[The World Below] Umbral Wisdom

Matthew here, because you can’t get rid of me! Last week, our The World Below blog addressed the Farsighter and Silhouette Callins, and our poll for this week was split between Umbral and Heliogy Wisdoms, with Umbral taking the vote by a nose! Who’d have thought you people are fans of darkness…

Every Sorcery in the World Below falls within a category of Wisdom. This, in itself, isn’t unlike other games’ Disciplines, Spheres, Spell Schools, and such, except there’s crossover within each Wisdom. Every character has access to Wisdoms, spellcaster or not (there are certainly some Callings more definable as “spellcasters” than others, but no Calling restricted to spellslinging alone), with the Silhouette most tightly linked to the Umbral Wisdom.

The Umbral Sorceries worked by Silhouettes deliver intimate control of the Kaos infusing their own bodies. Silhouettes channel Kaos to twist and contort their bodies into unnatural shapes and proportions, some believing Umbral Sorceries owe more to the Dark and the Abyss than they do Kaos from the Well. They can jellify their bones to fit through impossible gaps, stretch limbs to grasp at far objects, or dissipate the force of falling from high ledges. 

Silhouettes intimately understand the effects of poison on the body, allowing themselves a measure of immunity but also knowledge of how to concoct potions that interfere with biochemical functions in ways desired by the Silhouette, either to paralyze or murder, or perhaps simply interfere with the victim’s sight or hearing for a time. 

Silhouettes can manipulate shadows, drawing them in and cloaking themselves in the absence of light to hide from detection, or even travel through shadows at higher levels of mastery. 

In short, the Umbral Wisdom gives access to everything scary about the dark. What lies within and whether it means you harm is very much the Silhouette’s purview.

Let’s get into some sample Sorceries from the Umbral Wisdom.

We’ll start with an obvious power no Silhouette would be without. Keep your eyes open for hints as to the way Storypath Ultra adjusts the mechanics you know well:

Gloom (•)

Mastery: Basic
Wisdom: Umbral
Style: Simple
Prerequisites: Calling: Silhouette, Larceny •, Resolve ••

This Sorcery allows the user to drive light away, snuffing out any flames torch-sized or smaller and inflicting the Darkness Area Effect on everything within Close range of the user.

Side Effects on Failure: The shadows lash out at the user, inflicting the Stunned Status Effect.

Side Effects on Success with Consequences: Light is extinguished, and the Darkness Area Effect is applied, but the user suffers the Deprived Status Effect as the shadows draw from the Silhouette’s life force to snuff the flames and drive out the light.

Additional Tricks: Additional hits can be spent to increase the radius of the effect by 1 range band per hit spent in this manner. The Kaos Locked Status Effect can be added to this Sorcery for a cost of 2 hits.

Such power may appear unpredictable to the reader, but that’s the nature of Kaos. There are often consequences to hurling Sorcery around without the skill to ensure a successful casting.

Umbral Sorcery isn’t just used to harm others, however, as this simple utility power shows:

Shadecraft Conjuration (••)

Mastery: Basic
Wisdom: Umbral
Style: Simple
Prerequisites: Calling: Kaosist, Esoterica ••, Resolve ••; or Calling: Silhouette, Larceny ••, Intellect ••

With this simple Sorcery the user conjures a tool crafted of pure, solidified shadow, which may have one tag. While the tool appears like an inky sculpture of the tool in question, the tool is solid and functions normally.

Side Effects on Failure: Shadows in the vicinity lash out at the user, inflicting the Stunned Status Effect.

Side Effects on Success with Consequences: The user generates the tool but suffers the Deprived Status Effect as the shadows draw from their life force to sustain the tool’s physical form.

Additional Tricks: Additional hits may be used to purchase tags at a cost of 1 hit per tag.

We’ll now look at something a little meatier in terms of prerequisites:

Shadow Form (•••)

Mastery: Intermediate
Wisdom: Umbral
Style: Simple
Prerequisites: Calling: Silhouette, Athletics ••••, Dexterity •••

The user turns their flesh and bone into pure shadow. Upon activating this Sorcery, the user gains the Liquified Status Effect. Touching the wielder — including being touched or tripped by them — while they are in this form inflicts the Crestfallen Status Effect. The user also enjoys an additional +2 Durability Advantage against shadow-based attacks, but they lose all Durability Advantage against light-based attacks, which have Sorcery advantage against the user.

Side Effects on Failure: Nearby shadows lash out at the user, inflicting the Stunned Status Effect.

Side Effects on Success with Consequences: The transformation occurs, but the user suffers the Deprived Status Effect as the shadows draw from the wielder’s life force to Sorcery their terrorizing presence.

Additional Tricks: The Sorcery occurs unhindered. Additional hits can purchase an increase in Durability Advantage, at a cost of 2 hits per increase, to a maximum rating of +3.

Every Wisdom in The World Below contains at least 15 Sorceries, and with each Calling capable of accessing Sorceries within their own Wisdom, as well as several within others, this provides a great deal of flexibility when it comes to character builds. If you want to be a wholly umbrageous Silhouette, you can dedicate all your Sorcery dots to shadow-themed Umbral Sorceries. Alternatively, you could venture farther afield, purchasing the Aura of Death Sorcery from the Transmutation Wisdom or Sol Sight from the Heliogy Wisdom.

Callings and Wisdoms are by no means restrictions in The World Below. They’re gateways to character growth, with multiple dark tunnels stretching off from each. 

Next week, we’re going to do something a little different! This time, it’s Open Development. Setting the stage for a moment, let’s discuss the settlement of Glowstream.

At one point in time, Glowstream was among the mightiest, most well-defended, and brightest settlements to be found in the World Below, buried as it was in the basalt stratum. It formed a beacon hub on the Manyways Dark, and was a place any trader, messenger, scout, or nomad caravan could find sanctuary from Kaos storms, prowling haemexii, and violent raiders.

Glowstream sat upon a river of iridescent liquid that cut straight through the settlement. Sometimes its current surged, other times it lapped gently at Glowstream’s shores. The learned folk of Glowstream learned early on that the many-hued waters were far from toxic; they provided rejuvenative effects to any who bathed in or drank from the flow. A settlement with a constant flow of clean, healing water is a rare thing indeed, and it and the settlement’s many lamps hung from stalactites and cave edges, or wedged into deep cracks to ensure darkness never reigned, made Glowstream a symbol of hope and light in the gloom.

Glowstream’s prefect, the renowned Alchemist Montbert Baswilde, clung to the belief that everything could be ordered, that everything was subject to scientific laws, and that Kaos just needed to be understood to be mastered. He sponsored every guild with the task of defining Kaos, seizing its source, and finding a method of making it conform to his whims. For all his grandeur and lofty aims, Baswilde was a popular man who never seemed to lack for ores and diamonds for use as payment.

It’s sad to say, but in the present era Glowstream is no more. Since the last ravaging of Kaos storms, when people emerged from the safety of their habitats, they discovered the once-grand settlement of Glowstream ruined. This in itself was not unusual: settlements fall every Kalm season. However, Glowstream bore the hallmarks of ancient battle and dilapidation. The buildings were crumbling wrecks, no bodies were to be found, valuables were left intact but coated in ash and dust, and the iridescent river from which the settlement took its name flowed no more.

So, the question to you fine readers is, what happened to Glowstream? Glowstream, among other settlements, is an open question in The World Below, but this is your chance to come up with a hook, reason, rumour, or danger that caused the settlement’s ruin. You don’t need to write an essay or break it down entirely, but simply come up with something that enhances the mystery and would make it appeal to your group or even a casual reader.

The most captivating idea posted will make it into the book, along with the name with which you sign off the comment! We’ll see which one wins next week, where an expanded fate of Glowstream blog will be posted, incorporating your idea!

13 thoughts on “[The World Below] Umbral Wisdom”

  1. Glowstream’s people didn’t fall due to a Kaos Storm,they became a Kaos Storm. Some enterpresing occultist found a way to Ascend to a higher plane of existence by becoming part of Kaos itself.
    The Battle signs are signs that more than one person found that put, they fought a bloody battle for the right to Apotheosis

  2. Rumor says that Baswilde created all the ores and diamonds he used to pay the other villagers for their services from the remains of Glowstream’s deceased. When the villagers found out, they were horrified, demanded answers, and sought revenge. An angry mob turned against Baswilde, who unleashed powers never seen before, and slaughtered all of Glowstream inhabitants before leaving the scene of his crime. The next time you meet an itinerary merchant with a seemingly infinite supply of diamonds, he could well be Baswilde in disguise, and the diamonds the proof of his murders.

  3. As the rivers dried up, Alchemist Baswilde invented a procedure that could “harvest” the rejuvenating properties of the water from the bodies of those who drank it in the past.

    At first, Baswilde only “harvested” from the sick and the dying: Killers on death row, old bedridden men and women who wanted to pass on.

    As demand for the healing waters grew, nobles started harvesting from the poor and desperate of the city. Some say Baswilde encouraged this slave trade, others say he was horrified and tried to stomp it out.

    Nevertheless, they say the people revolted and “harvested” Baswilde in the end. On one of the remains of the city walls is a crude drawing of a group of men and women eating a man surrounded by diamonds.

  4. It is said you can’t step into the same river twice, that wasn’t true of Glowstone’s stream. The iridescent liquid was a loop in time. It flowed through the beginning and the end of Glowstream in an unending eternal instant that washed away the past. Montbert had an inkling to this nature, but not it’s calamitous potential. The watershed and river mouth were conjoined in Kaos broken-time, running under the lively settlement streets. Every ailment relieved bled the harm’s cause into the river. The most grievous wounds and disasters froze in the stream, the never-coming moments like flotsam. The Alchemist’s experiments broke the luminous river, and it flooded Glowstone with a cavalcade of horrors out of time. The ruins are dry, but littered with what was and should not be, repeating moments of lost battles, extinct creatures, ancient plagues, quenced fires, and most dangerously, relics from Glowstone’s founding. Now, expeditions of Guildspeople, raiders, and klo’tha converge on Glowstone, seeking knowledge from the World Above.

  5. While most signs of battle are indeed ancient, a closer examination shows many distinct eras of damage. Some scars show a millennium of age, others centuries, some decades. Rarely, a battle scar can appear fresh, merely hours old. Some reports from teams that linger in the ruins longer than they should report new destruction in areas they had passed only minutes before. Other reports clam that the ruins appear almost whole once a Kaos storm passes only for it to fall in to new ruin in short order, but these reports are regarded as myth.

  6. Disregard if I’m not qualified for entry!

    Kaos storms blocked the source of the river. Glowstream was remarkably stoic in the face of mere thirst—this would be harrowing, and thousands would die, but they would pull together and save who they could. As the citizens of Glowstream grew truly thirsty, they felt an unexpected, painful bends-like nausea. Time telescoped in on itself. Their skin swelled and they aged days within hours. Their movements sped up, and their speech became incomprehensible. The glowing morning fog that rose from the river every morning disappeared, and the buildings of Glowstream dried up, aged, and crumbled.

    The educated elite of Glowstream didn’t anticipate a disaster of this magnitude, but they knew enough to store water for an emergency. They held out for nearly a week, holed up in their grand houses, rationing river water carefully. Through withdrawal still ravaged their bodies, they might have lived–if their unnaturally fast neighbors, desperate for water, hadn’t broken down their doors and slaughtered them.

    It was all for nothing. Every one of them collapsed into ash. It took less than two weeks.

    The river’s source is still buried somewhere near the ruins of Glowstream. Rumor has it that an explorer can walk up the dry riverbed to a series of tight, maze-like caverns. Squeeze through, risk cave collapse and being wedged into a too-tight-space, and they may find a muddy, faintly luminous puddle bubbling in the dark. One or two drinks heal with no ill-effects. Drink daily for weeks or months, then stop? The water is jealous. Beware.


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