Life is a fragile thing, easily damaged in a myriad ways, and all too easily changed by the energies of magic. This twisting is known as warping, and tends only to occur as a result of close personal encounters with powerful magics that follow a different pattern of how the world ought to work.
After exposure to warping forces, you need to make a mutation check: roll your Willpower against the number of Warping Points you have acquired. If the Outcome is at least 0, you’re fine; if it’s negative, check the Warping Effects table. There are two situations in which you must deal with warping: short-term warping builds up quickly and discharges quickly, while long-term warping builds up slowly over time and dissipates slowly.
Short-term warping lasts only as long as a single fight. Your short-term warping total is the sum of your long-term warping and your short-term warping. After a fight in which you encounter warping energies, make a mutation check. Every five full points of short-term warping adds a point to your long-term total; after that, your slate is clear.
Example: Narya is surprised by a chaos wave and spends nine shots getting clear. As she catches her breath, she has to make a mutation check; she throws in a Fortune point, rolls a – on the regular die and a +3 on the Fortune die; her total is just 9, and she suffers no actual warping. Her long-term total goes to 1, however.
The next day, she is assaulted by a Chaos wizard, who hits her with a Blast that inflicts 12 points of warping. Her short-term total is 13, because the long-term total adds to the short-term points. When the short-term warping dissipates, she will have 3 long-term warping points.
Long-term warping takes weeks, months, or years to take effect, and generally occurs as a side effect of living in a highly magical environment or regularly working with forces beyond your complete control. Mutation checks for long-term warping need to be made any time your long-term warping has increased by at least 3 since the last check, but not more than once in a week. If a character suffering from long-term warping enters a magically neutral environment, their long-term warping usually fades about twice as fast as it was acquired, with a limit of about one point per week. Magical environments hostile to the nature of the warping will make the warping fade faster, but the process can be painful and occasionally disfiguring.
|–1||Minor cosmetic changes|
|–4||Noticeable cosmetic changes; subtle psychological changes|
|–7||Major cosmetic changes; minor psychological changes|
|–9||Monstrous features; serious psychological problems|
Minor cosmetic changes are trivial and tend to be easily concealable. Changes in eye color, hair turning lank and dull, small tattoos or patches of scales or fur or down appearing in a limited area on the skin, fingernails elongating and hardening...
Noticeable cosmetic changes are hard to conceal— changes in hair color, sharpened teeth, patches of scales or fur or down covering an area the size of a forearm...
Subtle psychological changes are difficult to notice: a slow change in aesthetic preferences, an emphasis of some personality traits over others.
Major cosmetic changes include growing retractile claws, extra eyes, horns, fur or scales covering an entire limb, and so on.
Minor psychological changes include compulsive behavior, insomnia, and terrible nightmares.
The onset of Monstrous features indicates that the person has been warped away from their basic species; at this point, their entire skeleton may change shape, new limbs may sprout, complete pelts of fur, feathers, or scales can occur, antlers, ... At this point, they may begin “discovering” new Creature Powers (as the player gets GM permission and pays for them with experience).
Serious psychological problems can be a new craving for human flesh, sudden claustrophobia or antisocial behavior, amnesia, and the development of split personalities (as a way of partioning one’s own identity from the intrusive factors caused by warping).
When the Attribute changes hit, primary attributes start changing. Typical changes are –1 Mind, +1 Body; –1 Chi, +1 Magic; –1 Ref, +1 Body; –1 Ref, +1 Magic. Attribute changes grow with the number of points by which you fail your test: a score of –11 means one stat changes by one; a score of –14 means four changes. If a primary attribute other than Chi is reduced to 0 through warping, the victim undergoes such radical changes as to be a non-player character.
Dissolution is not necessarily complete destruction, but it does mean a radical transformation that is irrecoverable without divine aid. (Someone falling in Chaos would simply dissolve, perhaps with a few flying creatures escaping in the cloud of transformation and carrying a link to the character’s soul; dissolution through necromantic energy would turn someone into one of the more unsavory sorts of undead.)
Warping can occur in many ways. Direct exposure to chaos is the most common, and is the reason that only the occasional lighthouse keeper actually lives close to it (and they live in stone towers on promontories well above the stuff). Others can be caused by overexposure to different kinds of magic.
Chaos warping is, as you would expect, quite random. The “library” of effects that Chaos seems to use covers the entire gamut of features of living creatures, and is quite capable of mixing plant and animal features, and achieving exotic colors not previously found in nature. There is a very loose correlation between a person’s personality and the aesthetic of the warping that occurs; GM’s may offer players a Willpower roll to impress them in this regard, or arbitrarily decide an effect.
|Magic + Outcome||Chaos blast|
|1 per minute||Chaos mist|
|1 per sequence||Chaos storm|
|1 per shot||Chaos wave|
|5 per shot||Full immersion|
Chaos produces short-term warping easily. A chaos mist is a diffuse cloud of the stuff; these often occur at altitudes above full chaos storms, which occur when a large chunk of chaos briefly becomes lighter than air and floats into inhabited territory, breaking up as it does so. A chaos wave only occurs at the edge of chaos, and is simply a massive chunk that suddenly slopped over the border. Full immersion is incredibly difficult to survive; a person may take three shots and make a Willpower check against a Difficulty of 10 + the number of shots they have been immersed in the chaos in order to be bodily ejected in the general direction of a safe landing, if any. Characters with powers of Flight can escape directly; those with powers such as Prodigious Leap only have a Willpower Difficulty of 5 + the number of shots they have been immersed in order to get enough purchase on the chaos to leap.
Magical energy has a warping aesthetic that matches the area of the spiritual or transcendent world from which it arises. Ordinary usage of thaumaturgy and theurgy does not cause warping; only working with extraordinary amounts of power does that.
The energies of nature, being aligned with living things in general, are less warping than others. Extreme cases will tend to develop the animalistic traits present in a person; only highly enlightened individuals can withstand such power without changing. (It can be dangerous to study with those little old martial arts masters who live in the heart of the magic forest!)
Working with energies that stem from Unlife— including Necros— warp a person toward being a functional part of the unliving ecology, which generally results in turning fully into an undead. Theoreticians believe that an exceptionally strong-willed person with an unusual degree of aesthetic sense was transformed by necromantic energies into the first vampire; the undead that result from necromantic warping are usually much less pleasant.
Unlife has a greater effect than most transcendent energies due to its diametric opposition to the basis for living existence.
Close contact with the undead causes the accumulation of long-term warping points; the amount increases with the power of the undead and the frequency and closeness of contact. Working elbow-to-elbow with the undead for 50% of your life— like on a chain gang— will give you one long-term point a week; a vampire lover is usually good for one every three to six months. Keeping undead simply as servants will merely give you one every year or two. (A child raised with an undead nanny will be well on the way to undeath by the time they hit adolescence.) Drinking vampire blood is a very fast way to acquire necromantic warping points.
No one has yet found evidence of an undead creature experiencing warping due to experiencing nature magicks; the effect of Nature and Ecos causes undead to decay.
A numen (pl. numina) is a genius loci, the spirit of a place; the concept is quite similar to the Japanese idea of a kami. (The term numinous is derived from numen, but its usage tends to refer to the transcendent as well as the local. To avoid this confusion, I’m coining “numenic” to use in place of “numinous.” As Roger Zelazny wrote: “Such is the power of a Lord of Chaos.”) Most places have some degree of spiritual awareness attached to them, though it is usually asleep and seldom powerful. (Unlike the game Shadowrun, the power of the spirit of a place is limited to the power of the place, rather than the power of the summoner. If the spirit of a place is powerful, you can often get a lesser manifestation, but the converse is not true.) In places where the numen is particularly powerful— whether awake or not— the long-term inhabitants may become changed by living in the accompanying magical aura. This aesthetic is entirely based on the nature of the numen.
Numina typically arise as a result of a site possessing mystic power or being used on a regular basis with such associations; however, there it is not unheard-of for demons to take up residence in a place and take up a job as genius loci. (Many deities send a minor angel to take up residence in a temple at its consecration.) A house “haunted” by a fairly impressive demon might cause warping on the order of 1 point a year or even per month, depending on how “awake” it is.
(This gets us the Lovecraftian effect of people becoming quite different and spooky after inheriting that dark house up on the hill...)