Ethereum: day four
Impossibly large shapes loomed overhead, blocking out the sky, a trio of bizarre monsters with far too many eyes and tentacles and faces and teeth and exposed bones. Each looked fully capable of obliterating entire armies. The archers and tower Shockmancy seemed to have no effect on any of them, not even slowing them down as they slowly, inexorably bore down on the outer walls. Unled stacks broke and ran; they only autoengaged enemies they could theoretically hurt.
The defending warlord dashed forward, seized a fallen spear, and tossed it into the nearest abomination; it sank without a trace, then fell out again, outside the walls. Foolamancy. He shouted and order and pointed to the wall with his sword, where the real attack was coming; an implausibly large heavy, shaped vaguely like a distorted human but taller than most towers, wading through the ground, ahead of a horde of uncroaked, daemons, golems, and an outsize stack of casters.
The archers fired at the casters; the heavy reached out with gargantuan hands to screen, and rows of arrows thudded into it, somehow without seeming to hurt it. The Healomancer strolling along behind it snapped his fingers, and the arrows popped out, their punctures sealing over. The giant heavy reached the wall and ploughed through it without slowing, sending defenders plummeting to the ground. Uncroaked flowed through the breach, bolstered by the Croakamancer, an uncroaked warlord, a living warlady, and at least five more casters, an absurdly large force to deal with the ten stacks of defending infantry.
The defending warlord motioned his men and both heavies forward to take out the casters and leadership, and they charged, punching through the screening uncroaked in spite of their leadership and the fact that they’d started dancing; they dusted one after another, barely taking a hit in return. Then a trio of cloth golems pushed through to protect the casters, shrugging off all damage and croaking anyone who got close. Daemons charged in, engaging the wounded defenders. The giant siege heavy raised a single colossal fist to swipe at the warlord, sweeping his reserve aside with massive damage. The warlord took his own stack of five stabbers and two knights and charged it. Whatever it was, it was tough enough to take out four of the stabbers in moments.
The viewpoint changed, zooming through the city, into the garrison, and into the jail, as two stacks of normally non-tunnel-capable daemons tunnelled in, bringing Tom directly into the almost deserted garrison. He carried Loony’s hat and wore May’s boots. The viewpoint moved again, finding one, two, three solitary pikers stationed throughout the garrison.
Fifteen hexes away, Miles tapped a piece of parchment; a partial floor plan of the garrison appeared on it, marked with Tom’s and the defenders’ positions. Cap dropped it in his backup hat; Tom conjured it out of Loony’s, and he raced off through the garrison.
“It’s our house now,” Miles said. It took Tom barest moments to track down and Shock the handful of lone infantrymen; with the garrison eliminated, magical shackles appeared on the Pro Toast units at the walls. Jess had been holding back: they now had a warlord and two knights in chains, plus whatever Bell-End stragglers they inherited and a few stacks of badly wounded infantry, and Thursday from yesterday. “Pete, you’re going to be busy.”
They had gathered in the top room of what they had agreed to call Ambese Tower, to support or spectate the battle. Sharkey had a magic item, a crystal ball that he said something vague about amplifying his powers, and which let the others observe and therefore cast at the right moments; he had set it on a table so he could cast over it, and the others were huddled around. Akira and Marvin stood in opposite corners, having traded furious and progressively more improbable insults for the first few minutes, each casting past the other, trying to preserve everything except the uncroaked and Jess. Hedera and Samedi were sprawled over the couches they had had to drag up there; both had petitioned Tom to switch to popping pikers for a few turns so that they’d have henchmen to carry things for them. On Sharkey’s right was Pete, anxious and eager to please. Miles was on Sharkey’s left, actually paying attention. On his left was Cap, fiddling with his hat; opposite him was Riley, the adorable little Healomancer who’d just popped.
“Not that I’m complaining, but I sort of hope we don’t take prisoners faster than I can turn them,” Pete said. “I mean, I guess I’ll level quickly, but …”
“It’s a good problem to have,” Miles said. “Cap, do we have orders yet?”
When Tom had gone off with most of the side the turn before, he’d left orders to hold the city and provide support. For Sharkey, Marvin, and Akira, this was straightforward; gather intel, use intel to work out battle evaluations, tilt battle evaluations. Cap was happy to fabricate a new hat each turn, or upgrade an existing one; Pete had just accelerated Riley’s popping by a turn, and now he’d ride out to turn the prisoners and accelerate their production; Samedi would swipe Roham’s farms this turn, and then go exploring the ruins up north with a mountable daemon that Tom had sent back earlier; and Hedera had several projects going, mostly about defence and provisions, and was their last line of defence against a capital attack.
Miles was the only one without a really clear objective. He knew he’d already helped immensely by making an unbreakable peace treaty with Colesworth and Roham (dealing with Pro Toast was taking sixteen casters and almost all of the treasury, dealing with the other two took just him), and it was nice that he’d been the one to formally rename the city, but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel guilty about resting on his laurels while he was surrounded by people who were pulling their weight. He could only spend so much time redecorating and tidying up the detritus from Thursday’s attack.
Cap shook his empty hat at him. Tom hadn’t sent anything yet.
“Why, feeling bored?” Samedi asked.
Miles rolled his eyes. Samedi had been giving himself airs for the past turn for having been the only one present who’d actually engaged the enemy during their first battle, even if only through the proxy of his projections. As a Hippiemancer, Miles had no direct offensive magic, and even his hoboken had a penalty.
“Aren’t you?” Hedera challenged. “If I wanted to spend my time growing food, I’d’ve stuck with the other Florists.”
“And then we’d never have got to meet you,” Akira said with what Miles judged was her most insincerely sorrowful tone.
“Um, if it’s not rude to ask, why didn’t you?” Pete asked.
“Because Hippiemancers are the most boring casters there are,” Hedera said. “The ones in the Magic Kingdom,” she amended, before Miles could pound the table and raise an objection. “Look. Hippiemancy is about three things, right? Peace, love, and understanding. That’s what they all tell you, what they want you to believe. I guess that’s technically true, but only because that’s all they use it for. At the end of the day, though, if you use it right, it’s all about conquest, just as much as Naughtymancy.”
“You cast the spell to end Thursday’s attack, not beat it,” Samedi said sceptically. “If Tom had been there, he would have just instacroaked her. You saw him doing that at the start of the battle.”
“And then her troops would have swarmed us and won, dimwit. It’s not about peace. Do we look like we’re at peace now? It’s about screwing up the other guy’s war. Like, Healomancy,” she snapped her fingers at Riley, who perked up, “that’s about keeping your own units alive, right? So they can fight more.” She nodded. “You screw up the other guy’s ability to win the war, so you’re the one who wins. It doesn’t mean you just stop fighting.”
Miles considered this. James’ discipline was supposedly all about love; he used it to tame feral units to croak the enemy. As for himself, he loved nothing more than a good caveat emptor.
You’re a disgrace to the name Hippiemancer. Signamancy’s supposed to be about understanding, not trickery like some common Carny.
“So, are we both going with Dad?” Riley asked Hedera.
“Nope,” Akira said cheerfully. Hedera glared. “I’ll bet he’ll ask for you,” she said, smiling widely at Riley, “but you saw him in that thing,” she indicated Sharkey’s crystal ball, “the last thing he wants right now is to not fight. Hey, don’t be mad, Hedy! You make great sandwiches.”
Miles made a mental note not to let Akira eat anything Hedera prepared, because Tom would be unamused if they had to hire another Healomancer to reverse poisoning.
“This is ridiculous,” Hedera fumed, glaring at Akira, who smirked, having scored the point. “I carried our very first battle. If I don’t have a place conquering, who does?”
“The level one blonde who has never cast a spell,” Marvin monotoned, “or personally seen a weapon, the Magic Kingdom, or anyone not belonging to her side, and who is the single least knowledgeable person in this room about literally anything.”
“–” Hedera began.
“I loathe her the least of all of you,” he added. “I haven’t known her as long.”
“…” Riley said.
“Look,” said Hedera. “If we can leave your psychotically pointless ramblings to one side for just one disbanded round, the deal about why we all joined Ethereum in the first place was so that we could use our disciplines however we wanted. If that isn’t going to happen, what am I even doing here?”
“Don’t let the door hit your keister,” Akira said, not missing a beat.
Miles pinched the bridge of his nose. “Will you all shut up for a round?” he suggested. “Hedera, even with a second city, we can’t make upkeep yet. Once we have the farms and another city or so, ask Tom. You can last a few more turns.”
She glared at him, but at that moment Cap’s hat rumbled. He pulled a sheaf of papers from it and handed them around. Tom had sent each of them personal orders.
“Hey, we’re together,” Pete said to Riley.
“Ooh, watch out world,” Akira said idly, skimming her own parchment, then standing and stretching. “I’m going to the MK. Try not to hurt yourselves.”
“We’re just going down the road,” he said. “And off to one hex, to rendezvous with a daemon double mount. We have just enough move to make it to Wolf’s Lair and join up with the others. Ooh, and we’re going through some orange groves on the way; that sounds nice.”
“Nobody cares,” Akira explained as she left.
“We’ll miss you too,” Pete muttered, leaving a moment for her to make some distance before going down the same stairway. Riley followed a pace behind, humming absently.
Miles read his orders. Tom wanted to establish relations with a few key guilds. “I’m supposed to go to the Magic Kingdom with her. Do any of you need anything?”
“Self-respect,” Hedera said. “Some dignity would be nice.”
“I’ll see if they still sell that in bulk,” he replied, and set off down the tower.
Hopefully the field group was doing better than they were. They at least were accomplishing something tangible. They had it rougher, having to bivouac and eat field rations (Hedera did honestly make pretty good sandwiches), but they were obviously working together. Unity through adversity, or however the saying went. Sharkey, Marvin, and Akira were working together too, but they already all hated each other. Then again, there were alternative explanations for that.
He stepped through the green portal (it had apparently been red a few turns ago) and immediately ran into a crowd of a dozen free casters. He took a moment to read faces with his caster sense: a mixture of surprise, interest, avarice, and anger. Akira had arrived only a minute before him; she worked fast.
“A level three. We’re going to get another in a few more turns, this level two by the coast, Maria Avenue; Tom’s going to let me run that,” she was saying, treating the crowd like a posse of admirers, which was half true. She spotted Miles. “Hey, Ruffles. Back me up here.”
“I have no idea who’s managing what,” he said, stacking with her.
“Oh, right, it was in my private mail,” she said, which he parsed as meaning she was lying. It would be a bad look if he called her on it in public, though.
“Really? Well, at least you won’t be lonely,” he said instead. “Marvin and Sharkey will have to go with you.”
Her face fell.
A free caster held out a notepad on which she’d written, ‘So it’s true? You have a working caster side, that hires from here?’
She was one of the avaricious ones; her silver hair and the wide berth the others gave signalled that she was a Croakamancer. Miles assumed that she was close to broke and desperate to be hired; Croakamancers always were. Most rulers were warlords, and most warlords were skeeved out by the uncroaked. So was he, for that matter, but Arthur had earnt them a little slack.
“We’ve been kicking keister and taking names,” said Akira, “and I’m terrible with names.”
“We’re still sorting out strategy,” he said, which he figured was a not untruthful euphemism for ‘close to broke’. “Once the dust settles, we’ll start taking more people. Right now, we’re just here to say that … uh … we’re here.”
Akira gave him a look.
“I heard you’ve started a war with a royal side,” said an obvious Dirtamancer with long dark hair. He was one of the angry ones; a few other angry ones stood by his side, ready to stack up in a moment, as if Miles would be stupid enough to pick a fight. They all stood in three main groups, forming points of an equilateral triangle: the Dirtamancer and his friends, a larger group of undecided casters, and Miles and Akira. The Croakamancer stood a little off to Miles’ side, as though she wanted to stack with him but wasn’t sure she’d be welcome.
“We made peace with two first,” he said.
He was painfully aware that Tom hadn’t found a single sympathetic Dirtamancer, which was a real shame; by building Ambese Tower back up, one would give a bonus to the eight or so of them who stayed in the capital, which would probably be worth an entire extra caster by itself. This was an enemy, and one who commanded a lot of respect.
“Most people make peace with all of them,” the Dirtamancer said. Miles’ caster senses helped him read body language; maybe half the crowd was already with this guy, or would follow along out of conformism. More people were arriving the longer they talked. He couldn’t just walk away, which was irritating given his mission involved walking away. “The Titans left them in charge for a reason.”
“Yes, well, most people aren’t invaded by one on their second turn,” Miles said. “They attacked first.” Pro Toast had had no real alternative because Ethereum was obviously going to attack them if they didn’t, but he saw no reason to bring that up. “The Titans gave us magic with which to defend ourselves for a reason, too. And I’ll be ready to make peace with them, as soon as relations normalise.” Namely, never; Tom needed more living room, and Pro Toast couldn’t sue for peace after without losing too much face.
“You expect us to believe that Tom the so-called Marvel wants peace with a side ruled by a royal warlord? After all he’s said?”
Miles searched for a response to that. The problem was that he could remember verbatim quite a few of Tom’s lines that backed up his opponent’s opinion quite neatly; quoting actual facts could go poorly.
“Hey, hey,” Akira interjected, putting on her nice public face. “Don’t fight! We just wanted to jump back in and say hi, and meet up with some people. You’re not looking for trouble, are you?”
“I think I’ve already found it,” said the Dirtamancer. “You just said you captured a city from a royal side, all of three turns after poaching a level five, and you’re still looking for more.”
“You’re picking on me,” she said, pulling doe eyes that almost persuaded Miles for a moment, and he’d met the real her.
“Look,” Miles said, seizing the opening, “Ethereum doesn’t have a vendetta against royalty, but we’re a legitimate side, and we’re entitled to defend ourselves. Anything else is just demanding that we disband. It might not be for a Dirtamancer, I bet you can make upkeep twenty times over, but what about the rest of us?”
Miles was intellectually interested in the politics of envy, although he didn’t really understand how it worked. On one hand, people look up to the rich; that’s why they’re called the upper class. On the other hand, people hate being looked down on. People’s allegiances can invert in an instant, and the phrase ‘rest of us’ is a classic for invoking disciplinism. Two of the wavering casters subtly leant his way, signalling a change of opinion.
“It’ll be even harder if rulers think that casters are too dangerous to hire,” the Dirtamancer said, but he’d lost intangible momentum.
“Maybe,” Miles said, trying to imagine what Tom would say if he were there. Forget the Titans; they’re a rhetorical sledgehammer used by incumbents. Talk about the interests of everyone except the person you’re talking to. “What’s the difference between dangerous and powerful? For those of us who can’t upgrade cities? Think about, let’s say, Grim Virgo, one of our Dollamancers; who will put rations in front of her if she can’t prove her magic is powerful? Don’t you think that she deserves that chance, that everyone here does?”
That was a solid line; he wasn’t really sure which part of it had worked, but people were nodding agreement. He’d almost nailed the argument, won over everyone who could be won over. All he had to do was stitch it up before the Dirtamancer could rally. He cast around for a closing argument, but at that moment the only thing that sprang to mind was Riley’s song: Triple dent gum …
“Well, I think I do,” Akira jumped in. “Luckamancy doesn’t get much respect, but the Titans gave me powers for a reason, so they must want me to survive. And if anyone doesn’t agree, well, they can say it to my face!” She pulled an expression like she was close to crying but trying to be brave about it. Miles was impressed; she was a good actress.
Nobody said anything. The Dirtamancer clearly wasn’t convinced and was looking for a way to reprise his argument without it sounding like he expected a third of the Magic Kingdom to curl up and disband, but even if he managed later, he’d still lost this round and everyone knew it.
“So. Now that that’s settled,” he said. “Like Akira said, we’re supposed to be meeting some people. If anyone is interested in working for Ethereum, or just wants to talk, come visit us any time.” He paused. Right now, the person likeliest to be sent to greet them would be Marvin. “Well, after I get back, that is. I’m the recruiter,” he invented.
The Croakamancer nodded and sat down, leaning against the inactive side of their portal. Apparently she meant to wait. Well, it wasn’t as though she had much other choice. Neither capital sides nor other casters hired Croakamancers for much, and they had no support nets. They were rare in the Magic Kingdom, not because they popped rarely like Weirdomancers, but because they never lasted more than a few turns before starving.
Miles felt a pang of pity for her in spite of his distaste for the uncroaked. Still, she could wait; he had business. He and Akira weaved their way through the crowd, smiling at everyone, even the Dirtamancer’s group.
“You know, we make a good team,” he murmured when they were out of earshot.
“I’m pretty cool, yeah,” she replied, smirking.
He grinned back. She was still horrible, of course, but a horrible person with you was better than a saint who was against.
They made their way over to the Clevermancy octant to find the Knocks Bank. With all the casters and daemons, their upkeep was something like eleven thousand, and their income was only six. It wasn’t quite that bad – Hedera and the farms they were about to take would lower their costs to a little over nine thousand, they had warlords who could manage both cities and bring income up by a thousand, and they would take more cities and if worst came to worst sack Wolf’s Lair for some emergency funding – but Tom still wanted some security, just in case, and Miles agreed.
Knocks was palatial, high-ceilinged, cool and airy, made of marble from long Dirtamantic labour and encrusted with bling. Most of the Magic Kingdom deeply resented it and a large minority insisted that it should be abolished, but that never went anywhere; they weren’t breaking any laws. They didn’t usually loan out to individual casters – if you couldn’t make upkeep, you were a bad risk, and if you could, you didn’t need it – but they were happy to deal with sides. Miles and Akira passed the Shockmancer guard and were shown to a private room with a banker.
She was a stern-looking woman. Her name tag read Dismal Births; next to that was a pin with Knocks’ nonsense motto, fiducia ac fideliter. She sat behind a mahogany desk and heard them out, her expression never wavering.
“… Obviously we can’t agree to anything right now,” Miles finished, “but if something comes up, we want to know what our options are for borrowing money for a few turns.”
“I see,” said Dismal. She rubbed her fingers, burning an iota of juice to run a calculation. “We’re agreeable to a loan in principle. Depending on exactly how many gems you wanted to borrow, under present conditions, we would expect repayment within six to eight turns, with an interest factor of between three and five. This is subject to change, obviously, if your situation improves or worsens.”
“… ‘Interest factor’ means percent per turn, right?”
“It means what ‘factor’ always means,” Dismal said severely, “that every shmucker borrowed would be multiplied by that amount when it was due.”
“Wait. So if we borrowed ten thousand, we’d owe you thirty thousand just a few turns later?”
“Thirty to fifty thousand, yes.”
Akira exploded. “That’s theft, you creep! No-one makes five thousand a turn for not doing anything!”
Dismal narrowed her eyes. “Your side is small, unstable, and opposed to a much older and stronger enemy about which we have privileged information. In short, you are risky. We have the right to charge whatever we like. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to accept it.”
“We’ve been kicking the crap out of them at every battle! We only needed three and a half turns to take our first city! Normal sides can’t do that in twenty turns against neutral cities!”
“If you can’t control yourself, I will have you thrown out,” Dismal said.
Akira opened her mouth, not particularly caring whether or not that threat was carried out, but Miles touched her arm for silence. “No-one would take that offer. What sort of wiggle room is there on it?”
“None, I’m afraid,” she said. “Bank policy.”
He had to grab Akira’s bicep and squeeze hard to stop her from lunging forward and starting something they’d all regret. “I see. Thank you for your assistance, then,” he said, in a tone which made it clear that ‘thank’ was being used as a euphemism.
In the foyer, he added in a tight undertone to a fuming Akira, “Keep your expression smooth. I’ve got a hunch.”
“Smooth?! How am I supposed to do that?! How are you doing it? You heard what that woman said!”
“Just try to think of something calming, like …”
Triple dent gum …
“… stupid ear worm,” he said bitterly.
Akira narrowed her eyes.
He considered telling her about how much her body language was giving away to even a novice Signamancer, but even if he had the words, she was too angry. This called for drastic measures.
“Aki-lovely,” he said instead, waving a hand in front of her face.
“Hey! What did you do?”
“I turned that frown upside down.”
Akira twitched, as though restraining herself from going for his neck, but she breathed a few times and lowered her hands. He wasn’t worth getting disbanded or cut loose over.
“You will pay for this,” she said.
“Obviously,” he said, motioning for them to leave the bank.
“This feels so weird,” she said, touching her incongruously cheerful face as they walked out. It wasn’t frozen like a mask; her range of expression was just limited to cheerful and sanguine, a bizarre juxtaposition against her venomous tone. “What do you mean, a hunch? What’s going on?”
“There’s a contradiction here,” he said. “But Signamancers can lip read. I’ll tell you when we’re back in Ethereum.”
“Oh, look at me, I’m being mysterious for no reason at all except that I’m a stuck-up Signamancer,” she said, the sarcasm oddly dissonant with her beatific expression.
“Are you at all interested in doing what we’re actually supposed to be doing, or do you just want to yell at people all turn?”
“Hey, I actually helped in the battle today. Isn’t that a novel concept?”
“I’ll bet those two whole stacks of casters couldn’t have done it without you.”
“There wouldn’t be two whole stacks without me. Those idiots got way too close to Thursday at the first battle. Besides, I’ll have you know I’ve done more in the last three battles than I did in my entire first side. Turns out Luckamancy combos really well with Findamancy and Croakamancy.”
“Croakamancy and Luckamancy? Talk about two great tastes that taste great together.”
“Screw you, at least we’re not replaceable by pinky swears and lip gloss.”
They bickered as they took a shortcut through Portal Park to reach the Turntables, the open-air stall in the Spooky Forest where the Turnamancy guild hung out. A dozen Turnamancers were lounging around, talking with each other and some free casters; they had some magic items for sale on the tables, including some a few affable Dollamancers from the next guild over.
According to legend, long ago Turnamancers were the richest casters, because their passive production acceleration bonus was worth more in troops than they cost in upkeep. Sides would clamour to hire them to do nothing more than spend the night in their capital city; they were guaranteed upkeep without having to work a day in their life. However, one turn, a greedy Turnamancer broke alliance and turned his host side’s ruler, capturing the capital and destroying an entire side with a single spell. Regardless of whether the story was true, Turnamancers were no longer hired for sinecures and were generally hurried past rulers and other important units under heavy guard to turn specific high-value prisoners, before being ushered back through the portal, much like Shockmancers, Carnymancers, and the few Thinkamancers who ever left the Magic Kingdom.
Miles waved to the leader, a tall man with white hair and a moustache. “Mr Oscillate! A word?”
“Call me Revolver,” he said, and motioned them both over to a wide red tent.
“Let me do the talking,” Miles undertoned to Akira.
“Because that worked so well last time.”
“In that we weren’t bodily thrown out by an angry Shockmancer?”
They followed Revolver in and sat at the opposite end of a circular table with a glossy black surface and a white epergne. “I remember you two joined Ethereum,” he said. “Interesting side. I suppose you want to hire a Turnamancer?”
“We’ve just captured most of a garrison,” Miles said, nodding. “Ours is only level two, so he’ll probably take a while to turn them all.”
“That’ll be a problem,” Revolver said. “I read a report on him after he joined you. Pete Gyro, a freed level one?”
“No deal possible,” Revolver said, sitting back. “He’s not a member of the Guild. You’re blacklisted.”
“Wait, what?” Akira said. Miles trod on her foot; she ignored him. “I know the Thinkamancers get in a snit about baddies, but I thought that was just them.”
“We’re taking a leaf out of their book,” Revolver said. “Sides won’t hire from the Guild if they can just take any level one down-and-outer for upkeep plus.”
“Ah,” Miles said, his suspicion confirmed.
“Well, what if we get rid of him?” Akira asked. “He’s only a two.”
“Then you’d have to pay Guild rates for the time he’s been with you and face a cool-off period. After that, we could negotiate hiring out, although if it’s not in your capital, we would of course charge danger pay …”
Miles could sense Akira fighting against his cosmetic spell. He stood up and pulled her to her feet in one swift motion. “That’s very interesting, thank you, we’ll have our people call your people, so sorry but I just got orders by Thinkagram, they’re holding a pot luck back in our capital and we’re late.”
“Hey,” Akira protested, as he dragged her out. “What’s the big idea? What is going on?”
They marched through Portal Park. The Croakamancer was still waiting, and began to get to her feet. Miles bit his tongue, but he’d had friends who’d been there before. If she was level one and she stayed in the city, her upkeep would be a hundred and fifty shmuckers, and their treasury was two hundred times that; he could pay for one turn out of his own purse if he had to.
“We’ve got a minor emergency,” he told her. “Our turn ends by late afternoon now; I’ll fetch you before then.” She nodded and sat back down.
Akira grabbed his wrist; he didn’t even have time to remember the grappling rules before she dragged him through their portal. She rounded on him, breaking his spell with a glare. “Don’t try to distract me with some pity case. Tell me what’s going on!”
“Wait,” he said. “Spy check.”
“Titans,” she said, rolling her eyes as he found a spear and swung it around at empty space. “There’s no-one veiled here. Are you just crazy?”
“They’re all working against us,” he said. “At least three guilds that we know of. Almost certainly the Thinkamancers too, and probably most of the rest. Half the Thinkamancers can cast veils. I didn’t make any spot checks, but I’m pretty sure we were followed while we were walking around.”
“What, you think it’s a conspiracy?”
“I’m not sure it counts as a conspiracy if they literally tell us what they’re doing. You remember what the guild leaders always said about Tom before this whole thing started? He was rocking the boat, he was going against the Titanic order of royal supremacy. They didn’t really mind back then because he didn’t have a side backing him up, but now that he does and he’s winning, he’s a threat to them. They’re going to do everything they can to stop us. They can’t attack us directly because of neutrality, but we’re not going to be able to hire any of them for anything, and I’ll bet they’ll try to stop any of the unaligned casters from joining us. They’ll probably threaten to refuse membership to anyone who even talks to us.”
Akira frowned, considering this. “You know, almost everyone Tom took was either not in a guild, like me, or they were but hated it, like Sharkey. At the time, I guess I thought we were the ones who had the least to lose with him, but maybe … he had to know the guilds would be against him, he’s not stupid. Maybe he was worried that anyone they sent would be a plant?”
“… One of us is a plant,” Miles realised. “Or maybe more than one. That Dirtamancer knew that Ethereum was level five when Tom took it, but Tom never said that. We figured it out, obviously, because the treasury was too large for anything else, but how could he know? You didn’t say it before I entered, did you?”
Akira shook her head, blinking, searching for a flaw in his reasoning. “… No, it’s still possible. We’ve spent sixty thousand on the daemons. A Moneymancer could look at how many we had and guess how much we’d spent, and figure out that Ethereum used to be a five.” She blinked again. “If they knew how many we had, meaning a spy. Or at least a Lookamancer watching us.”
“A lot of them are working against us, either way.”
“It’s a spy,” Akira said, certain now. “If there’s one thing I know about, it’s screwing people over, and if they want to do that to us, there’s no better way than giving us someone we’d trust, then have them double-cross us right when we need them most.” She shut her eyes to think. “They can’t be caught or expelled, so they’re pulling their weight and obeying orders, but they’re supposed to help us lose, so they wouldn’t be showing much initiative. I’d feel the bad luck if too many people were doing that, and if they had more than a few they would have lost us a battle by now. One person.”
“What if they’re part of Tom’s group? They could backstab him out in the field. We have to tell him.”
“Great idea,” Akira said. “How? By message hat, going through the Hat Magician and the Weirdomancer and risking them reading it, or by Thinkagram, going through the Thinkamancer?”
“I’m a Signamancer, idiot. I can secure letters.”
She rolled her eyes; he had never told her about that ability before. “Fine. We don’t know for sure that there’s a spy; they might not have managed to get a volunteer there in time. Just tell Tom to be careful. He can figure out the rest.”
“You go on ahead and write the letter; I’ll secure it before you send it. I still have to talk to that Croakamancer, remember?”
“We already have one. What do we want another one for? Does Tom just want more Naughtymancers?”
“Oh, shut up, it’s common sense. It sends the right message,” he said. “Remember how Tom argued that casters needed their own side so we could make upkeep? It shows that that’s working. It’ll take some influence away from the guilds. And you said you worked well with Croakamancers. If we hired her, she wouldn’t be useless.”
“You’re the expert,” she said, and shoulder-checked him as she left the portal room. He grinned, and shoulder-checked her back.
Art by Harmless, who figured that a Palantír wouldn't be immersive enough for remote casting so, logically, Sharkey had to have brought his N64 along too. I like the mix of villains here; the non-villain Pete, minor ones like Miles, major ones like Sharkey, and Riley.
It’s been far, far too long since I last wrote snark to snark combat.
Sorry if you were hoping for a more dramatic battle at Wolf’s Lair, but it would have undermined Thursday’s defeat. Pro Toast’s most experienced units have just been wiped out; it’s going to take them a while to recover from that. A corollary is that they can’t expect to hold their outer cities, so Ethereum should make some quick gains. A further corollary is that dramatic tension has to come from somewhere else, and I’m a fan of politicking, especially the backstabby kind.
Loony’s spells were temporarily removing permanent incapacitation from Jess, granting siege to her projection, and mass arrow resistance and mass tunnelling to different daemon groups. Koume doubled Jess’ siege, Mal Changed her stats upward, Lecter bottle-healed her, and Gus rocked out again. The cumulative effect of that and leadership (minus a luck siphon after the walls went, because bad luck for projections that will depop at turn’s end doesn’t matter much) on a unit that was above the curve to begin with is that it can go through walls and low-level defenders like hot butter.
My head canon has it that a city normally produces 1000 shmuckers’ worth of units per turn (the maths checks out fairly well), that any Turnamancer can increase production by 50% regardless of level (weakly implied), and that their upkeep isn’t significantly higher than Digdoug’s 160 at low level and that there are no side effects (both parsimonious). It follows then a Turnamancer is worth triple what he costs, even without casting any spells. Why do sides not happily hire them for 400 a turn with no duties? I can think of several answers, none very satisfying, but mistrust against barbarian casters is a theme in this series.
I’ve been promised fan art; expect extra pictures to be added later.
Have to say that the snark to snark combat was hilarious. I don't envy Sharkey having to continue working with Aki and Marvin though.
Luckamancers comboing well with Findamancers and Croakamancers was interesting too - putting all the bad rolls on units that would eventually depop anyway to keep all your permanent units is clever.
The conspiracy is pretty cool as well. I guess Pro Toast is going to be able to hire some relatively cheap casters? That'll definitely make some of the future battles more complicated, though I guess the next few battles are likely to still be too far from the capital for that to have an effect.
Tom managed to pop a caster daughter too! I imagine a Healomancer will level quickly in Tom's army...
Another awesome chapter. I love how Akira's duplicity can fit so well into Miles' attempt at diplomacy with the casters at the portal, while also nearly ruining things for him with the moneymancers and turnamancers. Also, I personally prefer political drama over lengthy battle descriptions when the enemy isn't something particularly special, so I think that was a great choice for the narrative.
Tom has two daughters now and one is a caster. I wonder what his relationship with them will be like. Particularly since his newest healomancer child is basically his exact opposite in discipline vs the warlord who has no magic at all. Will the caster be his favorite despite the differences in discipline or will he dislike them both or will having a warlord as his daughter who is benefiting the side help to improve his opinion of non-casters? I see a lot of ways for this to go. Is either of them a "daddy's girl" or rebellious?
I had gotten the impression that turnamancers were somewhat rare (although still much more common than wierdomancers) and considered with a kind of distaste that our world would associate with torturers and that was why they weren't more highly sought out. It would be the same kind of logic that keeps croakamancers from being in high demand despite their obvious combat value. These kinds of things really show that the characters are more like people with personalities that drive them than they are game AI that do whatever it takes to min-max and win.
Personally, I find the whole 'rarity' issue among casters to be mostly a question of what casters are least likely to survive the fall of their side and wind up in the MK, combined with which ones are most likely to find work in the current environment.
ex: Thinkamancers who would rarely see battle and have an easy time of finding work vs Croakamancers who would frequently see battle and have almost zero demand for their casting talents.
So, even assuming an equal popping chance for all disciplines, certain caster classes would still be more common than others in the long run.
Really loving these. Dig the political intrigue. A caster-ful side should be able to kick a ton of ass in battle but it doesn't make them any better at conflicts that aren't violent. It makes sense that the guilds would see Ethereum as a threat, why stick with a guild that doesn't help you that much when you can join a side that appreciates you and guarantees your upkeep? They ARE a threat to the guilds. A united front of the guilds would be a major threat.
As for the spy... There's something the FBI does to social movements and organized criminal gangs (they get treated the same, lol) called "snitch jacketing". It means they try to trick people in the group they are going after into believing that a member is a snitch, spy, or undercover agent. It's remarkably effective, because in large enough groups there will virtually always be one, people need to be on the lookout for them anyway. So what the FBI will do is drop hints that they are in contact with someone from the group. Like, they'll purposefully be seen talking to someone (hard to say no to "Hi I'm an FBI agent, let's chat" and make it look like you weren't having a conversation). Or if they do have an agent in place that person will choose people and try to convince other members that he's a snitch. They have a ton of strategies they've developed and used to snitch jacket people. They usually target people who are newer to the community they are in, maybe just moved into town, just joined the group, whatever. Someone people don't know, who could plausibly be an informant. The purpose of all this is that you start to see accusations between people, counter-accusations, infighting, rancor, and a breakdown of trust and group cohesion. It's also a great way to isolate people you want to arrest or get effective people kicked out.
As far as actually getting a spy on the inside, there are basically two common, broad strategies law enforcement uses to get an actual asset inside a group. One, send in their own trained agent; two, find someone and turn them into a snitch. Their tactics for doing that is for another post, maybe tomorrow.
I hope you found that interesting.
The Luck/Croakamancy combo was inspired from Frozen Throne. The undead heroes have abilities: 'sacrifice a unit to regain HP/MP'. When I first read it, I thought they were pretty much useless: if you were in such dire straits as to be willing to throw units away for such an ephemeral advantage, you were probably screwed anyway. Then a hint suggested using them on summons.
Me: [blink, blink]
[cut to an army of meat wagons/necromancers summoning endless hordes of entirely expendable skeletons, providing fuel for one hero to tank half the enemy army while another repeatedly blasts them with probably the single most powerful attack in the game]
@Fuzzy: My analysis is that Healomancers and Shockmancers are tactically rather similar, despite having opposite abilities, because both are hot. There's not a huge difference between Tom zapping one enemy knight and Riley healing a daemon so she can watch as it mauls another. From Tom's perspective, it's not a problem; like your kid being a doctor rather than a lawyer.
@DM: Could be. There are lots of ways it could work, mechanically or socially; one idea I had was that it might prevent the city from producing shmuckers, so it's just another cash for troops deal. (There's one line in canon somewhere, something like 'With funds coming in from TV, Vanna could increase production dramatically,' which accords with that proposal. One could reply that the funds were only necessary to support the increased upkeep caused by an enlarged army.) But nobody has explicitly said there's a drawback, and casters are generally pretty OP, so this way felt more parsimonious.
There are three lords, kings, and mistresses of supreme evil on the side, and six more who are just a rung or two below that, and yet the level one healer girl is the terrifying one. This says a lot about Worm.
@Crisis: If there are 23 disciplines and we see casters sampled from them IID, it would take an expected 86ish casters to meet one of each discipline. I don't think we've seen that many (and even if we had, 86 is just the expected number, not the 95th percentile), and they definitely aren't IID when you consider clusters like TGMTTA. You're quite right; it's a marksman's fallacy to reject the null hypothesis and assert that Weirdomancers pop rarely. I just felt like it; it means Loony can be lonely and everyone else can be insecure about their replaceability.
@Gray: That's Marvin, of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Dismal is an inversion of Mary Poppins. Probably the hardest character to guess from the picture is Akira, who is from a fairly obscure and not all that great anime called WIXOSS. (It's not bad, but it felt like it was trying to be Madoka and couldn't quite fill her shoes.)
@Dunkel: That is interesting. I had a few things planned along those lines, the guilds' moves and Tom's and certain allies' responses, but I doubt my analysis is as thorough as the FBI's. I'll look into that.
I'm thoroughly enjoying this fanfic, but Miles' thought "a horrible person with you was better than a saint who was against" and the later 'beatific smile' were a bit thought provoking, and not just because I don't necessarily agree with his thought. I recall no mention of saints in canon, so what would a saint be in Erfworld, for Miles to be thinking about?
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints myself, I view saints as particularly faithful followers of Christ but not with any supernatural powers except those given through Christ such as healing(so I'd expect something like a side that had a non-Titan religion with football player infantry and knights[from the football team the Saints] with no usual casters but with some infantry or warlords given combinations of magics to cast[Healomancy/Signamancy to a unit named Paul, Healomancy/Lookmancy to a unit named Peter, etc] which they say comes from a never named or seen Ruler who they talk about using amazing Hippiemancy, Healomancy and Croakamancy among other things, etc) but since I served as a missionary in Chicago I'm also familiar with the Catholic views of Saints and that could mean a huge guild of all types of casters(the Saints Guild, with a Dominic playing a role like James in this fanfic, a Patrick who looks like a starfish(SpongeBob) but is particularly good with snakes, etc).
Neither sounds quite Erfish enough, though, and would be quite complicated to tie in, so if you care about that sort of thing you might change those references to match Erfworld stuff like "better than an Altruist Elf against" and a 'Datemancer's smile.'
About Turnamancy - what makes you think that the bonus they grant is a passive? I always understood that the bonus they grant requires all their juice, and get's much better as they do. if a mid-level adept can increase it by 50%, perhaps a 2nd level novice can only increase it by 5% (much less juice, poorly used).
Two other options -
- The lower the caster's level, the simpler the units he can boost. a novice can boost what a lvl 1-2 cities can produce, adept can boost lvls 3-4, a master can boost lvl 5. this way a novice can boost pikemen but not dwagons.
- The turnamancer boost speed, not cost. You could pop a warlord in 5 turns instead of 10, but the cost is the same. Since the cost per turn is actually higher, it means most sides can't afford a good turnamancer. They can only use them if they have shmuckers just lying in the treasury, gathering theoretical dust.
of course it could be all three...(which is actually my opinion)
p.s. Great story!
HighJumper, as an LDS convert I have to agree with Free Radical that the common (ie, for those who do not grow up with a strong religious connotation) usage of "saint" is simply an extremely good person. Also, I am sure this is unintentional, but your response comes off as a bit argumentative.
We all struggle to deliver the correct tone in text conversation, and that can be particularly difficult when dealing with the varied backgrounds that the internet offers, so please, please, re-read before you post and think about whether others will interpret your words the way that you intended. I know that is something that everyone can benefit from doing.
P.S. A Chicago mission sounds like an amazing experience, I was married in the Chicago Temple and it was wonderful there. I'm sure you have some great stories!
@Free Radical, my suggestion stems from the fact that 'saint' only means a good person to us as Stupidworlders because of our religious history; without that, it's a word that wouldn't exist in Erfworld with the same meaning. Though there might still be a play on it for us/Parson, it wouldn't be familiar to a caster by themselves. My replacements ARE ridiculous, and good examples of why I don't write fanfiction myself, but one of our words used by someone who wouldn't know it was a bit jarring and I wanted to help smooth it a bit.
@Veryfuzzylogic, thank you for your reminder. I tend to overthink things and definitely do have some trouble condensing all my tangents into relevant points in a considerate way. I'd particularly to apologize for how "if you care about that sort of thing" might have seemed didactic rather than its intended effect to say "I know I care too much about an insignificant detail, sorry if this bored you."
Lets not get defensive over this. The question tabled (as i understood it) was: "what would constitute a saint in erfworld? in the sense of an esteemed religious figure, not the "dude" use of saint. " not how it was used in this fic, but merely that it was the use of the phrase here that inspired the thought. We dont really get that much background as of now on the Titans of Erf. Havent seen temples and such or religous sects. Tramannies had a great dialogue on fatalists, toolists and such, shedding some light on the ideologies people carried but there really hasnt been much exposition on pilgrims, religous leaders, prophets, etc that are not rulers or warlords, as i can recall.
I supposed pradictamancers afe the closest tp prophets, i figure there is a reason Balder hasnt dove into this, and is approching the same issues and figures, without directly labeling them as such, too much prejudices and opinions perhaps?
That probably has a lot to do with it. As worked up as people get in this community about things that have nothing to do with the standard "hot button" topics, I could see anything that encroached on Stupidworld religion as something to be avoided. At the same time, I truly appreciate the ability of the majority of the community to have a healthy debate without excessive trolling/nerdrage and I would love to know more about the titanic religion as it relates to this world.
I think it is particularly interesting that it hasn't been gone into in more depth considering that it is the idea of titanic mandate that is the basis for the coalition trying to destroy GK and toolism is really just an expansion of titanic faith as well.
Perhaps that is something that may be explored in the future if Parson gains more opportunities to pursue diplomatic channels. It makes sense that the two "faiths" would focus on their differences and ignore their similarities while in direct conflict, but a discussion of the foundational similarities would be a great basis for diplomacy.
The hippymancers and old FAQ seemed to have their own variations on the beliefs as well. Even this in this fanfic you see that Tom is selling the belief that casters should be more than they have been because the titans wouldn't have given them such worldbreaking power otherwise. It would be neat to be exposed to a side that was more of a theocracy based off of the titanic faith rather than a monarchy or despotism and see how they ran things.
@Dunkel: Sure, please tell me anything you can. Would you rather PM me? Also, are there any decent countermeasures? Lisa and Tom are smart enough to try it, and I really like writing head game duels.
@Snow: I'm not sure. Most of the action is scheduled to be with the hot casters, but I'm probably going to change the schedule. I do have at least one major scene in the MK sketched out, and I think I'll need to add at least one prep scene before then. I could try actually introducing those characters properly, just for a change. Um, what was the TF ref, though? I didn't think I put one in yet.
@Jumper, Radical, Fuzzy, Harmless:
Yes, I meant a nice person and a nice smile, without giving it a second thought. Australia's about the most irreligious place on Earth; the religious connotations have almost entirely bled out of those words as we use them, outside of explicitly religious contexts. Miles is just thinking he can overlook how nasty Akira really is as long as she's on his side. (It's a good thing you don't agree with his moral sensibilities out of hand: Ethereum is populated entirely by people who thought it was a good idea to follow Lord Voldemort.)
As for the etymology being jarring: perhaps … but I don't think it's worse than golems, or for that matter all the Greek and Latin loanwords. Units seem to pop with a full understanding of Language, meaning they instinctively know that their constructs are called golems, presumably without knowing anything about Judaism. Mine also pop instinctively attaching 'saint' to 'very nice person'. Mechanical terms aren't privileged.
If Erfworld has multiple sects (Scorists, Fatalists, Tramennis didn't seem to be either), it could have missionaries and maybe even churches. I'd figure a saint would be a non-mechanical honorific for a very prolific missionary, or maybe someone else very important to their church. The Titans seem to empower Their cat's paws by way of Fate, so a saint might be a unit Fated to survive a long time and preach a lot? Wanda might count as a saint of the church of Fatalism.
My balance rule of thumb of a caster's value is that it is roughly equal to permanently gaining one knight of that level per turn (a knight is comparable to a stack of basic infantry). Hot and situational magic is a bit more, cold and flexible a bit less; mastery gives flexibility without trading off on power. This has only very weak evidence in canon (we know almost no levels or unit powers, and how do you value temporary uncroaked against permanent golems against Thinkagrams); I went with it because I wanted a simple balance yardstick which isn't wildly uncanonical.
(It's questionable whether disciplines are in fact balanced; if they were, one mightn't expect some casters to be richer than others. The Ethereum answer is that they are balanced, in the sense that a tournament power gamer would have roughly equal odds of winning no matter what their first caster was, but most Erfworlder rulers only use certain disciplines effectively. Dirtamancy is easy: it basically reads "Pay us $15k and we'll make your upgrade $20k cheaper." Luckamancy is hard: it takes a bit of thinking to leverage an advantage out of just shifting rolls around. The game is balanced; the AI is weak.)
So, accelerating a stack every other turn is in fact only half of what a typical level one caster can manage. My solution is that it's a passive bonus, and Pete is half a level underpowered otherwise. He took two turns to turn Spear, and a warlord is roughly worth two knights, but turning prisoners is less valuable than crafting an equivalent golem (you have to take the prisoner, you can't ransom him back, he has dubious Loyalty), and he only managed that with the tower bonus. As he levels, the acceleration won't improve, but other abilities will (turning prisoners, vehicles, movement hacks).
I like your take on findamancy, so much in fact I hope it's adopted (at the very least, partially) in the original comic. If they ever go into Findamancy. Makes sense that it is used to see in other universes, as it was a part of the Summon Perfect Warlord spell. Wanda even complained about how meeting all the requirements Stanley was giving her was difficult because she wasn't a Findamancer. But then what of it? I mean, unless people are going to be summoning perfect warlords on a regular basis (or maybe this is why they wanted to charge so much, to cover future upkeep) what else would a Findmancer actually do? Locate units, sure. But how is that different than Lookamancy? I mean, sure you can say Lookamancy acts like binoculars, letting you see everything in a certain area. Whereas Findamancy would let you locate something when you didn't know where it was. But how many different applications does that have?
Speaking of your take on magic, I'm really interested in seeing what you think a high level Luckmancer will do. I mean, from what we've known of Luck (and it has even be explained in canon) that they only exchange numbers around. Well, what differentiates a high level Luckmancer? Sure, perhaps low level Luckies can only shift around numbers in a single battle, whereas a high level might be able to shift between battles, or even across turns. But just like Jess was with the insight that she can project a magical creature, what kind of insight might grant a new type of ability to Luckamancers? Could very high level Luckamancers actually create luck? Like outside of the side? I mean, even if it is impossible (or at least Titanic) to create Luck, maybe very high level ones could actually borrow good number (and give bad numbers) from (and to) the enemy?
Maybe a high-level Luckamancer can simply target the numbers they're stealing better.
For instance, we saw Clay Dice simulating a battle with a pair of d4s meant to represent ordinary soldiers. His low-level Luckamancy made one of the dice roll high. Maybe a more skilled Luckamancer would make it so that you never waste a high roll - if your opponent is going to roll a one, you roll a two and defeat him, but you don't waste your rolls of three and four defeating rolls of one.
In fact, if you straightforwardly make your d4 roll your opponent's roll+1 (wrapping around so that if they roll four, you roll one), you balance the numbers you're stealing and still win 75% of the rolls instead of the 50% (not counting draws) that would be expected. For stronger evenly matched units, the degree it's tilted towards you only improves - opposed d10s with the same system would give you a 90% chance of winning a roll instead of the expected 50%!
Of course, it gets more complicated when you're not dealing with evenly matched units, but I think the principle should still work out. Roll one higher than needed to win the opposed roll, or else roll a one to provide better luck for someone else.
As for the "Why doesn't everyone love Turnamancers camping in their cities?" my gut feeling was- they'll let you have more production- but it costs. Like, costs juice for them sure, but literally costs Schmuckers too.
Sort of like Amazon shipping.
Basic shipping is free.
Your you can hustle things to 2 day, but it costs some money.
Or you can really rush things with Next Day, but that costs even more.
My gut feeling is rushing things doesn't generate "Free production"- it gives you a Rush Production button you can pay to hit, or another Buy Unit slot that you can pay to put stuff in- and they payment comes at a cost that converges towards something like a 33% tax on the unit's overall value.
So it wouldn't be for sides to just sit back and enjoy profit (the Moneymancers would revolt), it's for sides that somehow got themselves a cash glut but know they're going to be besieged in 3 turns and need units NOW at any price. Gobwin Knob after the Volcano. A little like Rush Production Castles Walls in Civ or that Star Fortress in Master of Orion on a breadbasket city/world when a big army/fleet is on the way. Worth almost any price if you can afford it. And given how everyone is usually strapped for cash, how many cities have a lot of cash but not many units? Most sides would milk the Free Shipping option slowly and hope to hold their own little niche in the world. Their bottleneck is cash, not time. Example- Ethereum.
I imagine you can reduce costs somewhat if you have some of the building materials, and it probably costs less of if there isn't much time left. (50% Rush Costs if it's more than 50% finished, etc)
It would cool/complex if they did provide a small passive bonus for free, like 10%.
There are probably some hacks with Dittomancy and Moneymancy with Duomancy and Trimancy- but I really like your worldview that those are Platinum level luxuries that not just any side can can afford to do safely with 3 Master-Class casters and an assured unlink method.
In addition to juice, Luckamancers have luck reserves like the double eagle, except somewhat finer-grained (the eagle seemed to only give very coarse bonuses, yielding either critical hits or critical misses; my Luckamancers give stackable ±1 modifiers). The luck reserves act as a sort of counterweight, so the modifiers cost nothing within the caster's hex and very little outside it. As they level, they only get more juice and reserves. However, as they class up, they gain extra abilities.
An interesting one is modifiers to noncombat checks. The Luckamancy Clay practised is pretty lame, because if you give +1 to a heavy rolling a d20 and -1 to a stabber with a d4, you might value the heavy's hit roughly five times as much (they hit harder and it's a bigger loss if it croaks), but that only has one fifth the probability of making a difference; it's close to zero sum. However, if you give +1 to a caster doing a risky spell with a d20 which would be worth three hits on a heavy, all of a sudden it's a whole lot more appealing. You can try to be cute the other way, e.g. by fudging spot checks when you know there are no hidden enemies nearby. There's a lot of potential if you're creative: searching through ruins to find better stuff, taking luck away from a search so you get attacked by feral heavies and can then send your Date-a-mancer to tame them, popping warlords with rare specials, popping casters (I can't imagine how large the backlash would need to be to balance that) …
Radical's proposal is strong, but I'd require a link with Predictamancy or possibly Mathamancy (Sizemore once mentioned they pair well). Akira and Marvin were trying something along those lines, but not very successfully without a link. I don't want it to be pure Luckamancy, because it amounts to a straight bonus, and I prefer it to require finesse; it's more interesting, and justifies why Luckamancers are poor.
Even without new powers, Akira has a lot of untapped potential. Siphoning luck off the uncroaked to protect casters and other valuable units is one hack; three that I've thought of but she hasn't are finding an enemy scout and sending a combat stack to croak it, then building up free luck by making them miss, like Forecastle v. gun whale; only protecting badly wounded units, so that the damage is spread out, no-one croaks, and everyone heals at dawn; and giving luck to instacroak-happy units, e.g. have Loony give a flyer poison breath, veil it, and send it to gas the enemy leadership. ("I rolled a 19. Do I spot any veils?" "[smiles] No.") Tactics like that are why I'm happy to believe that Luckamancy isn't underpowered, even if it 'only' shifts luck around.
I considered that model, but rejected it as mechanically too similar to just breaking out the natural allies. I have it that one can dump arbitrarily much money into them for burst hiring, and everyone who's anyone has at least one tribe. For a Turnamancer's boost to have any real value, it therefore has to do something that natural allies can't; in fact, it needs to be better enough to justify at least the caster's upkeep, and if disciplines are balanced, it needs to equal the opportunity cost of not having a different caster. +50% for free is actually not great under my HC; for example, a Date-a-mancer can mimic Stanley's dwagon taming racket if you have passable scouting and a spare mount. Even if you don't happen to live near dwagon grounds, the biggest feral within a turn's ride is very probably better than three stabbers.