-four, most with visible injuries; no way to tell whether the others were croaked or incapacitated.

 

Had enough?” Lisa called.

 

No, now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!” shouted the same piker as before, now with a wide gash across his face.

 

The casters pulled back to a huddle. “Do we actually have a plan?” Gus asked.

 

I could probably suggest one into opening the gates and attacking us,” Lisa said. “They’d have to autoattack then. Pikers are crap except when defending, right, and with dance-fighting and healing, the daemons could take them.”

 

Leave this to me,” Arthur said. “Gus and Koume, I’ll still need a duet. Steele, Luplau, Miller, Corwin, Murphy!”

 

Atop the walls, five pikers rose to their feet.

 

I get knocked down!” Gus belted out, strumming chords. “But I get up again!” Koume backed him up. The music formed a wall of sound, nullifying the enemies’ city bonus and giving the same edge to the uncroaked. Two moshed at the last remaining archers, knocking them off the walls.

 

The pikers gave war cries and leapt to engage them, but they had no coordination or cohesion, where the uncroaked moved in harmony. One would fall back from an attack while another would flank the piker. They took out four of the enemy before one was dusted, then another, then two more pikers fell. A brutal, graceless fight followed, one blow traded for another. In the end, a single heavily damaged uncroaked stood. Ethereum’s black and green flag rose above the city.

 

Not bad,” Lisa said. “Interesting Luckamancy, too.” Akira probably borrowed some for NV. She concentrated for a moment. « The eagle has landed, Boss. No problems. »

 

« Good. Wait until Pro Toast ends turn, then have the others put their juice into the tower. Jess’ group will meet up with you in a few turns. »

 

We have the rest of the turn off,” she told the others. “Leave the daemons to watch for those infantry and don’t spend juice until they’re gone, but that’s all.”

 

They dismounted and led the daemons to the main gate, which swung open at their approach. Arthur split off to coup de grâce the fallen and uncroak them; Lecter looked for the library; Koume headed for the tower. Lisa set off exploring the city. Unfortunately, Gus followed her.

 

She sighed, not bothering to keep it internal. She wasn’t really attracted to anyone; one needed a healthy dose of mystery or at least self-delusion for a healthy romance, and her powers obstructed both. He wasn’t particularly impressive anyway, his prodigious muscles notwithstanding. She knew he’d tried for half the other girls; it was a pity Koume wasn’t prettier, because pairing those two off would tie things up neatly.

 

Since I’m exploring,” Lisa said loudly, “why don’t we split up? We’ll cover more ground that way.”

 

What if there’s a trap somewhere?” he asked solicitously.

 

There almost definitely isn’t, because we’re basically positive Pro Toast doesn’t have a Dirtamancer and they would have disarmed any Hiller left here before parking unsupervised infantry in it, but I promise I’ll send Lecter to heal you if you trip one,” she said.

 

He fake-laughed. “And what if you trip it?”

 

I suppose I’ll call Lecter to heal me,” she said.

 

Mm, but what if it knocks you unconscious? It wouldn’t be safe. You’re our only Thinkamancer, after all.”

 

She sighed. The soft-touch approach clearly wasn’t going to work. She could say she’d wanted to avoid making it into a confrontation, but it would be a lie. Rhetorically demolishing people she personally disliked was the single most satisfying use of her powers. His ego was an obvious target. “But you’re not our only Rhyme-o-mancer. Sure you’re the only one on payroll, but there are a dozen others in the World Orchestra, to say nothing of the independents. If you disappeared, we could replace you in less than a turn. Maybe minus a level or two, maybe we could only find a novice, but how important is that in the scheme of things, really? The new one could make up the level in a battle or two and the class in not even that; if they’re anything like Riley, they could probably even reach master. Plenty of people shred solos just like Gus Tone, or even better.

 

Me, though, I’m the one and only Thinkamancer in the Magic Kingdom who would work for Ethereum. You know how Jess and Loony shot you down? Jess is one of three master Findamancers, and the only one not loyal to the Sett. Loony’s literally the only known Weirdomancer, and maybe the first person ever to reach master at level four. We three, we’re special, we’re not like you. Why would you ever think any of us would ever be interested in you? We’re practically different races. I’d just as soon kiss Riley’s flesh knight.”

 

One part of that barrage or another had rattled him; she saw him clenching and unclenching his fists. “You might think you’re so high and mighty,” he said, voice shaking, “but you’re only here because the Great Minds rejected you. So special, how you didn’t make the cut.”

 

Were you under the impression that that was because I failed some entry test?” she asked, putting casual amusement into her voice. “Yeah, no. I’m the best suggestion caster alive. The level thirteen triple-master-class headmaster had me thrown out because he was afraid of me. What do you do that any virtuoso can’t do better?”

 

There ain’t no thing like me except me,” Gus said.

 

Whatever, bro,” Lisa said, turning to walk away.

 

You’ll see!” he shouted after her. “I’m the best there ever will be!”

 

She ignored this.

 

Cities were all unique. Even at the same level, they could have any number of configurations, and there was a huge range of buildings that improved their functionality. She wasn’t a Dirtamancer or a Moneymancer and had never cared to learn the rules beyond that most provided modest situational bonuses (some did nothing but demonstrate that their owners had wealth to spare), but she could tell that Ellesstee had been upgraded heavily beyond the baseline for a level three. It could have been Pro Toast or Bell-End; Hiller seemed to really like his big cities, judging by that he’d kept his capital at five rather than sacking it and promoting all his pikers when the Alliance came knocking, but city fights had a chance to wreck nonvital buildings, so maybe they were built by Pro Toast.

 

One common building was the armoury, usually built into or very near the garrison, where cities would keep any special gear to loan out to raiders or defenders, and occasionally odds and ends like scrolls and gems. Ellesstee’s had been cleaned out by the retreating troops if it had ever had anything, but she still checked it out, arriving just after Tom ended turn. She’d occasionally robbed from reneging clients, as a sort of lump sum settlement; they were usually on guard against mercenaries borrowing such items, but they rarely expected someone so persuasive.

 

Lecter had claimed the library and she didn’t feel like sharing, least of all with him, so she continued on. She passed a training ground, which presumably gave a bonus to training, an arrow warehouse that seemed quite useless given how rare it was for an archer to survive long enough to run out their baseline arrow allocation, and a stables that she had some vague idea had something to do with a hidden tameness stat. She circled around the block to visit the dungeon, which held eleven former Bell-End pikers, all level one.

 

Yo,” she said. “Were you all meat shields popped a few turns before the city fell, or do any of you know anything about anything?”

 

They gave her blank looks. The first one. She sighed.

 

She wished she’d stayed at Wolf’s Lair. Pete was decent company, as was Grim, and it was always exciting to hang around Tom, trying to figure out about the plans he never told anyone. Maybe in future she should hang back more.

 

There was a sound from the walls. One of the daemons, a dog thing with a single charge of fiery Shockmancy per turn, was atop them, barking at someone in the next hex over. Lisa approached to scale the wall. As she reached the base of the wall, an arrow critted the daemon in the face, instantly croaking it and sending it tumbling from the walls.

 

Crap. « Everyone, get out here, now, » she broadcast. « We have a situation. »

 

She hurried up the stairs to the top of the walls, hid behind a crenelation, and peeked out. Five stacks of Pro Toast infantry, carrying bigger weapons and shinier armour than normal. She ducked back as an arrow sailed past, did a double-take, then turned and bolted down the stairs, to where the other casters were assembling with the remaining daemons and Arthur’s uncroaked.

 

We have a bad situation,” she clarified. “Five stacks, each with a warlord. Two are all knights, one is lancers, one is outriders, and one” she indicated the critted daemon “is longbowmen with an archer warlord.”

 

What?” Gus said, disbelieving. “Nobody uses all knights on foot. That can’t be right.”

 

Full free to look yourself,” she said, glancing back at the daemon.

 

What are those?” Arthur asked blankly. “Are they side-specific units? I’ve never heard of any except knights.”

 

They’re knight equivalents. Elite pikers, scouts, and archers,” Koume said.

 

They’re crap,” Lisa said. “I mean, they’re better than the basic versions obviously, but they cost as much as a full stack and they’re only a bit stronger than an individual, so nobody in their right minds would ever … pop … Oh. Of course they didn’t pop them, they promoted them. That group withdrawing from Hedro …”

 

As she spoke, she did the mental arithmetic. Five stacks, two of them under strength, came to thirty-six units. She knew that knights normally popped one per turn and that infantry were generally six to eight per turn, so this was equivalent to somewhere around two hundred and fifty basic infantry, far more than they could hope to fight off with who and what they had. She didn’t know exactly how much promotions cost, but counting the warlords it was probably almost three thousand apiece. This group cost a hundred thousand shmuckers. The city wasn’t worth half that, upgrades or no. This was a straight-up ambush, meaning Pro Toast knew there were casters here, and probably who. Assuming she hadn’t missed any scouts along the way – there couldn’t be too many hiding in the high mountain terrain – they’d been given the information. Probably the money, too. Few royal sides ever promoted infantry, even under duress, but they probably would for a suicide mission if someone else footed the bill.

 

Spiteful flippers,” she murmured, impressed in spite of the situation.

 

Do you have juice?” Koume asked Arthur.

 

Arthur was their top asset. He was a level three novice, but even so, Croakamancers were trumps at almost any infantry fight, especially when they had additional bonuses, such as the city fortifications. At higher levels, they could often walk away from battlefields stronger than they arrived.

 

A bit more than half, maybe,” he said. “But it costs more to reanimate them one at a time, and I can’t do it at all if they’re still alive.”

 

Then let’s make some corpses,” Gus said, unslinging his Stratocaster.

 

Arthur nodded. Seven of the eight uncroaked archers stacked with him, and they and Gus climbed the walls.

 

I think we might possibly be flipped,” Lisa said, fighting down a feeling of sickness. This wasn’t like their first battle; they were completely outclassed, and she had nowhere to run. “Twenty uncroaked will trade for, like, four knights. If Arthur can do three more group uncroaks, that’s twelve more. That still leaves more than two led stacks of knights left over. Assuming they’re raised at full power.”

 

Maybe we could do some damage and then surrender? We’d lose the city, but that’s not too bad. They wouldn’t execute casters. Even if the Great Minds urged them to, a Thinkamancer is valuable. Next turn, Sharkey will scry on us, Jess can fly forward, she has that fast daemon, and her projections are strong enough to beat a stack of knights, and even if they won, it might be enough of a distraction for us to escape, or at least me. If NV flew out too … Or they might just croak me. Flip, the Great Minds know what powers we have, and even if they’re not sure about details, they know I could probably suggest my way out of captivity. It’d be too dangerous for Pro Toast to try to take five high-value prisoners, and I’m both the biggest escape risk and the biggest threat to the Great Minds.

 

Overhead, Gus windmilled at his guitar. “Arthur walks warily down the street with the brim pulled way down low! Ain’t no sound but the sound of his feet, recurve bows ready to go!” There came an order from outside for a volley, which Arthur answered; arrows flew. One of his uncroaked archers dusted from a crit; another four took arrows but kept fighting.

 

Might I remind you that there is still life in my body, Thinkamancer,” Lecter said drily.

 

Yeah, but who are you healing?” Lisa said. “These daemons are mounts, not fighters.” Two of them were technically heavies, but their stats didn’t justify it; they were built for speed, not battle. “Throw them in and all your juice and you might take down two knights. We’re still about sixteen short. Any one of them could take out all five of us without juice.”

 

Another two uncroaked archers dusted. There came a boom as the knights began ramming the gate. Not a very efficient approach compared to siege, but if there wasn’t anything resisting them, they’d get through eventually. Why did we overextend like this? What were we thinking?

 

Didn’t you suggest Thursday into fleeing our first battle?” Koume asked.

 

Lisa pictured it, latching on to the way out. No-one ever understood casters they’d never seen before. The warlords might not even realise that uncroaking cost juice, and they definitely wouldn’t have any sense of how much Arthur had left. If he timed it right, he could bluff them into thinking he could keep it up forever, and she could come in at the critical moment to stop them wondering why Croakamancers didn’t rule the world …

 

She shook her head. “That only worked because there was only one warlord there, so nobody could countermand her. It helped that I was veiled while I did it. There are five here; they’ve learned. I do one, the other four will overrule and press the attack. If I can even get close enough with no veil. And it’s only possible if they think we have a good chance of winning.”

 

What if there were two Thinkamancers?” Koume asked.

 

Lisa blinked. Flipping Dittomancers. With two effective Thinkamancers, if they could eliminate just two warlords, they could suggest two who would overrule the last one. With Arthur reanimating as fast as he lost troops, if they cast the suggestions just as he was running out of juice …

 

if their timing were perfect, and they somehow managed to get a clear shot past the knights screening the warlords, and if Koume could suggest as well as her even though it required charisma and creativity and practice that Lisa was sure couldn’t be dittoed. Akira or no, that wasn’t going to happen. “No. It wouldn’t work.”

 

Koume snorted. “I see. Try to think of something useful, then. Lecter, we’ll synergise.”

 

Above, a final volley dusted Arthur’s last archers. “Reinforcements!” he shouted; six uncroaked pikers and the last archer turned and marched up the stairs to stack with him.

 

Lecter nodded. “Goodbye, Lisa.” He stacked with Koume and their four daemons and climbed the walls, hiding behind a crenelation and waiting for the moment to attack. Gus stacked and mounted up.

 

Lisa considered going up to watch properly, but she’d just risk being shot for no real gain. Instead she could only watch as Arthur’s stabbers jabbed downward, landing blows on the invaders with relative impunity, while the longbows took potshots at them and his archer shot back, until another lucky arrow dusted it too. Arthur shouted for the last uncroaked a minute later. There were six, then five, four, two, one.

 

Ultimate!” Arthur shouted. Trails of juice flowed, and they heard a crackle as injuries knit themselves and the fallen rose.

 

Thumbprick!” Koume cried at the same time, pointing below, and a copy of a level two knight appeared on the spare daemon, wearing Ethereum livery. Their stack leapt down.

 

Lisa blinked, taking only a moment to work out the witch’s plan. Healomancy was powerful, but only if used properly. It could restore a certain number of hits, about five per level-turn for a novice, as well as a few variants like full restores and stack heals. Used on basic infantry, it was quite pathetic, actually costing more in the caster’s upkeep than just letting the stabber croak and popping a new one. The trick was realising that not all hits were equally valuable: a unit with good stats could trade one hit for many when fighting weaker units. At Wolf’s Lair, Lecter had made a brutal team with Jess, who could Find bodies about equivalent to a level twelve knight and more with the various buffs people like Charlotte and Loony and Gus could provide, so his juice went about twelve times as far as if he’d cast on a level one knight: Jess had crushed everything in her path. A level two knight wasn’t anywhere near as powerful, but it was still formidable.

 

There was a shout and the clash of steel. Hopefully Lecter at least was smart enough to target the archery stack. They might be able to stunlock and wipe it out before the others got past the uncroaked knights, then Arthur could uncroak them and hopefully Lecter could screen …

 

Flip this. I sound like a loser. She breathed in and out, then assumed her old vulpine half-smile and relaxed her shoulders. She’d manipulated bigger fights than this just for fun. This was nothing.

 

« Akira? »

 

« Hi, Lisa. How’s the trail? »

 

« Sort of boring, to be honest. Could you do me a quick favour? We’ve got a knight fight going on here. Can you boost our uncroaked knights’ defences for a few rounds? They don’t need to hit anything, they just need to survive. »

 

« Done. It’s been getting boring here too, anyway. Hedera keeps whining about wanting to go join you. I’d sort of like to go instead, just to annoy her. »

 

« Please do. That creeper Tone keeps hitting on me. »

 

« Ugh, tell me about it. He never shut up about it to me. I think Hedera actually likes him. »

 

« Hmm. Maybe you should let her come here. Croak two birds with one spell. Anyway, thanks a million, but I’d better call you back, the people here have no idea what they’re doing without me. »

 

« Me too. You wouldn’t believe the crap I have to put up with from these idiots. Break. »

 

The sound of the fight was over already, which was ominous, because a moment later, the rhythmic pounding of the knights ramming the gate returned. Arthur drew his hand-and-a-half sword, strode out to over the gate, and jabbed downward. “Lisa!” he shouted without looking. “Get up here!”

 

She was inclined toward running for the tower instead, where she’d have a bonus, but she climbed the stairs anyway. It was a mess. She was right, the archery stack had fallen; the lancer stack was now guarding the pile of bodies, ready to fall on them if Arthur tried to uncroak them. A daemon lay croaked too, one that looked like it might have been a forest-capable; the others had apparently fled after taking out the archery, hiding on the opposite end of the hex. Dust lay about, drifting from the walls and eddying around people’s feet. The two knight stacks were taking turns to throw themselves at the gate, like the stupidest possible battering rams. Arthur was stabbing at them, sometimes landing a hit; one of the outriders dragged a corpse to the pile.

 

Is there a reason you’re not uncroaking those archers?” Lisa asked, managing to sound almost bored.

 

Yes, because they’ll just be stunlocked as soon as I do,” Arthur said, in between thrusts. With no longbows left, there was nothing to shoot him down; normally he wouldn’t have mattered, because real siege could knock the gate down before he could inflict any real damage, but without that, he could extract a few more corpses before they inevitably broke through.

 

Surrender!” shouted one of the warlords below, swinging his sword in Arthur’s direction, but staying out of reach of engagement: mêléeing a unit on a level three wall was suicide.

 

He had a point, though. Two casters low on juice and with no offensive magic left had no chance against four stacks of knight-class units; they’d break in eventually. However, that wasn’t how Eyemancy worked. It wasn’t about hitting people with sharp sticks. It was about head games, and it definitely wasn’t about losing your cool, let alone giving up.

 

Knock it off. Fixit,” she said, snapping her fingers and flaring off a dollop of juice; the knights paused, readying themselves for whatever fresh sorcery she wielded, but nothing happened. “So, in case it wasn’t obvious,” she told the Pro Toast group, infusing her words with a bluff buff, “I’m a Changemancer, which basically means a Dirtamancer except cool.”

 

The guilds would have scried on Ellesstee to determine its defences before spending all that money attacking it, but that wasn’t perfectly reliable, so the warlords would have been warned to expect surprises. Charlotte’s whereabouts were unknown to the guilds, as she was still hidden under a veil and hadn’t cast any obvious magic, so they were probably specifically warned about her.

 

I can repair walls and gates, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than upgrading them.” She carefully didn’t look down; there was a long crack in the wood of the gate facing into the city. “If you’d only thought to bring siege, you could overpower us in a few rounds, but with just you kids, I can keep patching that gate for longer than you can take the Croak Knight skewering you. Now, my Overlord is probably going to be mad at me for telling you this, because it’d’ve been hilarious if I’d sat out of sight repairing it again and again while Croakie here picked you off one by one, laughing at your false hope of victory before finishing you off with the shambling corpses of your former stackmates, but as a Changemancer I’m not responsible for dealing with you, so it’s not my problem if you survive. What is my problem is that I promised my Ruler I would build a new courthouse by the end of turn. I really hate breaking my promises, but I only have the juice for one or the other of that and cleaning up this mess. So here’s a promise I won’t break: ram my gate again, and he will end every single one of your miserable little lives, then reanimate the corpses and send them after your old side to slaughter everyone you’ve ever known and loved. I flipping guarantee it.”

 

The warlords exchanged glances, then pulled back for a huddle. Lisa watched them.

 

That one thinks I’m bluffing; this one thinks I’m telling the truth; she’s undecided; he thinks I’m bluffing but is too spineless to say. Indecision. Path not set in stone; some operational autonomy. Too inexperienced and common to be given real leeway; orders aren’t to take the city. Orders are to eliminate casters. Majority of casters not in city.

 

Flip,” she said. “Arthur, do it, now!”

 

He gave her a look of surprise but took the order. “Ultimate!”

 

The corpses rose to their feet and drew their weapons. The waiting Pro Toast troops had initiative and leadership, but Lisa didn’t bother sticking around; she grabbed Arthur’s hand and pulled him along the wall. They only had moments before the knights split into two groups and pincered the other casters between them, and she was sure none of them had more than a few droplets of juice left. Losing three casters in one action would be a disaster.

 

She skidded to a stop as the diminished stack came into view beneath her. The knight had apparently played rearguard and been cut down with his daemon, but the three casters and their mounts had survived, still in one stack, lounging moodily under the parapet on the far side of the hex.

 

Hey,” she called, keeping her voice low. Koume, Lecter, and Gus looked up at her. “Now would be a really good time to get back up here.”

 

How?” said Lecter.

 

“…” she said.

 

She hadn’t planned this far ahead. The walls weren’t that high, about twice as high as a Man, and Arthur could physically reach down and take Lecter’s hand, but the two city zones weren’t connected here; they couldn’t pass without gear or specials or knocking down the wall.

 

She went over their assets. Thinkamancy: useless. Croakamancy: useless. Healomancy: useless. Rhyme-o-mancy: useless. Dittomancy: … if there were anything useful she could ditto, Koume would have thought of it already.

 

She broadened her search to cross-discipline within classes. As an Eyemancer, she had intuition for Foolamancy. “Stack up,” she ordered, making a mental note to go over NV’s insights with a fine-toothed comb later. “Shut up and don’t argue. I’m low on juice, but I think I can … Aisha!”

 

There was a flash. She looked down at her stack. They were all fully visible. The veil hadn’t worked. She could try again once more if she had to, but, realistically, it would just waste juice.

 

Well, that was helpful,” Gus said.

 

She ignored him. As a Stagemancer, he could maybe have done Carnymancy, if he knew any. Hat Magic would be useless. Lecter and Arthur were only novices, and she couldn’t think of anything Clevermancy or Naughtymancy could do to help anyway. That left Koume.

 

“… Do you know any Dirtamancy?”

 

Koume gave her a look. “If I did, wouldn’t I have been using it for the past five turns?”

 

Touché. “Changemancy, then?”

 

To do what?”

 

A rope! A ladder!” As siege tools, they would create a local connection between the zones and let them climb the wall.

 

Koume sucked air through her teeth. “… I don’t remember the incantation,” she said.

 

« Charlotte? I need to know the incantation to conjure a rope or ladder or something. »

 

« Why? I thought you already took the city? »

 

« Long story and I’m almost out of juice. Hurry! »

 

« Um, Marmy Toe Moe Way should do it, or – »

 

Marmy Toe Moe Way,” she told Koume, who repeated it, applying the last of her juice. A long golden ribbon materialised in her hands; she threw it up, and Arthur caught it, establishing the connection.

 

A stack of knights rounded a corner, a hundred paces away. The warlord pointed. “Get them!”

 

Lisa backed out of the way as Arthur pulled Koume up. He dropped the free end of the ribbon back down. The daemons broke stack and charged; three knights engaged them, but the warlord directed the rest to keep going.

 

Gus, who still had his guitar in hand, was half-watching the charging knights; Lecter took the opportunity to snatch the ribbon and wrap it around his hand. Arthur pulled again, setting the Healomancer on the parapet. He dropped the ribbon back down. Gus caught it, and Arthur lifted, just as the closest knight dived and grabbed Gus’ legs.

 

Lecter seized the ribbon to help pull, but another two knights piled onto Gus, the warlord hanging back. The other three knights finished off the daemons.

 

The ribbon.

 

Hoboken!” Lisa cried, putting the last of her juice into the attack. The ball of amateur Shockmancy shot down and hit Gus square in the face; it did almost no damage, but he let go of the ribbon for long enough for Arthur and Lecter to pull it from his fingers and out of the knights’ reach.

 

You – you traitorous cow!” Gus screamed at her, as manacles appeared around his hands. “You did that on purpose!”

 

What are you doing?!” Koume hissed.

 

I was firing into mêlée and I’m a crap shot!” Lisa shouted down to Gus.

 

Liar!” he shouted back.

 

The problem was, she was a liar, and they all knew it.

 

I’m out of juice,” Koume said to Lecter and Arthur, speaking very quickly. “Can either of you do anything?”

 

I’m dry,” Lecter said.

 

There are no more corpses,” Arthur said. “Lots of knights at only a few hits left.”

 

We’ve got what we came for!” the warlord said. “Screen and get out of the hex!”

 

The casters could do nothing but watch as Gus was dragged away, swearing until a knight pommelled him in the temple.

 

As the Pro Toast troops left the hex, there was a quietly cheerful ding, of Lisa levelling to five. Apparently that counted as her winning the engagement. The other three casters turned to give her very nasty looks.

 

Okay, before you string me up, two things,” she said. “One, I keep saying that suggestions are subtle, I’ve been telling you nonstop for like five turns now. I can boost my bluff checks, but not so high that I can make a winning army surrender or give up a caster pris–”

 

Koume slapped her, hard. Lisa, who was no sort of fighter at all, reeled back a pace. Manacles appeared around her wrists. She rotated her jaw and squared it.

 

The second,” she said, blinking hard, “is that this is Tom’s show, not yours. Ruler senses are natural Thinkamancy, did you know that? So I know better than anyone that he knows we won the battle and that I’m alive, and he’ll know what happened if I’m not by tomorrow. And we all know that he cares about discipline; he can’t let us go around attacking each other over, the side will fall to bits if we do. So you have a choice. You lynch me now, knowing that he’ll disband you in return for breaking that discipline. Or you tell him what happened, and he’ll disband me for screwing up. I’ll even cast the Thinkagram to contact him once I have juice. Your call.”

 

“… I should guard the gate, in case they come back,” Arthur said. “Koume, deal with her. Doctor, come with me; you can still do hit transfusions, can’t you?”

 

Koume seized Lisa’s wrists and pulled her down into the city. “You did aim for him, didn’t you.”

 

I told him specifically that he wasn’t special just before. Did he go last just to show off how brave he was to me? Lisa couldn’t tell whether it was a case of his ego or hers. “Why would you think I would do that?”

 

Because you don’t like him.”

 

Okay, let’s get something straight. I’m contemptuous of him. I consider myself to be better than him. That means it’s a bad trade to get both of us croaked. You don’t honestly think I’m so stupid that I would commit treason at a time like this. To say nothing of my pride in my professionalism. Why don’t you say what you’re really thinking?”

 

Fine. You cast that hoboken to keep the ribbon out of the knights’ hands.”

 

And now we’re getting somewhere,” Lisa said, smirking. Koume had lost this verbal sparring match the moment it began; no matter what the facts were, Lisa always won. “Let’s rephrase that. Without proof as to whether it was deliberate or not, you’re criticising me for blasting someone we’d already lost in a context where it was the only way to save a city and four casters, including you. Yes or no?”

 

You abandoned him without a second thought when you were the only one with juice left and who prides herself on being ever so clever. Don’t try to tell me a hoboken was better than all of your vaunted mind games.”

 

Lisa shrugged. Having powers mismatched for a task was no point of shame. She’d already won two battles despite not having any battle powers, she was happy with that. “You’re not the one I need to convince. It’s all copacetic. You can spend the night trying to think up a better idea if you want. Present it as evidence at my trial.”

 

Koume frowned but accepted this as she hauled Lisa off to the dungeon and locked her in. Lisa didn’t really care. Even if Koume did think of something, Lisa was still indispensable; she was the keystone of their side’s communications and diplomacy, the only competent social engineer other than Tom, and, most important of all, their only defence against the Great Minds’ powers. She would be freed the moment she asked, and probably given the first ride back home. Not a moment too soon, either; they were painfully exposed so far forward with Mount Everer blocking them from most of their reinforcements. She wasn’t going so far forward again until Loony made enough permanent mounts to pull them out if things went bad.

 

She stretched out on the floor and shut her eyes. Tom would have to give her a show punishment, if only for Koume’s benefit. The most obvious thing that would satisfy her without inconveniencing either Lisa or Tom would be to send her back to Ethereum City and set her to dealing with either relations with the Magic Kingdom or keep her working on longer-term politics. That suited her perfectly, all things considered. She could do another of those insight swaps with the cold casters, one of them was bound to have something she could use to bump her up to master-class. She’d be back in everyone’s good graces if she sent those insights back. And if she butted heads with the Great Minds or the other guilds, she’d learn their secrets too. She’d have to make a show of begging to stay on the front.

 

It was only after night fell that she realised that Pro Toast should have just run Gus through and be done with it, if the guilds were bankrolling the operation. That would be a huge blow to Ethereum: Tom would look like an idiot if he got one of them croaked in just six turns, some of them might quit or at least refuse to fight on the front, and they’d have a hard time recruiting reinforcements. They hadn’t done that; they’d captured him. They needed him alive.

 

They meant to ransom him back to try to bankrupt Ethereum … or to turn him. Pro Toast had a Turnamancer. Lisa’s stomach lurched. Ethereum’s casters all knew perfectly well that Tom had murdered Overlord Hiller; it would be suspect testimony if it came from the guilds’ spy, but from a formerly loyal unit, it would be enough to convict Tom of breaking one of the most important Magic Kingdom laws. And they were all complicit, they knew but hadn’t said anything. That would permanently get them all banned from returning to the Magic Kingdom on pain of lynching, even if the side fell, and keep anyone else from joining and possibly even justify more financial attacks.

 

She breathed in, then out. Pleading her case with Tom had just become a lower priority than getting him to send everyone who could reach to rescue Gus before Pro Toast could bring him to their Turnamancer.

 

 

 

AN

 

This was Retconjured less than a day after 3-143 was published, to make it such that one stack of knights became lancers, using the HC that pikers promote to lancers (I had assumed they and stabbers both became knights) regardless of mounts, but they’re somewhat lame without them (they get a mounted bonus and are correspondingly underpowered on foot).

 

In case it wasn’t clear, Lisa’s line to Gus about races was using the Erfish sense, equivalent to Stupid species.

 

My mechanics yield that archers are well-suited to defending against flyers but are underpowered at just about everything else. Scouts are good at their namesake but are weak in combat. Knights make excellent raiders, particularly on mounts and alongside warlords, but are otherwise under the curve. Longbowmen and outriders are therefore hybrids of unit classes with disjoint roles, giving them no particular strategic utility, so they’re almost never seen. Lancers have different builds from pikers, making them offensive riders rather than defensive infantry, but they’re situational enough to be uncommon too.

 

Field promotions really don’t sit well with me as a fun mechanic, because of this exact situation. It always annoys me in Risk when, with no real warning, an opponent spawns thirty troops to conquer most of my continent without giving any opportunity to react, and it would bother me just as much if my superior infantry force were defeated by the enemy upgrading their army literal seconds before engaging, or even during. I suspect that the mechanic was retconned specifically so that Parson could use it in LiaB. It was first described as ‘infantry can be promoted to warlord in the capital’, before Parson knew/cared about knights; this technically didn’t stipulate whether it meant the infantry or the one promoting them had to be in the capital, but if it were the latter it’s so weak a constraint as to not need mentioning.

 

Lisa’s limit of two Thinkagrams per turn was a lowball figure she gave to Tom. She got away with more than that today because very short calls, calls to her own side, calls within the hex, and audio-only personal as opposed to full two-way video are all cheaper. She also doesn’t need to spend too much juice to boost her bluff: she already has high int and cha stats and a lot of practice.

 

Are my magic proposals becoming ascended fanon? I’ve seen a few stories that use the same general ideas as mine, most notably for Weirdomancy. It might not be; I have reasons for my HC, and it’s not impossible that other people might independently arrive at the same conclusions, but Ethereum is widely-read so it’s as good a standard as any.

 

I finally wrote up a cast page.

Part 8 of 20 in Ethereum

Comments

  • Free Radical

    I'm not totally sure if I'm misunderstanding something... but did Pro Toast get two Turns?

    It starts with Pro Toast having finished their Turn, and the Alliance on theirs, then it's Ethereum's Turn and they capture Ellesstee, then the five stacks of promoted Pro Toast units attack Ellesstee, even though there wasn't a night in between.

    They're specifically mentioned to have a Turnamancer, so I can definitely see the possibility of maybe having them cast to delay the five stacks' Move until later or something, but Lisa doesn't mention any confusion about Turns or anything.

    On the contrary, Tom's orders are: 

    « Good. Wait until Pro Toast ends turn, then have the others put their juice into the tower. Jess’ group will meet up with you in a few turns. »

    That sounds like it's Pro Toast's Turn again rather than talking about waiting until tomorrow during the Alliance's turn to spell up the tower. Did I miss something obvious happening there?

    Other than that, this is a pretty cool development, with everything starting to go wrong for them and a rescue to plan!

    A trial with of Lisa with Miles involved would likely be pretty neat too!

    Gus' and Arthur's lyrics were well chosen as well, and Charlotte's incantation summoning a ribbon was pretty amusing (her Madoka Magica Signamancy is one of only about half a dozen that I actually get!).

     

  • Twofer

    The natural turn order in the battlespace is Charlescomm, Roham, Colesworth, Bell-End [eliminated], Ethereum, Pro Toast. Originally, RH, CW, and PT were allied and so took their turn in PT's slot at the end of the day; however, RH and CW broke alliance with PT, bringing their turn ahead of Ethereum's (RH&CW had a double turn then). When anyone says The Alliance now, they mean RH and CW only; they're largely minding their own business and it's basically an excuse for Ethereum to sleep in. So no double turn, it's CC-RH&CW-E-PT every day.

  • Free Radical

    Ah right, I think I was confused by this line:

    Since Pro Toast’s turn had ended, there wasn’t any particular need for them to stick to one stack for the veil.

    which sounded to me like Pro Toast had had their Turn that day, but actually just meant "Ethereum's next Turn is before Pro Toast's next Turn". Makes sense now, thanks.

  • tomaO2

    Are my magic proposals becoming ascended fanon?

     

    >.<

    If you want people to use your ascended fanon, you could use some yourself! Dangit, it's keshiks, not longbowmen!I know you read my Imperfect Warlord story. I mean, longbowmen isn't a bad name, it's the obvious name for elite archers. The reason I didn't pick it though was because longbowmen are infantry and knights are riders. I don't think it fits.

    I realize that you want the basic mechanics to work different then what I came up with but the archer knight was something for which I have some pride. No one had really touched on the idea before either. I spent a lot of time crafting the rules for what an archer class knight would be like and I was the first to bother. The reason why I picked keshik as a name, even though it's obscure, is because it was about the only word I could find that specifically meant mounted archers, which there are not a lot of troops with a special name that fits the bill. You didn't even copy the special I came up with where they shoot twice per turn! Also, they are awesome against ALL enemies at range. It's just that they die like flies in melee. We saw how well Artemis fought, and a knight should be a stronger fighter than a warlord.  

    I'll admit you got some good ideas though, and I enjoy the story a lot. I like the hot/cold casting concept. Not sold on the projections idea though. I'm of the opinion that wierdomancy can't do permanent projections either. I feel that is the realm of changeomancy. I know change does a lot already but the reason I think so has to do with with signamancy. If something is given the mount special, then it should have it's signamancy changed to incorporate it. Therefore, change alters the body to permanently accommodate the new special, while weird doesn't alter anything, which mean that the improvements are temporary. I think if a signamancer and wierdomancer worked together though, that could probably create permanent changes.

    The insight thing is interesting, although, I don't think it's that easy. I mean, Sizemore has had two revelations on dirtamancy, but still isn't master class. Part of me thinks passing ideas around would more likely allow them to learn how to use other casting disciplines. I mean, look at Wanda, who has novice ratings in numerous fields. Instead of from talkng though, she seemed to manage this from Haffinton's constant caster linkings, against her will, even, since she only enjoys croakamancy.

    On the other hand, someone like Maggie, who has done a LOT of linking and learning how other casters think, hasn't advanced at all. Not a master, nor has she learned how to use either fool or lookmancy. Also, the great minds seem to link a LOT but very few of them are master class or are able to learn the other eyemancy disciplines. Not even all the great mind members are master class. Which makes me feel that being included as one means that your level needs to be 6 or above. Which is the lowest known level of a great mind. In the end, it's hard to say, so explaining it the way you did is as good as anything.

  • Twofer

    @Radical: Point, that was badly worded. Fixed.

    @Toma:

    True, but these aren't keshiks. Your vision was of a powerful ranged unit that could be the backbone of a Mongolian-style army, so your mechanics reflected that; my vision is a world in which European-style knights in shining armour win battles with lances and longswords, but that only works if archers and their upgrades are no match for them head to head. I could have, say, given them double-shot and half damage, but that would have been a mockery of your mechanics, not a homage.

    [nods] Out of everything I've written, hot and cold most deserve to ascend to the lexicon, if only because the concept applies no matter what one thinks of the rest of my head canon.

    I originally had Weirdomancy only do temporary specials; I added permanent after I decided that it was underpowered. I could have balanced it by making combat specials cheaper instead, but that felt too much like making yet another combat buff girl, that it would be more interesting to have it be deliberately underpowered in battle and require Loony to be creative to be effective.

    [nods again] I'm unhappy with the insights thing, because it's such an exploit and requires everyone in the MK to be insane, but I couldn't think of a better interpretation; canon's either said or heavily implied that Rhyming helped Wanda and that the Croakamancy link was almost enough for Sizemore. Maggie's a fair point though. It's been implied that she's rather snobbish about other disciplines, so maybe she knows a bit about them but hasn't bothered/had time for internalising it? Or possibly links don't usually give insights to the Thinkamancer (it would be kind of OP if they did), or Thinkers have a higher bar for classing up? My model involves some randomness (Riley got lucky), so it could even just be coincidence.

  • tomaO2

    I hope this doesn't come across as pushy, annoying, or anything, so I hope my post doesn't come across like that. I respect if you want to do it your own way. Keshiks are what I'm most proud of from my story though, so I'm making my case for why they are not overpowered, compared to the other knight classes. 

    My argument is that I actually do something similar to the half damage idea you tossed out! What I have is MAXIMUM damage per hit, and per round.

    Maximum damage is another concept I am proud of. It's a way of limiting what certain units can do and further specializing various unit types. I thought to myself that heavies should be able to do more damage than light units but the attack stats are not always that great, like with Bogroll. If you limit the damage a light unit can do, regardless of how high its attack stat is (and, lets be honest, they can get pretty damn high) then it allows large class units, that would have no maximum to their damage, to shine. Especially if they can kill more than one unit per attack, with a D&D style cleave skill, which we have seen heavy units do.

    I even go further and say that if both arrows hit the same target in the same round, they still can't pass their maximum damage limit. For keshiks, it tops out around 4-6, which is enough to one shot basic infantry. Getting a crit is always an instant kill though, which would probably be the main reason to shoot a unit twice, despite being unable to do additional normal damage.

    Of the three knight classes, keshiks tend to do the lowest amount of damage per hit, despite having the highest base attack stat. They can do enough that they can one shot scrubs, like basic infantry, but against heavy units, they do a lot less damage, because heavies have damage reduction. On top of that, stronger units, with higher defence stats, such as knights, can parry and block arrow shots. The further away they are, the better the odds of their survival, as well. there might even be further damage reductions at long range. Of course, the main disadvantage for any archer is the limited number of arrows, which is typically 24 or less, which gives keshiks only 12 rounds before needing to reload. They can basically run out of ammo in less than five minutes, which is fairly ridiculous given how long battles can go. The only way to compensate for this is to fabricate more arrows and bring them along. Which twolls can do.

    Basically, my keshiks are designed to fight canon fodder easily, which is, honestly, the vast majority of a typical army. This, of course, includes casters, which are weaker and more vulnerable in combat than infantry, without their magic. This, and other advantages, made them look strong in my story, but, make no mistake, I agree with you that knights and lances can win the battle if you pit keshiks against them. Keshiks have some big weaknesses. 

    My knights, for instance, have no max damage listing and don't suffer reductions from hitting armour. This makes them the biggest potential damage dealers of ANY light unit type. THIS is why they are so popular. On top of that, they have balanced stats. A strong defence means that, if they see an arrow coming, they can do something about it. If you put a keshik in a ring with a knight, the knight will usually charge, block or dodge the arrow shots, and then destroy the keshik when it gets in range. 

    Basically, my knights are designed to kill heavy type units and are the strongest, all around, melee unit. I feel they are the best value for your money, normally.

    Lancers, well, I honestly had no idea what to do with them, because there wasn't enough information. However, it's pretty clear, now, that they are designed to kill off units that are on mounts. On foot, they are weak but, on a mount, they get a ton of extra bonuses. Things like a charge skill, dismount bonuses, maybe they are better at ordering their mount to trample foot soldiers... Probably something that boosts their defence too.

    On a mount, they would have to be the strongest of the three but ONLY on a mount, which doesn't always happen. Even on land, I'd say that a lancer would probably win against a keshik as well, if he knew who he was facing. Keshiks, like all archer types, are strongest when they are being screened. that said, they are specialized, which makes it sensible that they would be less popular than knights. 

    So, against fellow knights on mounts, I feel like keshiks are certainly weaker than the other two, and that knights are still the most well rounded of the three and considered the best. I would go so far to say that both knights and lancers could easily do double the damage a keshik could against a single target per round. So I don't THINK that your concept of half damage is really going against what I created myself. I might be misunderstanding how you are calculating things though.

    That said, I'm not sure exactly what your idea of longbowmen is supposed to be, so it may just not be compatible with my version at all. Which is fair. I mean, they could be solely foot soldiers for all I know. That could be an interesting switch-up. Basically, longbows are the foot knights, lancers are the mount knights and knights can do either equally well.

     

    ===========

     

    I'm honestly probably going to use the hot/cold thing if I ever bother doing more writing and I think others should too. It's a seriously great bit of world building.

    On the topic of wierdomancy. I don't want to suggest that it would need to be impossible to make permanent upgrades but, to me, it would need a certain level of compatibility with the unit's signamancy. For instance, making someone walk when they already have legs would be possible for a master class, while making that unit fly wouldn't be, unless they already had wings. Likewise, to make a mount, an animal should be a certain size, or, rather, the RIDER needs to be a certain size. I could see a Weird being able to make an orly into a mount permanently, but they would have to stick to carrying small infantry units, like marbits. Also, extended periods past a turn is also not a big deal. you could also make it so that Weirds could have some sort of sense on the units they have casted on and be able to renew existing enchantments, even if the units are not in the same hex. 

    Actually, now that I'm writing this out. I've become taken with the idea that changamancy can't actually give units specials, they can only make the unit different. For instance, they can give a unit wings, but can't make them fly. However, a wierd could then take that winged unit and give them a flying special. Since the unit has wings already, the special can now be permanent. I'm going to have to seriously consider this idea. It would mean making changeamancers weaker then my current thought process though, which might screw up my storyline a bit. I really liked the idea of changeamancers being able to promote units and was thinking of how it would be useful if they could give dwagons new, permanent, breath specials. 

    Just some thoughts of alternate ways and limitations of doing it.

    Oh, also, have you given any thoughts to making Loony a subject of interest to Charlie? She basically cured someone from being incapacitated. Charlie is also incapacitated. Normally, I'd say that Charlie would have obviously hired another Weird before Loony, but you made her so rare that they almost never show up. Making it extremely plausible that Charlie has NEVER had the opportunity to hire a master class Wierd before. I mean, this could be HUGE for him. He might want to get her at any cost. Could be an interesting storyline...

    I suppose that it could just be harder for thinkamancers to class up. It's as good a theory as anything I've heard of so far. I'm not going dismiss whatever you come up with because I certainly don't have anything I feel is better. 

    Just a reminder, Sizemore also got a big insight when he linked to create the sentient tower. We didn't get his PoV for that but you could tell. I honestly expected him to class up from that but he doesn't seem to have. I had forgotten about Wanda using rhymomancy, but I would put that more in the lines of Wanda learned the basics of how to use it. If she could uncroak better without rhyming, then I'd say that it improved her base ability, but, to me, it seems like she just learned how to use a second casting discipline, rhyme. Wanda really had a knack for casting outside of her discipline. She managed to use hat magic shortly after she learned rhyming.

  • Twofer

    No worries, mate.

    To be honest, I forgot most of your mechanics; it's been a while since I read TIW. With what you've reminded me, I could put double rate of fire and half damage without really needing to change any other mechanics. I won't; I still don't feel it would be true to your vision, because of roles.

    "Basically, my keshiks are designed to fight canon fodder easily": this is the crucial difference. My system has archers and longbowmen as designated anti-air, not scrub hunters. My mechanics don't have damage reduction or anything else to differentiate strong v twolls and strong v stabbers, so that role isn't even possible. I could add such a mechanic, but I prefer stripped-down rules, and I'd have to rework a lot of stats to propagate the changes. I could give them doubleshot and lower stats and call them keshiks, but they wouldn't be your keshiks because they'd suck at what your keshiks are good at.

    Incidentally, you're right that my knights aren't exactly designated riders. They often ride, because they pack a lot of power into limited saddle space, but there's no actual bonus except for lancers, and theirs is conditional. Archers also get a penalty for fighting while mounted (horseback archery is hard), so longbowmen make terrible mounted fighters; it's best if they dismount before battle.

     

    ===

    Part of why I had the mini-mounts was because of the notion that Weirdomancy should look weird, and seeing a man riding a pigeon is definitely that. It's not just odd, it's exaggeratedly bizarre. Other highlights would be seeing stabbers dropping battlecraps larger than their own heads and megalogwiffs worming their way through tunnels.

    I wouldn't worry about Changemancers being too weak, if they're anything like mine. They're jacks of all trades; even if they're slightly worse at making flyers, they're still decent at like six other things. Be careful about hard-coding synergy; regardless of whether Weirdomancers are rare, anything requiring a conjunction of two specific disciplines is a major corner case. Unit promotion is good, I might use that.

    I considered Charlie, and he probably tried it once, but to no avail. He's crippled because of Flower Power, which isn't a special, so Weirdomancy can't remove it. I'm not sure why Healomancy can't fix him; I figure it's some monstrous problem with Healing, Flower, and maybe Thinkamantic damage all at once, and with no surviving heroine buds it can't even be reverse-engineered.

    [nods] I don't have a good model on classing up. I had it not give very large bonuses specifically so that it wouldn't really matter.

  • GrayMatter

    Thoughts on Knight class archers as more of a sniper, take out the warlord sort of role? Artimis (our only canon reference for what that could/would look like) seems much closer to that then to either a anti-air battery or a mongolian rider.

    What canon evidence do we have around knights being primarily riders? I can only think of KISS. Artemis's knights definitely fought on foot, and Archons and Skanks fly.

    ===

    I agree that Weirdomancy should look weird.
    I don't have any headcanons around Changamancy. I'm not in love with them being jacks of all trades but I don't have anything better. I loved Mals Dragon though. It really helped with the sort of cinematography of that first big fight.
    I love Findamacy being about Projection. One of my favorite things to come out of this fic. I think it's a great way of separating it from lookamancy.

    Classing up is a trick. I kinda like that it isn't that powerful here, but in canon it seems like a bigger deal. With the recent GM's state 7 we now know for certain that there are effects that can only be done by masters. And the fact that Jack was master-class seemed to convince the Transylvitians that he could have veiled entire cities.

     

  • Twofer

    Should I publish my mechanics in a dedicated post, like I did with the cast page? I'm thinking it might be simpler to do that and include a few notes on common builds and let people play around with them, because it's unedifying having a discussion where only I know the actual rules, and posting rules one by one in response to comments isn't very organised.

    Canon has Changemancy making magic blankets and other tools, weapons and armour, minor Dirtamancy-style effects, and alteration of coffee, with nobody implying this was an exhaustive list. Other than shapeshifting (a "really versatile" discipline needs at least one hot ability, and I was imagining Mahou Shoujo and lycanthropes with the idea that their transformations would be natural Changemancy), I haven't actually added much. I do have a few other minor powers planned, though.

    Huh. I thought nobody liked my Findamancy but me. I'm glad to hear that I was wrong.

    My take is that masters don't get respect because they have the bonus; they get respect because people know they're a level 6+ caster with experience, brains, and lots of juice (an assumption invalidated by the insight-sharing hack). In practice, it's equivalent to 'high-level', but it emphasises that this is a caster, so assume they have tricks you've never even heard of and which will seem completely unfair when they pull them out.

  • DunkelMentat

    The day... the music... died.

  • GrayMatter

    If you could post your mechanics that would be great!

    Beyond the magic carpet and Dig-doug's well I can't actually remember any canon chancamancy? Where did you get the rest of that from?

    Yeah I really have enjoyed your Findamancy. I jives pretty well with Canon (Summon perfect Warlord) and is fun and interesting. I'm curious, why did you decide on doing the projection thing rather than just having it be a more classic fantasy summoner? 

    I get that take, but again with the reveal of State 7 it's been made clear that there are spells that only master-class casters can use (You need at least 5 master class Thinkamancers to get there). This implies to me that classing is more powerful and more mechanical than you have it. Could be wrong and it's not a big deal anyway.

  • Nightseraph

    I like the idea of sharing knowledge for gaining Master status. Probably happened too quickly, assuming we saw it all. I can picture it happening in a short period of time, but with way more talking or explanation. (Then again, who wants to read or write 100000 words of imagined insights that it would probably take to give it enough depth).  There is some circumstantial Canon support for that, since there seems to be no common thread on how the Great minds made master.

    Your weirdomancy lines up well with what we know,  though my own personal headcanon  has it being more of a metamagic sort of thing. Swap out specials for other specials, alter the casting of other casters, etc. Your execution of it has been top notch too.

    I cannot have a more different interpretation of Findomancy then you. Yours is hot, mine is cold. (A concept I'm eternally grateful for, by the way.)

    Thank you for the cast page, I thought about asking you for one on the previous update, but then didn't because I thought it was rude to ask for you to write even more.

     

    Looking forward to Tom's first run in with Warlord Furry Jarcrafter. :3

  • madmed

    About Changemancy -

    I actually had some thoughts on that (and even wrote some of them down).

     

    The way I see it, it's all about items and item effects. In digdoug's story, for instance, it's written that only a changomancer could fix the mechanism - it was too delicate. However, its dirtamnacers and dollamancers that create golems, and turnamancers that create engines. Where dos it leave the changomancers?

    I decided they can create and modify much more intricate items, and give them effects that mimic other disiplines. They can even conjure some materials and use those. They can also upgrade and enhance items temporarily during combat. That means that the more magic a changemancer knows, the more versatile he can be.

     

    for a little self promotion (and example how I see it) - [url=http://forums.erfworld.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=8580]King in the machine[/url]

  • Impyre (Tipped by 1 person!)

    I was thinking about your insight-sharing "hack", and I thought of another possible way of doing it that's less hacky and less "why isn't the entire MK doing this?"

    I propose that insights which bring a caster closer to mastering their class come from discoveries. It doesn't have to be something new, just something new to them. These insights can come from using their specialty in new and challenging ways, or from changes in how they perceive their specialization.

    Since most MK casters spend a majority of their time trying to survive, this limits how many ways they can find new insights (especially since survival usually means sticking with what you know works because new untested ideas can bankrupt you if they fail spectacularly). Casters that have a side often have more free time (unless they are just overworked and underutilized) it makes sense that they'd experiment more (like Ace).

    It also makes sense that insights into a different class could help bring on insights in the specialization they popped into. These types of insights would come more easily with the instruction of casters who popped in the discipline they're trying to cross-train into. But even in that case, those discoveries don't happen by being told... they happen when they apply what they're learning and experiment with it.

    In short, I'm thinking it might be more fun (and less cheaty) to replace simply sharing insights with cross-training and diversification. Make them work for it a little. :p

  • Twofer

    @Dunkel: XD

    @Gray:

    I've written it up; I'll post at my usual time.

    I assume Ansom's carpet was Dollamancy, but Sizemore talked about it here.

    I went with projection rather than a summon fighting independently mostly because there are already lots of gain-unit abilities, and I wanted to distinguish it; there's the mechanical fact that they're temporary, but I figured it could do with flavour, too. It's not a huge difference in practice; if you burn all your juice on summons, what else can you bring to a fight, spitballs?

    I have new abilities for higher classes, such as Tom's instacroak and twincast. I don't go into them in detail because I prefer to rely on the classics, like wizards using high-level magic missiles in D&D; otherwise power gain tends to be superlinear with level, and balance becomes more complicated.

    @Seraph:

    I considered having Weirdomancy affect other casters more, the description of Jojo's spell suggests it, but it seemed like a can of worms. If a side only has a Weirdomancer, then they're too weak; or if they have many casters, there's a combinatorial explosion and they're too strong. Being strong sometimes and weak at others is fine, that's the definition of dynamic balance, but if it's correlated with the number of casters, it's a swing mechanic, and those are rarely fun.

    Never worry about asking me for anything. It's only rude if you're rude about it. The worst-case scenario is that I just refuse, but I'll say yes if it seems like it would add to the story and isn't too much effort.

    @Mad:

    I think I have that too; my Changemancy can do more or less any item work, other than the special effects that Dollamancers and Hat Magicians can pull. Then I threw in a bunch of other abilities, basically because I felt like running with the theme of crazy generalists, and I figured they needed something to compensate for their lack of golems. Temporary item buffs would fill the role of hot magic about as well as shapeshifting does, though.

    @Impyre:

    That is … a better idea than mine. Have a shmucker.

  • Impyre

    Thanks!

  • GrayMatter

    So no update today?

  • thatonesungod

    why are there no schedules

  • Twofer

    @Gray, Sun:

    Sorry about that. For Day 7, I had trouble thinking of a good angle, so I dithered for a while and settled on the best I could think of; it took longer, and I'm not too happy with it, but the alternative risks full writer's block. I remember Rob saying that he wants to offer professional pay to writers, and if ever that happens and I take it up, I'll make a buffer and schedule and maybe other things like polls for side stories, but until then, I'm only writing for fun, so there's not a lot of incentive. As is, I always post on a Friday before the strip, usually once per three weeks, but no promises.

  • ObliqueFault

    Great, now I'm shipping Tattletale and Hannibal Lecter. I don't want to, but I have no choice in the matter. This is all your fault, Twofer.

    Seriously though, good update.