Esoteric Enlightenment

Overview

Precondition: The character must have a Will of 3 or higher and be exposed to a form of esoteric enlightenment through a tutor or artefact. Quasihumans can take Esoteric traits but are at a greater chance of experiencing unforeseen consequences when using esoteric abilities.

Core Trait: This tradition has five core traits representing specific areas or paths of esoteric enlightenment. Each ability specifies which core trait is relevant.

  • Morpheme (Shifting): The characters understanding of the celestial Shifting tongue grants the ability to manipulate biology and alter one’s own form according to whim and will. Master Shifters are capable of slipping between different bodies as easily as others change clothing.
  • Balance (Serenity): The characters understanding of discipline and self-focus grants the ability to exceed their normal physical and psychological limitations. Masters of Serenity are capable of asserting exceptional control over their own body and mind and can gift a portion of this control to others as well.
  • Signum (Scribing):
  • Syntax (Shaping): The characters understanding of the celestial syntax of Shaping grants the ability to manipulate force, energy, and matter. A master Shaper is capable of truly terrifying feats of power, devastating entire cities and armies or raising and flattening mountains with a few words but attaining such mastery is fraught with risks.
  • Tone (Singing): The characters understanding of the celestial tones grants the ability to induce altered emotional states on humans and beasts. The character sings, hums, whistles, recites, or channels their ability through sound in some fashion to create potent feelings in listeners.

Quirk: Multiple core traits and complex abilities are the defining features of this tradition.

Drawback: Altering the world to fit your Will is a fraught endeavour; esoteric abilities are extremely powerful and they can and do backfire, often causing unpleasant complications. If an arcane ability has a dice roll associated with it then it has a chance of Unforeseen Consequences. This chance is tied to the characters rank in the associated core trait. The Consequence range is as follows.

Core Trait RankHuman Consequence RangeQuasihuman Consequence Range
12-10 (45%)2-12 (64%)
22-8 (28%)2-11 (55%)
32-6 (15%)2-10 (45%)
42-4 (10%)2-9 (36%)
52-3 (3%)2-8 (28%)

Unforeseen Consequences: On any activation roll where the unmodified result of the roll is within the ranges above there is a typically negative consequence for the activation. The severity of this consequence is determined by the actual circumstances in question and how low the roll was, but can range from an increased stress cost or self-injury, to arcane backlash, inverse results, or stranger effects. The player is encouraged to propose consequences but the Storyteller has final say on the outcome. Each of the core traits listed has an associated Unforeseen Consequences section to provide inspiration. An ability check can fail on a result above the consequence range and such uncomplicated failures represent magic not working but not causing any greater issues, however it is also possible for an ability check to trigger consequences due to the base result but still succeed due to a high associated Aspect bringing the total result into success range, creating a complicated success; the magic has worked but it has done so perhaps too well, or at some unforeseen cost to the arcanist.

Advancement: Each core trait costs 7x new rank in XP to advance and ranked Abilities cost 5x new rank in XP.

Core traits govern the probability of success and the range of failure, while Ability ranks determine Stress cost and Effect.

The character can acquire as many abilities as they like within an area they have the core trait for but they cannot increase the levels of most abilities above their core trait levels.

Activation Cost: Each ability has its own activation cost.

Duration: Abilities describe their duration

Balance Abilities

Also known as: Monks, Durantyr, Serene
Power over: Self-control

The character has developed a focus and connection to the world using their breath and a level of self-control that grants them access to a subtler form of arcanistry known as Balance or Serenity. This path is primarily the domain of monks, wild adepts, and other small sects. Serenity revolves around the Will like other arcane arts but the patterns learned differ in nature as they are deeply internal, centered on seeking a state of equilibrium rather than dominance of the world. Whereas Shapers and Shifters focus on dominating and changing the world, this path and the powers derived from it are the result of patience and mindful study with the goal of cultivating Balance and learning to “move with the world”. As control over the self is refined the character can wield their focus to incredible effects.

  • Unforeseen Consequences / Consequential Failures: Serenity abilities lack the overt power of other esoteric traditions, but the subtlety of this path also confers a lower risk of disaster. While the results of a failure are never as catastrophic as they are for Shapers or Shifters consequential failures carry the risk of Unbalancing the character. A character in the Unbalanced status must spend twice any Stress to use their abilities until they regain their Balance and some abilities cannot be used in this status. Balance can be regained via a day of focused meditation or other ritual defined by the character and agreed to by the Storyteller when taking this core trait. Balance may also be lost by non-mechanical means such as narrative focused actions (brutality and cruelty, gross violations of trust, other ‘out of character’ behaviours’). Potential triggers should be specific to the character\story setting and discussed with the storyteller prior to taking this trait.
  • Quirks: Several abilities have a max rank of 3 rather than 5. Effect duration’s are doubled on a critical success.

Aspiring Strike

The character knows how to turn their Balance into deadly force, breathing power into their attacks. They can spend stress to increase the damage of any physical attack. The character must declare the use of this ability and how much stress they wish to spend before they roll the attack. For each rank in Balance the character can do one additional damage per stress spent. For example, a character with one rank in Balance can spend 1 stress to do 1 additional damage while a character with rank 4 in Balance can spend 4 stress to do 4 additional damage. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Aspirant Guard

The character knows how to turn their Balance into a robust defense, deflecting and absorbing attacks using skillful movement and bare flesh. Using this ability if the character fails a defense check they can use their Balance for armour against the attack. This armour absorbs all types of damage, including those that normally penetrate armour such as Fire, Acid, Ethereal, or Arcane. This armour does not stack with other armour, but it does allow the character to soak damage which their regular armour might not. This ability cannot be activated if the character is not aware of the attack. This ability costs 1 stress to use.
(Max Rank 1)

Balancing Strike

The characters Balance connects them to the world as it should be, allowing them to rebuke outsiders and visitors from other domains. If they reduce a targeted outsider such as a Sucha, Atavari, Ortug to below half their health with an attack the character can choose to Banish the enemy back to their domain. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Banishing: Entities which originate from dominions outside Aeldos retain a direct connection to their home realm and if banished return it to their domain. They must find a new way back to Aeldos, a process that’s usually quite difficult. Banishing has no impact on most Aeldos natives but can cause strange effects with less obviously native entities such as Shapers with a strong connection to a Sanctum, Empyreans with an exceptionally strong Spark, or Conduits whose Spirit originates outside Aeldos.

Steal Breath

The characters Balance can be used to harm an enemy’s mind as much as their body. Using this ability, the character can choose to make an unarmed attack which inflicts stress instead of physical damage. A standard opposed check is made but any damage from the attack is inflicted in stress instead of health. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Staggering Palm

The characters Balance allows them to hit an opponent in such a way as to stagger them. If the target fails to defend against this unarmed attack, they are considered staggered, their mind reeling. On their turn they can defend themselves and move but they cannot make an attack. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Volition’s Palm

The character strikes with more than their flesh; they use their Will to harm their enemies. The character can make an unarmed attack using their Will as damage and ignoring armour soak. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Eclipse Palm

The character strikes with their Balance in a way that debilitates enemies. The character can make an unarmed attack which blinds and deafens the target. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Flow

Those who cultivate Serenity learn to be like water; formless, flowing, an agent of life and destruction both, flowing around obstacles, to carve rivers in dust and waterfalls in mountain and cultivating a state more commonly known as Flow. The character knows how to enter this state of intense focus and turn one successful action into many, following up a successful attack with another to overwhelm enemies. The character ignores regular Overwhelm rules which require a spread of 10 between the attack and defense for a follow up attack and instead, the character reduces this requirement by 1 for every rank in Flow. E.g. if the character has 3 in Flow, they only need to get 7 over their targets defense to get an additional Overwhelming attack. The requirement for subsequent attacks remains unchanged (+1 for each one). This ability does not have a stress cost to activate but the attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences therefore the more this ability is used to harm, the more likely the wielder is to be left Unbalanced by its use. This ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 5, Ability rank cannot be higher than Balance rank)

Sidereal Wave

The character has learned to channel their breath into a weapon. They focus their thoughts, forming their will and calming their mind to allow their breath to build until it is a crashing wave of azure force. Through focus they can open an aperture in the world, cast their hands forward and release this energy. The character must roll a Will + Concentration + Serenity check against a difficulty of 16. This check is subject to Unforeseen Consequences. If they meet or exceed a result of 16 they can manifest this energy in one of two ways:

  • Blast: A diffuse wave of energy which knocks enemies prone or backwards by up to 3 meters. This blast can affect a number of enemies equal to the characters rank in Serenity.
  • Lance: A concentrated wave of energy which wounds a single target up to 3 meters away (Close Range). The amount of damage inflicted is equal to 2x the characters rank in Balance.

This ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Handoff

The character is adept at setting an enemy up for follow-up attacks by their allies. On a successful attack against an enemy the character can spend 1 stress to grant a single ally bonus damage on their next successful attack against that same enemy. The amount of bonus damage is equal to the characters rank in Balance. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Fractured Nova

(Prerequisite: Balancing Strike)
The character has learned a dangerous technique that is frighteningly effective against outsiders. When the character kills an outsider enemy such as a Sucha, Ortug, or Atavari, they can choose to use this ability to unleash the alien energy inherent in them, causing an eldritch explosion which affects all enemies nearby. The size of the explosion triggered is determined by the nature of the enemy defeated (generally speaking the larger or more potent the target the bigger the resulting explosion) but each enemy of a similar type in range of the explosion takes 2x the characters Rank in this ability in damage. If any affected outsider enemy is reduced below half their health, they are automatically banished. This ability costs 4 stress to use. Though the ability itself does not require a roll, the player must roll 2d10 to determine Unforeseen Consequences. This ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 1)

Retributive Strike

The characters Serenity is particularly keen in the face of aggression. The character gains their rank in this ability as bonus damage to the first successful attack they make against an enemy so long as they did not start the fight in question. This ability does not have a stress cost but can only be used where the first successful attack came from an aggressor and only applies to the first time they do damage to this aggressor. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 1)

Honed Reflexes

The character is impossible to ambush. They get full defense against surprise attacks and attacks made using the Sneak Attack trait. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 1)

Empty Cup

The character knows how to steady themselves, to still their breath, slow their heart, and calm their mind. They can use this ability to regain their Balance rank multiplied by their Empty Cup ability rank in stress. This ability cannot be used again until the character has rested for a full day and used a mundane method to recuperate stress. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 3)

Fractal Breath

The character knows how to control their body at a fundamental level and, through focused meditation and harnessing of their internal energies can exchange Health for Stress and vice versa at a rate of 5 stress for 1 health.

Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the Stress to Health cost by (5, 4, 3, 3, 2):1
Increasing the rank of this ability increases the Health to Stress value by (5, 6, 6, 7, 8):1

This ability cannot be used again until the character has recovered health or stress through rest. At rank 3 this ability can be extended to others with 10 minutes of uninterrupted guidance. When using this ability on others the character must spend 2 stress of their own to do so which allows the target to exchange their own stress for health. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 5)

Mindful Repose

The dead are a reminder of transience and tending to their final rest can help the character find a small piece of Serenity. The character must conduct a respectful ritual over the dead body of a sapient or native of Aeldos, inscribing the fallen entity to their memory. This process takes at least ten minutes and the ability fails if this is interrupted. At the end of the ritual the character recovers stress equal to their rank in Balance. This ability can only be used once per day and does not work on the bodies of aberrations or outsiders. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.

Discipline

The character knows that the seed of physical prowess lies in the will, not the flesh. They can spend 3 stress to substitute their Will for their Power or Grace on a non-combat roll which is also used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank. This ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Hollow Aegis

The character knows how to move in sync with the danger that might harm them, mitigating its impact. They can use this ability to halve health damage from a single attack. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1).

Inspiring Example

The characters focus and discipline can inspire others. If the character is successful on an action, they can spend 3 stress to grant an ally a bonus to that same action equal to their rank in Serenity. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences but does not work if the character is Unbalanced.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1).

Walk without Rhythm

The characters balance offers a form of camouflage against arcane scrying, be that Kaeki diascience, Empyrian legacies, or other Eldritch abilities. They are hidden from the remote vision of anything with a core trait lower than their rank in Balance. (e.g. a Kaeki with Diascience 2 cannot see someone with Balance 3). There is no stress cost when using this but this ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

River Mind

The characters mind is a river which flows around attempts to control, dominate, or terrify it. For each rank in this ability the character can choose one of the following arcane or occult effects: Terror, Enrage, Despair, Attract, Domination. When the character would be affected by a chosen effect, they roll a number of d10 equal to 1+ their Balance rank on the check and keep the highest 2 results for the purposes of determining resistance. For example, a character with Balance 3 would roll 4d10 and keep the two highest results. The rank of this ability cannot exceed the character’s rank in Balance and this ability does not work if the character is Unbalanced. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 5)

Ascetic

The characters mastery of their mind grants an extreme measure of bodily control. They can endure grueling conditions such as extreme heat and cold, exhaustion and fatigue, and hunger and even hold their breath for superhuman lengths of time. The character can add their rank in this ability to all relevant rolls to endure inclement environmental conditions or mortal discomforts. The character still moves down any relevant condition tracks and can still die from harsh conditions if they reach the end of a track, but they do not suffer penalties to actions during this period. Their mastery over their breath also allows them to hold it for extended periods; up to one hour per rank in this ability. Additionally characters can hold their breath during physical exertion such as swimming or combat and are unaffected by smoke inhalation or other airborne toxins that might choke others. This ability does not have a stress cost. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 5)

Purge

The character knows how to use their Serenity to purge their body of toxins, illnesses, and other conditions which impede them. By spending at least 1 round (6 seconds) focusing they can remove from themselves an affliction, illness, status, or condition with a severity equal to or lower than their Balance rank. This ability costs the rank of the effect in stress to use and does not have any additional ranks. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

RankExample ConditionsExample IllnessesPoison/Toxin Types
1Staggered, Deafened, WindedColdCommon
2Blinded, Exhaustion, DazedSyphilis, Grot-wormDebilitating
3Stunned, Shock, ConcussionDytheas, Indomir, FluxLethal
4Arcane ConditionsLabryonch, HeartringFatal
5Celestial ConditionsAyrrotAny

Oblation

The characters Serenity is a powerful gift, but it can be given to restore another. The character can revive a recently deceased target at great cost. The target cannot have been deceased for more than 24 hours and their body must be available and intact. Upon invoking this ability and touching the designated corpse the sacrificing character speaks their name and the target is revived with full health and stress but the character making the sacrifice is destroyed and cannot themselves be revived by it. This is because once this ability is used the characters name is forgotten by all who knew it. They may be remembered for their deeds and the impact they had on others, but their name is lost, vanished from memories, records, and documents alike. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Nimble

The character has trained to move with speed and agility, moving around the environment with dazzling ease. The character can spend 1 stress to automatically succeed on an Athletics check of a difficulty up to Heroic (23). This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Sidereal Insight

Those who cultivate Serenity gain some portion of the Sidereal View; a method of perception of the world closer to Ayr than human. Using this ability, the character accesses this higher perception and can discern hidden things more easily. They can use this ability to discern if someone is a covert quasi-human such as a Tamaa, Kaeki, or Oneiri or if a piece of Helion houses a Heliar within it or if someone is an Arcanist and which Esoteric Enlightenment they follow. This ability does not have a stress cost but the character must invoke the ability to use it, focusing their attention and using their Balance as a lense through which to perceive the world. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Pillar of Tranquility

The character can manifest a calm and soothing manner that brings comfort to others. The character can use this ability to help an individual experiencing a mental break due to exceeding their stress capacity, granting them a break challenge reroll with a +3 bonus. This ability costs 1 stress to use. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Stillness

The characters Serenity and Balance offer them some amount of resilience to stress breaks. They can add their rank in Balance to rolls for stress break severity, reducing the likelihood of a severe consequence. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Koan

The character’s self-control makes them opaque, hiding their ‘tells’ and obvious social cues that an antagonist might use against them. Using this ability, the character can add their Balance to opposed checks against attempts to interrogate, discern motives, or perceive dishonesty from them. This ability costs 1 stress to use. The opposed roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Simplecraft

The character has learned how to craft icons of Balance, small pieces of art or trinkets which are reminders of Balance. These items are restorative to themselves and others. These items can be anything from a carving, sculpture, or painting, to a written poem, or a piece of clothing. Whatever the craft, the character must have made the item themselves using regular crafting rules and have spent at least a day in its creation. This item can then be “used” once to restore the characters Balance. If used by a character without any ranks in Balance the item allows the character to reroll a stress break check or gain a 3d10k2 on a stress related roll. Using a simplecrafted item requires focused meditation on the object for at least 10 minutes and once used it cannot be reused until at least a full 12 hour day has been spent meditating on it by a Serene character with ranks in both Balance and Simplecraft. A Serene character cannot make more than one of these items themself (creating a new item with this skill causes the old item to lose its effect), but they can use those created by other Serene. An Unbalanced character cannot use simplecraft to create items or restore them through meditation. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.
(Max Rank 1)

Paragon Essence

Through discipline and focus the character can exceed the limitations of their species, raising the maximum cap on one of their Aspects by 1. This does not increase the actual aspect, just the maximum; they must still spend experience to increase the Aspect itself. This ability can be taken multiple times but only for different aspects. The max cannot be increased by more than 1. This ability is not subject to Unforeseen Consequences.

Release

The character’s focus and control make them dangerous ranged combatants. They can substitute the usual Grace + Combat + Ranged Weapon Focus for an attack using an Intuition + Balance + Ranged Weapon Focus roll. Attacks made with this ability critically succeed on a result of 18-20. The attack roll is used for determining Unforeseen Consequences. This ability costs 3 stress to use. Increasing the rank of this ability reduces the stress cost by 1 for each Rank.
(Max Rank 3, Minimum Stress 1)

Equilibrium

The character’s Balance make them a bulwark of the world as it is and an impediment to arcane manipulation. For each rank in this ability the character can take one of the following:

  • Balance Armour: The character gains an armour soak against damage caused by Shaping attacks equal to their rank in this ability. This soak stacks with that provided by the Aspirant Guard ability up to a maximum of 10. There is no stress cost to use this ability.
  • Shift Touch: The character can force a Shifter to reroll their shift check to retain their current form. This check has a penalty equal to the Serene’s rank in Balance. The character must spend 1 stress and touch the target to use this ability and failure on this check causes the Shifter to revert to their ‘true form’. If used in combat the Shifter loses their turn as they spend it reverting.
  • Quiet Mind: The character gets 3d10k2 on rolls to resist mental and emotional controls caused by Singing and can grant any target they touch an equivalent bonus. There is no stress cost for this ability.
  • Interference: The character can make overt acts of the arcane more difficult merely by being present. The character can spend 1 stress to impose a penalty to any linguists arcane action checks equal to the Serene character’s Balance.

These abilities are not subject to Unforeseen Consequences. (Max Rank 5)

Weightless

The character is so well attuned to the world as it is that they leave few physical impressions in their wake. They can add their rank in Balance to stealth and travel checks for the purpose of setting the difficulty of following or tracking them. This does not apply to active stealth checks to avoid being perceived, only tracking checks made after the fact.
(Max Rank 1)

Tempo

The character is able to act with startling speed, using an ability and making an attack in the same turn. This ability can only be used once per combat and the difficulty of any associated Unforeseen Circumstances check is considered 1 point higher (e.g. if the check would normally be 2-10 the character is now unbalanced on any result between 2-11)
(Max Rank 1)