Tuesday, January 17, 2012

From the October Country: Architurgy

The old house had stood near the crossroad since the Uld Dominion still controlled these lands. Now a rotting shell, its roof sagging like the broken back of a dead cat and obscured beneath a shroud of brown ivy, the building warned away all who approached with threats of imminent collapse and possible haunts.

The Hard Case Krewe arrived just as the moon rose, making their way through the once-fine front door and gingerly stepping over the shattered glass that littered the foyer. In the rotting sitting room, the youngest of the krewe moved to a mildewed divan and took a seat. Brushing a wayward strand of auburn hair away from her ear, she closed her eyes and listened. The rest of the group, arm, alert, and nervous, peered intently into the shadows around them.

High above them, the wind blew through the holes in the roof and pushed gently against the eaves. Ancient beams groaned softly and warped, water-damaged floorboards moaned as the decrepit house shifted in the breeze. The wind died abruptly and the young girl opened her eyes.

“The gold we seek is hidden beneath the floor of the nursery, but there is a spotted carnithing lurking in the attic that needs be dealt with first,” she said, staring up at the peeling ceiling overhead. Standing, she rejoined her comrades who were already drawing their blades and pistols and moving towards the creaking stairs that lead to the ruin’s upper floors…

Architurgy (base 0%) is a rare talent found both on Earth and in the October Country. Scholars of esoterica debate whether it is a true psychic ability or a form of minor, innate magic produced spontaneously by a gifted, yet untrained few. Whatever the case, architurgy (sometimes called domuscopy or “speaking the architongue”) is a potent if limited form of divination.

The successful use of architurgy allows the possessor of the talent to understand the “language” of old buildings. What sounds like the groaning of beams, the creaking of hinges, and the general noise of an old home settling is actually a secret language spoken only by buildings with long and often eventful histories. Using the talent requires a few moments (1d10 minutes typically) of quiet sitting and listening. If the environment is too loud and drowns out the building’s ambient noise, the talent cannot be used and the architurge must wait until quiet once again pervades the structure.

If conditions allow the use of the talent, the architurge focuses his or her mind on a question they wished answered or a condition regarding the house they’d like to know. When successful, they deduce the answer to their inquiry by the noises of the house. The clarity and detail of each answer depends on the age of the building: the older the house, the more detail it tends to provide. Unfortunately, with this detail comes greater difficulty in understanding what the building is saying. Most old buildings suffer from “emotional static”—emotions and psychic residue created by highly charged events that occurred within the building during its history. Breaking through that static is difficult, but if the architurge can do so, she can learn a lot about the building in which she stands. Architurgy cannot be used on a building less than 50 years old and suffers a -5% penalty for every 10 years past 100 that the structure has been standing.

Using the architurgy talent requires the expenditure of 1 MP for each condition or question the architurge wants to know about. An architurge can make a number of inquiries equal to half her CHA score, but must make a successful skill roll and spend a MP for each one. A failed roll indicates that she can coax no more information from the building and cannot attempt to learn more with the talent until she has advanced in its skill.

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