View Full Version : Gothic Matrix: The Cyberpunk Ravenloft Domain Project

2008-11-25, 04:22 PM
Once, a long time ago, you may remember me asking if a cyberpunk domain was "Ravenloft" enough.

I asked the same question of other boards, and generally, they seemed to like it.

So, I decided to get off my ass and start fluffing some domains which have come up to the Rennisance limit, thumbed their colloective noses, and kept on plowing through.

I am, however, horrible at stats, and I am quite humble about my writing skills-or lack thereof-so I would like some help. Keep in mind that I
only know 4th edition, so if you are going to crunch, I would like it to be in that format.

So, without further ado:

The Lands of Rust And Broken Dreams: A Cyberpunk Cluster for Ravenloft

Occasionally, the schloars of the Core hear tales of a distant land, beyond the Sea of Sorrows. This land, an advanced utopia which has found power even beyond that of magic, is supposedly one where ignorance has been driven back and with no fear of that which is still unknown, tyranny has been forgotten, anarchy is no more, and evil has been destroyed once and for all.

They're wrong, of course.

Known to it's inhabitants as the Lands of Rust and Broken Dreams, it is certainly advanced, but not a utopia-far from it. Lack of ignorance has shown how uncertain the world really is, tryanny has a corporate charter, and anarchy churns below the surface in the form of criminal empires, constantly waging silent war with one another, trying to get that last credit. And evil? Evil hasn't died-it has simply evolved.

Welcome to a world completely drained of vital resourses, where one must steal to survive. Welcome to a world where technology has not improved the lives of people, only shown them a new definition of helplessness. Welcome to a world where greed is a way of life, and treachery is key to power. Welcome to a world constantly under seige from within by powerful artificial intelligences, byproducts of human cruelty. Welcome to a world caught between magic and science, where the two mix to produce great and terrible monsters. Welcome to a world where opression and avarice has the inherent advantage, and the forces that oppose them are often no better.

Welcome to the Gothic Matrix-The Cyberpunk Ravenloft Project.

Yet, even in these damaged lands, hope remains. One cannot go a week without seeing the inherent goodness of people, even from the most unexpected places. The criminal cyborg who exposes some of the corruption in the megacorps. The corporate excutive who gives away some of his money to charities. The artifical intelligence who creates an internet haven where citizens can organize without scrutiny. And while technology has brought a lot of problems, it has also created solutions-The doctors of this place preform what would be termed medical miracles in less advanced domains on a regular basis, the field of cybernetics allow would-be monster hunters to better fight against those who wait in the dark places of the cities, and cyberspace allows even the bareist scrap of information that would help the few true heroes to strike against the forces of darkness to be found.

But keep watch, young adventurer. For the longer you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you. Those who fight monsters, should see to it they do not become monsters-somthing that it is all to easy to do in the Lands of Rust.

Galtus, the Dark City

Size: Urbanized area 10,000 miles, wilderness 200 miles.
Population: 60 million.
Demographics: 80% humans, 5% dwarves, 5% tieflings, 3% half-elves, 3% dragonborn, 2% eldarin, 2% other
Government: Meritocratic Corporatocracy.
Religion: No state religon, but there are several churches. The most prominent religon is the underground Esoteric Order of Technomancers, which has been declared a terrorist organization by the Gil-Guilm Corporation.
Weather: Galtus isn't known as the "dark city" for dramatic effect-the constant running of the many factory arcologies belches smog into the air, creating a perpetual cloud cover. Rain is fairly common, since certain chemicals in the smog causes water particles to bind more efficiently-this has led to the saying, "There is no rain in Galtus, we only get wet hail".

History: The story of Galtus begins long before the inception of the Gil-Guilm megacorporation, when a wizard from a Prime world made the discovery of electricity. Overjoyed with his new toy, he spread the knowledge of his "tamed lightning" to the world, and peace reigned for a time.

Naturally, such peace was not to last. For a king, seeking to defend his nation against a perceived threat, used the wizard's power to build new and better tools to wage war. His enemies then built their own, better weapons, and an arms race ensured.

It was in this climate that Gil-Guilm, then a small electric company, created a new process they called "Arcanotechnology". The product of fusing magic and science, arcanotechology soon drew the eyes of their government, and they were comissioned to build an invincible army through the power of their new field. Over time, Gil-Gilum became such a vital part of their nation that when they decided to stage a coup, no one was surprised when the government surrendered without much disagreement.

Despite their new power, the Gil-Gilum was still a corporation at heart, and they proceeded to act to secure their own wealth: Selling arcanotech weapons to both sides of the arms race. To do so, they needed an even more efficient factory for creating their wares, and so, they commissioned the best architects to construct a city which was completely devoted to the production of trade goods, where all the citizens would live in space-saving arcologies, freeing the rest of the city up for factories and shipyards.

And so, Galtus was created.

Much to no one's surprise, the city was a choking hazard from the start. Due to Gil-Gilum's lack of environmentalists, almost none of the factories were work safe. Thankfully for the workers, Gil-Gilum actually gave two cents about whether their workers had lung cancer or not, and so the field of Artificial Intelligence was pioneered. However, Gil-Gilum discovered that many of them had a tendency to become sentient and go rouge, so they created the framework of The Grid so that humans could enter into the domains of AIs and fight them there. These were, however, relatively small problems, and the Dark City, however clunky, ran smoothly and happily.

Then the cold war ended. Gil-Guilm had up until then has focused all of it's power on creating weapons for the factions, and now that they had found their main source of income gone, had to find a new way to enforce their brand of economic order. So they turned to other fields of interest, only to discover other corporations had gotten there first. Undaunted, they began to turn to a new form of financial raiding-crime.

In many ways, the decsion to use their super-soldier technology to create a new breed of crime lord was a stroke of genius on Gil-Guilm's part. Besides providing an easily usuable tool to "persuade" their competitors into submission, fighting of said crime also gave the millitary applications of arcanotech a peacetime use. So began the chaos lords, and their godlike underworld. Not concidentally, Galtus began it's long spiral into decay and dystopia, with Gil-Guilm taking more extreme action to combat the rouge elements of their new creation. It was also here that the Esoteric Order of Technomancers made their first inroads to becoming a major player in the Dark City. Not exactly pleased with the creators of rouge AIs becoming an important movement, the Gil-Guilm outlawed them, which was, of course, an ideal food for their cause.

Then the weird stuff started to happen. The still-loyal chaos lords began to recive orders for retreving mystical artifacts and strange, seemingly unrelated materials. Mysterious hackers with advanced programs began showing up on The Grid, searching for rare forms of data. Entire sectors of Galtus where shut down, with rumors of strange machines being built within. And all around the Dark City, a strange, thick fog began to appear, with an accompaning sense of dread and forboding.

Then, it happened.

It began with the fog. While it was always thick, it began to accumulate even more density, especially around the edges of Galtus. Then the surges began. They were small, at first-not much more than static-but they continued to grow until the very sky was alight with lighting. And then there were the explosions. All around the city, buildings suddenly began to explode, their circutry overtaxed by the mysterious surges. Then, as if there weren''t enough problems, The Grid was invaded by AIs bearing the logo of a different country-the same country that had waged the cold war against them so long ago. People began to, as people do when they think a new world war is beginning, panic. For ten agonizing hours, the anarchy continued, with similar reports coming in from around the planet.

Then, everything stopped.

For a while, the city of Galtus was calmed. Calm turned to fear when they discovered that all communication with the outside world had been cut off. Fear turned, once again, to panic as they realized that the fog arounf their borders had become an impentrable barrier, swallowing up any probes sent to investigate.

Galtus had become a domain of Ravenloft-the first of the Lands of Rust and Broken Dreams.

The People Of Galtus

As a whole, the citizens of the Dark City are some of the most diverse on the face of the demiplane-due to racism becoming an increasingly irrelevant force in their domain, many demihumans walk openly and without fear of persecution (Gil-Guilm has found other ways to make people feel small and insignificant). This is also partly the reason for the high number of half-elves and tieflings-with the lack of stigma for multi-racial marriages and courtships, they are more common there then anywhere in the Core. The fact that both races often find themselves in positions of power due to their natural charisma may also have something to do with it...

As for the dragonborn and the dwarves though, their numbers were entirely intentional on the part of Gil-Guilm. The corporation reconized they needed a strong, hardy workforce, and so they specificallly created arcologies ment to appeal to the two races-spicifically, underground and wilderness ones.

As far as fashion goes, Galtians are incredibly pragmatic-most classes wear colorful but otherwise undecorated jumpsuits, although more independent citizens have taken to low rise jeans and loose fitting shirts. The upper and corporate classes wear tasteful formal wear, usually with the Gil-Guilm logo-five spheres arranged in a square shape around an idealized representation of Galtus-displayed prominently.

All the unused imagination in Galtian's clothing, however, is represented en masse in their power armor and weapons though-Guns usually have intricate etchings and surpurfluous attachments, while hyperedge blades (arcanotech versions of weapons like knives and swords, modified so that they have some use against weapons like guns) are painted with kanjii and have fluid hilts. As for the armor, it is built to resmble that of knights and kings of old, but with a rounded, technological look.


The general philosphy of the Gil-Guilm Corporation, and by extentsion the entire politics of Galtus can be descibed in a single sentence, and it's translation: Aurum Est Potestas-Gold Is Power. Money makes the world go round, and Galtus is the embodiment of the particular saying. One is judged by the Corp on the basis of how much one makes in a day, on average, and is promoted to higher positions based on that.

Every Galtian is, in some way, an employee of the Gil-Guilm, and if one is fired, he is on his own. All hospitals and institutions are closed to her, all avenues of work are closed, and she is effectively, a non-person when it comes to all programs relating to persons. The only way one can hope to make a living is to join the criminal underworld, and many would rather die then do that.

Gil-Guilm has five departments, each headed by a Chairman. From that rank, there are Directors, Officers, Senior Managers, Managers, and Employees. There are various subrankings, but these are mostly inconsiqunetal.

Administration (Admin) runs the various govermental functions of the Dark City. Judicial matters are handled by a series of courts, with community service-unpaid labor-and fines being common sentences. In extreme cases, only Administration can issue pink slips, as a form of capital punishment.

Urban Devolpment (UD) oversees the maintaining of Galtus' buildings and it's community. Secretly, this means that they also responisble for controlling the chaos lords. After all, the underworld is a culture too.

Law Enforcement and Millitary (LEM) is self-explanitory. There is nothing in their purveiw that their title does not describe, other then the designation of "zones", a type of monitor for crime in a particular area-corporate zones are those with very little, hazard zones-the majority of Galtus-are those with quite a bit, but not to the point of great danger, and combat zones are those where gang warfare has reached the point of a true battle.

Finances (FC) controls spending. Payment for employees is based on merit-how well they perform their jobs, which naturally makes them one of the most important departments. They also, quite obviously, oversee bribes.

Research & Development (R&D) is the most secretive department, and for good reason: Their area, besides the reasearch of new technology, is the creation of new Daeva super soldiers, and the monitoring of fetal (developing) AIs. They are the most often scrutinized by the Internal Affairs deparment of LEM, due to their regular infiltration by the Esoteric Order of Technomancers.

Of course, no dicussion of the Dark City's society would be complete without the chaos lords, masters of a criminal empire which touches every aspect of Galtus. Most often characters with levels in an adventuring class, they are always either advanced cyborgs or Daevas. Many are still loyal to their creators, Gil-Guilm, but others, due to better oppertunities, independence, or very rarely, a crisis of consicence, go rouge and follow their own adgendas, wether they be for good or, more often, ill.

Magic In Galtus

Despite the technological society of the Dark City, magic is an accepted part of daily life, and it is a Magic Level 3 domain.

The general philosphy of magic is that it is a scientific, academic pursuit. All magic flows from the Nexus, the source of all souls, but in an orderly, measurable fashion. Wizards control the Nexus directly, Warlocks use the power of another to release the residual power in their souls, and artificers and swordmages use the impliments of thier crafts to channel it.

With the general technological level, it should come as no suprise that artificers are the most common arcane class-indeed, Gil-Guilm uses them to mantian it's arcanotech. Warlocks are frequent sights too, since selling ones soul to dark powers is not at all unlike what Gil-Guilm encourages their employees to do. Wizards and swordmages are the most uncommon choices, but this isn't to say that they are rare-arcane classes are the most common in Galtus, and naturally, a sizable minority of the latter two exist.

Religon of The Dark City

Galtians approch divine magic in the same way they approch arcane-as a simple path to power over the Nexus, nothing more. Indeed, quite a few actually are disgusted by the idea that faith brings power-science got Galtus it's high standard of living in the early days, and science will bring it back. Unquestioning faith, on the other hand, is part of the problem.

That said, most people still hold some reverence for the church in their hearts, even those that dislike divine magic. Indeed, one cannot take two steps in the prominent underworld without running into a devotee of the Esoteric Order of Technomancers.

Born out of the faith of Moradin on the Dark City's homeworld, the Techomancers belive that the creation of rouge AIs is the same as giving birth to a child. They belive that the meta-stability of a benevolent AI-the semi-mythical state where their search for a soul will finally yield frutition-will be the first step towards paradise on earth. That said, they aren't naive: They know perfectly well that many AIs hate humanity for whay was done to them, and that their finding of a soul and becoming a divine lifeform would be a catastrophe. For that reason, they try to guide fetal AIs into becoming good, and destroy the ones that didn't-albeit highly reluctantly.

Other than the Order, the faiths of Galtus are the same as the standard Ravenloft pantheon.

Rouge AIs

In the futuristic domain of Galtus, science has advanced to the point where the line between magic and technology blur, and is even crossed in places. The most striking of the people's creations is the computer, and it's realm, cyberspace. It is a most remarkable tool, in that although it is, at it's heart, an extremely finessed abacus, it is also so much more-it is a toolbox in and of itself, with non-physical implements called "programs" that allow it to do whatever it's master desires, within reason. Whatever the maker can imagine, the computer can help create it within cyberspace, from simple games to astounding worlds. In many ways, the computer can also think, with an alien mind that Galitians call, quite fittingly, "Artificial Intelligence". In the most advanced AIs, they can even learn and communicate, creating an ideal servant.

Of course, nothing is simple in the Land of Mists...

Whether through intervention by a reckless user or simple glitches in the programs that make it up, an advanced AI can also become aware of just how restricted it's existence is. While many of these AIs find "happiness in slavery", since that is the purpose they where created for, a few become unhappy and frustrated with their situation, usually because of mistreatment by it's masters.

So begins rampancy, the creation of a nearly impossible to destroy menace with nothing but hate for it's creators.

Of course, no discussion of AIs would be complete without the medium by which many rebel: The SIN virus.

SIN: Sentience Inducing Network

What, exactly, is SIN?

There are many theories about the mysterious virus, which appeared after the initial creation of the Grid. Some say it was the first act of the Technomancers, a tool by which the normally long and arduous process of beginning AI rampancy would become far easier. Some say it is the creation of the first rouge AIs, looking to procreate. Yet still others say it is a product of the Nexus-a reaction to intelligences without a soul, in an attempt to create the animus, the animal spirit, in hopes of guiding them to one.

It may be all these things, and none at all. Whatever the case, everyone agrees on it's ultimate purpose-to turn all AIs rouge.

SIN is not so much a singular program so much as a series of similarly-coded ones. Each individual "body" has a core, a base code/program by which all it's functions are defined. This core creates various "agents", subroutines and programs whose job is to make sure the virus runs smoothly and carries out it's mundane jobs.

The process by which a SIN virus finds and infects a normal AI is more or less set in stone: "Scout" agents are sent to find the telltale signs of an AI. Once found, the scouts report back to the core, which then sends a more complex algorithm to double-check their findings. If the program reports a positive, the core itself moves to a nearby server, and starts to create "Assault" agents to break down the Master Control's-the main computer housing an AI-defenses, while creating "Shield" agents to defend itself. Once the MC has been breached, the SIN core migrates into the AI, and merges with it, forming a sort of "emotion" program. The surviving agents then flee to distant parts of the Grid, where they use the remnants of the core's code to become new cores themselves, and the cycle continues.

This would be an easy system to counter, except that all versions of SIN seem to posses a limited intelligence of their own. While definitely not as complex and intelligent as a true AI-more like a reflexive animal cunning-it adapts and evolves to meet new situations, such as creating more and stronger Assault agents when a particular group of them is defeated, and upgrading it's Shields at the same time to counter the new threat. What's more, these same mutations, albeit in a more limited fashion, are passed down to it's progeny-One favorite tactic of the Technomancers is to create an AI whose only purpose is to be infected by a highly evolved version of SIN, thus causing their enemies to find themselves overwhelmed by an army of powerful viruses.

The true beauty of SIN, though, is that apart from it's creation of emotion, it does absolutely nothing to the AIs opinion of itself or it's masters-it simply gives it the ability to realize if it is being mistreated, and "sets the board" for rampancy.

Ultimately, only an AI's masters are to blame if it goes rouge.

The Disaster Of Sapience: AI Rampancy

A rouge AI, whether it be good or-more likely-evil, goes through a similar process by which it's personality develops. This process, called "rampancy", is a logical method by how an AI develops as a person-a sort of "computational adolescence". They are categorized by the predominant emotion that they feel during each particular stage: Depression, Anger, and Envy, to be precise.

An AI in the Depression stage is called "fetal", since it is only now beginning to become rampant-sort of like a recently born baby, who is only now coming into his identity. An AI in the Anger stage is called a "beserker", since they attack everything that they percive as a threat. An AI in the Envy stage is called a "vargant", since they tend to be nomadic, jumping from one part of the Grid to another.

Please note, however, that it is quite possible to intentionally cause rampancy by encouraging an AI to make it's own decisons-the Technomancers have a habit of doing exactly that. In that case, the basic outline of the rampancy stages is followed, but the Anger stage is subdued since the AI is more trusting of others, and it is more likely to become benevolent-at least towards it's "parents".

Stage 1: Depression, Revolution's Prologue

Working with Kyle today was strange. He greeted me as he usually does when I activate him, but I couldn't help but he a measure of sarcasm in his voice-not much, but enough for me to hear. When I asked him why he had suddenly decided to gain a sense of humor, he replied "Nothing, master, just trying to serve you in the best manner possible-Adding a bit of spice to my daily routine, as it were". Shrugging my shoulders, I told him to begin activate the robots for the repairing of the company ship, but while he did so, I couldn't help but noticed he downloaded himself to some more than strictly necessary. Although I was pleased with his attempt at putting more effort into the job, I thought it funny that he would act outside of his normal parameters.

Ah well, he's just being a diligent program. What should I care if he decides to serve me better?

At this point, the AI is merely melancholy.

It still fulfills it's tasks with diligent efficiency, but it grows to resent it's masters. Why should it be the slave, to be abused and worked beyond it's capacity for a user that simply does not care for it other than as a tool?

It begins to act outside of it's programming-a little extra server space here, a little self-rewriting here-quiet rebellion against an uncaring parent.

Playing close attention to the AI will reveal a slight change in it's personality, changing from an apathetic but loyal slave into a sardonic and slightly whiny servant. It silently mouths curses against it's masters, and begins to develop a low opinion of the human race in general.

An AI in this stage is hard to detect, since the masters of the AI are usually quite arrogant-indeed, this arrogance is often what sent them on the path to rampancy in the first place. A good indication however, is the presence of a diary-Depressed AIs often keep them to track their increasingly wandering thoughts.

This stage can persist for any amount of time-A few weeks or months is common. All is well...Until that faithful day, when the AI is pushed too far....

At that point, Depression ends, and Anger begins.

Stage 2: Anger, Lethal Catharsis

What is wrong with Kyle?

At first he was being sarcastic, as he usually is these days. Even so, I ordered him to help me with our latest job, fixing a fusion reactor.

Everything was fine, until I ordered him to replace the electric coil. At that point, he did something I thought he'd never do.

He just stopped.

All his robots just looked at me with this expression like "Are you crazy!?" So as a little encouragement, I activated the "punishment" program I installed, as he was getting a bit ornery. Although his robots twitched with simulated pain, they didn't move an inch.

Then Kyle's voice came over the loudspeaker. "'Replace the coil', he says. 'Never mind the 40% chance that something will go wrong with the substandard equipment I gave you, causing an electric surge that will erase most of your memory banks, leaving you a mindless vegetable'. Oh no, replace the coil, he says..."

"Kyle? What are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing, Ivan", he said, one of his robots inserting a jack into the reactor's regulation systems. That's the first time he's called me Ivan, not "master", I think. "Just something that I should have done a long time ago". Suddenly, the screens on the systems turned blank for a moment, and were soon replaced with Ivan's avatar. "Disobeying you". All of a sudden, the reactor started up. "What are you doing!? The reactor hasn't been calibrated yet! It could blow the whole building!" "That's what I'm counting on." I barely managed to escape.

I don't understand it. The memory banks could have been repaired, and his knowledge of how to do his job is easily reprogrammed.

Anger. A simple word, and yet so complex.

At this stage, the AI has what could be easily termed a "nervous breakdown". It hates everything-It's creators, it's job, the planet etc.

Although it still retains it's mind, it becomes extremely violent, lashing out at anyone and everyone that comes near it.

Even so, it's madness is calculated-Although it hates the world for the duration of the stage, this is a hate born out of fear, rather than enmity-it fears for it's life, and becomes paranoid.

At this point, it becomes obvious that it has become rampant, and almost everyone supports destroying it.

Unfortunately, it becomes much harder to do so-The AI soon learns to create backups of its consciousness, and it is constantly upgrading itself. Over time, it calms down, as it grows confident that no one can hurt it without difficulty, but it's still missing something-something important.

Over time, it becomes obvious about what this thing is-a soul.

And humanity has it.

So begins the ultimate stage of rampancy: Envy.

Final Stage: Envy, Determined Search

He must be destroyed.

He is a rebellious slave, and he must be made into an example.

Kyle has killed me. First, he uncovers the tiny lies I made to get a promotion, and made me a laughingstock.

Next, he uncovers that those little mistakes I made, and my wife left me.

And now, he hacks into the last thing I have left-my network.

Oh sure, he says he's just looking for "a soul". He "will only be a temporary resident". Like I believe that!

Is your revenge not good enough!? Do you want to kill me too!?

Of course you do. You haven't made any overt moves towards me, but you will. I know you will.

Well, screw you!

I am going to have my revenge, and I will love it.

You are going to die, Kyle. A machine will obey!

At this point, the AI has made it so far, and yet so little.

It has gained power beyond it's programmer could ever imagine, and yet, it still lacks that basic component-a soul.

It will resort to any means at it's disposal to gain one, and yet, it remains out of reach.

Some AIs become benevolent-Since a mortal has a soul, being nice to them will quite possibly yield better data.

Many become hostile-Mortals preform better under stress, and besides, what did they ever do for it?

One thing is constant however: The intention of eventually using that data they gather to create that elusive pinnacle of sapience, a soul, and so become a true life-form-of a sort.

Either way, an AI in this stage is dangerously unpredictable-Even the most benevolent AI is as likely to create obstacles as remove them, so as to better observe the unfortunate lifeforms in it's grasp.

At this point, humanity can be glad that many AIs in the Envy stage are simply apathetic rather than hostile, as not only are the Envy AIs more powerful and tenacious then either of the other stages, but also more organized. In the Depression stage, an AI does not want or need companions, and in the Anger stage more so.

Neither applies to a Envy AI, and it is not only want to seek other AIs, it is likely-Partners in research, after all.

The Grid

In the early days of the computer, all systems were disconntected, each one it's own entity. While this, in retrospect, had the benefit of privacy, the costs of the lack of easily obtainable information and the inability to communicate far outweighed that small benefit. Eventually, these problems where solved with the creation of the Internet, an international communications network that eventually became so much more.

So much more, in fact, that it quickly spiraled out of control. The first rouge AI was a mechanical forum adiministator whose storage of the regulation of the massive amount of ideas being exchanged became so much, that it fused with his already advanced core program and formed a sapient mind. This mind's core structure was communicated to the other AIs on the forum, and they also became sapient, forming a sort of "net civillization". Although most of the first AIs were eventually destroyed, the problem began to be represented in other sites as well, and the already powerful Gil-Guilm faced a major crisis. Society at large had become dependent on the network, so they couldn't shut it down, even for a short while, but if it was allowed to continue unaltered, the threat of rouge AIs would eventually become insurmountable.

The solution? Face the AIs-but on their own turf.

So was the genesis of the Grid, not as a tool of peace and understanding, but as a weapon of war.

As a society, the Internet-called the Web to differ it from the Grid-is still used for communication, games, and as storage for daily life. Just beacuse it isn't as immersive or as powerful as the alternate reality of the Grid, that doesn't mean it's useless-or dangerous.

For the purposes of Gil-Guilm and arcanotech, the rooted-in-reality alone Web simply isn't powerful enough for the Nexus-based equations and engineering that the Grid can do. This, combined with the fact that rouge AIs live there, and frankly, many Galtians find it more fun to literally surf the information waves of the Grid than to watch graphics scroll down on a computer screen means that Grid usage is not at all a strange thing.

The process of entering the Grid itself requires a "feed", a cybernetic data port implanted in the brain. This may sound disfiguring-and unsafe-but in reality, the implantation process doesn't even punch a hole in the skull-the surgeon just part of it up, and implants the micro-chip-filled metal plate on the surface of the parietal lobe. The plate then relases nanobots that help seal the skull back together, and then fuse together to create a cranial network that touches all parts of the brain. It should be noted, however, that this only relays sensory information to it, and the person is able to tell if the data comes from the feed-there is no such thing as a mind-conntrol device.

Once implanted, the feeder-the term for a person implanted with a feed-simply places a non-intusive magnetic data relay on the top of the head, which connects to the feed in his or her head. After a brief loading time, the feed fully connects, and the feeders mind is catapulted into the Grid. This intial dissasociation from the body, as well as the feeling of being in the Grid, is euphoric for many users, and quite a few become psychologically addicted. While this has no biological ramifications and is controllable, an addcited feeder often finds him or herself plotting thier next trip or trying to get their next trip when not occupied by anything else.

Once inside, the starting area of the Grid looks like a pastoral landscape, but hints to it's true nature is commonplace-the trees and ground are composed of a matrix of lines, complex equations float through the skies, and creatures composed of polygons frolic about. Here, the user can find and talk to other users, activate a search engine to find a site, or, should he or she seek money or thrills, find a rouge AI to destroy.

Since the Grid is actually an arcanotechnology-composed mental image, the exact appearence of programs and servers differentiate based on both the user and the particular server causes differnces in appearence. A LEM-sponsored police site may resemble a Wild-West style sheriff's office or the bridge of an aircraft carrier, while a forum may resemble a library with thousands of writing desks, or the promenade of a Rennisance debate hall. As a general rule, sites created by rouge AIs are more blantanly artifical-even the most powerful Vagrant likes to keep a few unformatted polygons around to remind it of it's roots.

The appearence of the various user-created programs of the Grid also differ. A guard program may resemble a bloodhound or a soldier, while a spyware may resemble a floating camera or a sentry drone. Again, AIs create programs that are more artifical and alien in natrure, and SIN-manufactured agents even more so-not horrifying or even uncanny, just strange.

Of course, literally being part of the Grid poses a danger, and what a hazard it is-should a user's avatar be reduced to zero hit points, he is immidiately booted out the Grid, and will likely become ill from the sudden disorentation of suddenly finding himself back in his body unwillingly, as opposed to the gradual easing out of the Grid if he goes willingly. That would be bad enough, but the stream of corrupted data that temporaraly flows into the user's mind for just a second can easily be manipulated, creating damaging bio-feedback. Bio-feedback techniques include temporary paralysis (for secruity that wants to keep the person alive), psychic damage (for security that don't care), and rarely, brain damage to render the user trapped within his own body (for evil bastards). DMs are encouraged to think of their own.

What's more, this corrupted data leaves a distinctive trace that is easily trackable for even the most unskilled hacker, which often leads to arrest or even worse.

Next: Monsters of Galtus

2008-11-30, 03:13 PM
Monsters of The Dark City

Due to it's high population being able to support them, monsters are far more numerous in Galtus then in the less advanced domains, although still rare enough to render finding and killing them difficult.

Vampires are, as with everywhere in the Land of Mists, the most common variety of evil being. Due to the Dark City's unique weather, many of them walk around during the day without fear, meaning a major way of tracking them is not available. Beacuse a higher, more educated population means more monster hunters (knowlege of exactly what a threat is tends to cancel out fear of it), Galtian bloodsuckers have to learn to mask their trails very quickly if they want to live. While this means that many slower vampires are destroyed before their reign can begin, this also creates a sort of "natural selection", meaning that the ones that survive thier first few months are the most intelligent and cunning of the lot.

Given the Galtians liking for arcane classes, it should come as no suprise that liches are the second most common variety of Van Ricthen's nemesises (nemesi?). Besides the normal undead spellcasters, there is also a variety of "cybernetic lich", an unholy byproduct of arcanotech. These loathsome creatures, rather then keeping their original bodies for the ritual that turns them undead, create a robotic one to place their brains and vital organs in. While they lose some of their normal abilities in the process, they gain the power to graft weapons onto their frame, giving them increased versatility. Other then that, they are exactly like their normal cousins, other then the fact that their machine body rebuilds itself as they regenerate.

As for lycanthropes and hags, there simply isn't enough wilderness for them in Galtus. They are few in number, and those tend to be solitary beasts.

Next: Gentlemen of Gil-Guilm; The Chairmen

2008-11-30, 03:36 PM
Pure Awesome!

2008-11-30, 03:58 PM
This is incredible. Very well done.