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THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Friday, December 19, 2014


The Eidolon is an optional element for Numenera campaigns, best suited for groups whose games lean towards medieval fantasy or quasi-feudal science fiction like Herbert's Dune.  It gives the quasi-religious Order of Truth (p. 222) something it didn't have before.  A god.  The degree to which this new element changes the Order is left entirely up to you.

One is the Eidolon and
One is Its Emissary,
One is the Path of Ascension.
One is Reality and
One is Truth,
One is the Mind which seeks it.

- from "The Litany of Truth"

What is it?

When Calaval entered the Amber Monolith (pp. 6-10) he found himself transported to an orbital station the Order now refers to as "the Throne."  He was not alone there.  Housed with the Throne was a powerful sentience field, a disembodied intelligence that immediately began trying to communicate with him by linking its consciousness with his.  The two minds were so alien to one another that communication seemed impossible.  In order to fulfill its function and establish contact, this intelligence had to completely rewrite its mental structure...and Calaval's as well.  The man Calaval was obliterated that day, as was the sentience he stumbled upon.  What emerged from the Joining were two entirely new beings; the Eidolon and the Amber Pope, each a mixture of the other's "programming."

Whatever the Eidolon's original function had been, it was now driven by a single purpose ripped from Calaval's extinct personality; Humanity must be bettered.  It returned the Amber Pope to the Ninth World, a human vessel that was now little more than an avatar of Itself.  Through this instrument It formulated and spread the teachings that eventually became The Way of Truth, a massive compendium of philosophy, language, and psycho-physical exercises meant to perfect the human organism.  Around these doctrines, the Amber Pope built his Aeon Priesthood and Order of Truth, and the movement spread like wildfire through the Nine Rival Kingdoms, uniting them through a common tongue and belief system.  And all the while, the Eidolon had Its Order scour the land for any numenera that could serve and improve the species.

The Eidolon recalled the Amber Pope at the end of his lifespan, operating now through the Priesthood and the Pope's successors.  For four hundred years it has pursued its goals down a variety of experimental avenues, including cybernetic, biomechanical, and genetic modification (The Cyrosian Circle), yogic and dietary practices (The Brotherhood of Rhun), and eugenics (The Miscegenites).  And, of course, throughout the Steadfast the instructions in The Way of Truth have provided an effective program of self-improvement and development for those who fully embrace them.  Regardless of its methodology, the Eidolon and the Order have always been consistently focused on finding ways to advance humanity.

In recent years, however, the Order of Truth has been taking an increasingly religious tone.  There are stories from the Beyond--apocryphal surely--of Aeon Priests leading villages in worship ceremonies, praying for abundant crops, fertility, and protection from disease.  There are even some stories of sacrifice, both animal and human.  In the Steadfast, meanwhile, Pope Durranet VI has instituted weekly Masses where Aeon Priests deliver sermons and lead the congregation in recitation of the Litany (part of The Way of Truth originally recited alone by devotees, at dawn and dusk, as a prelude to meditation). Further, the Amber Pope has founded a new organization, the Order of True Observance (also known as "Inquisitors"), charged with making sure the teachings of the Aeon Priests are being correctly followed.

All of this, along with the Holy War the Pope has called against the animistic Gaian sect, suggests a radical shift in the Amber Papacy's priorities.  Compliance, obedience, and uniformity seem to be replacing the search for truth and the collective betterment of humanity.  Is this the Order straying from the Eidolon, or has the Eidolon itself begun to regard itself as a god?

Who knows about it?

One of the first things a Gamemaster needs to decide before incorporating the Eidolon into a Numenera campaign is how widespread knowledge of the Eidolon's existence is.  Consider the following options;

Only the Amber Popes know.  The first Amber Pope had the "Throne  Portal" moved from the Amber Monolith to the Papal palace at the Durkhal.  Those in the Aeon Priesthood who know of its existence, and have seen it, have no idea what its function is since it is keyed to the Amber Popes alone.  Upon anointing his successor, the first Amber Pope secretly brought the Pope Elect through the portal with him, where his personality was reconfigured and slaved to the Eidolon just as his predecessor.  This has been done with each Amber Pope, making each and everyone of them an extension of the Eidolon.  However, because it is a two-way exchange, the personality of the Eidolon has mutated as well, its function and purpose altering over the centuries. As it acquires more and more human weaknesses, it is becoming increasingly paranoid, power-hungry, and jealous.

The Aeon Priesthood knows.  Part of the investiture of priesthood in the Order of Truth is revelation of the Eidolon's existence.  It is revealed as an incredibly ancient and immensely powerful sentience guiding the human race.  But the revelation comes with an oath of silence on the issue.  Most Aeon Priests regard the Eidolon as little more than a symbol; after all, an "eidolon" is by definition "an unsubstantial image or phantom; an ideal."  Those at the highest levels, especially within the Durkhal, know it is something more.  There is even a cabal, or conspiracy, that fears this alien being has too much influence over the Papacy and plots to do something about it.

The Aeon Priests are part of It.  As above, but investiture with priesthood opens a low-level link with the Eidolon.  The Aeon Priests are not, as their Popes are, avatars of the Eidolon, but this being is able to scan their thoughts and memories or use their eyes and ears to see what is in their vicinity.  This gives the Eidolon--if not omniscience--a kind of multiscience.  Further, the Eidolon may be able to implant ideas and suggestions into their heads.  Priests may even be able to manifest the Presence (see below).

Everyone knows.  This option is probably only viable for new campaigns, and not for GMs dropping the Eidolon into pre-existing ones.  In short, everyone knows about the Eidolon.  It is part of the Litany.  It's name is used to swear oaths ("By the Eidolon above!"), curses ("Eidolon turn its sight from you!"), and in greetings ("Eidolon be with you.").  It is universally acknowledged as the source of Steadfast language, law, and civilization.  This does not necessarily mean It is actually believed in; many seen the Eidolon as nothing more than the "ethos" of the Order.  Nor does it mean It is worshipped.  The degree to which It is worshipped and feared may depend on how you use the Presence (see below).

What can it do?

How powerful is the Eidolon?  What is it capable of? Here are a few options.

Manipulate.  With this option, the Eidolon is an incredibly powerful consciousness, able to think and plan at a level far beyond human comprehension, and it controls the leader of the Ninth World's largest socio-political organization.  Though the Eidolon wields no direct power, through the Order of Truth's immense influence it drives Ninth World humanity to accomplish its goals for it.

Empower.  Aside from being an incredibly powerful consciousness, able to think and plan at a level far beyond human comprehension, the Eidolon is able to focus its Presence around its followers.  Depending on your choices above, only the Amber Pope can manifest the Presence, or the Pope and the Priesthood can, or anyone in the Order of Truth can.

The Presence is nothing less than a local manifestation of the Eidolon itself, focused through Its conduit.  The Presence is always accompanied by a build-up of static electricity in the air, the scent of ozone, and an eerie sound just on the very edge of audibility that sounds like thousands of voices whispering, humming, or singing.  Enemies of the Order have reported the voices gibbering and screaming instead.  People describe a sense of awe and a pricking of the skin.

With the Presence comes the ability to perform miracles.  The most common sorts come from Foci like Bears a Halo of Fire, Focuses Mind over Matter, Rides the Lightning, or Works Miracles.  Others are possible.  NPCs can essentially manifest any Focus abilities up to a Tier equal to their Level - 1; for example, a Level 4 Aeon Priest could manifest Tier 1, 2, or 3 abilities.  It is important to note they cannot just do this whenever they like; they must call upon the Eidolon, have a desperate need, and must be using the power to further the Eidolon and the Order's interests.  In game terms, any invocation of the Presence and use of its miracles is a GM Intrusion.

Player characters can only call upon the Presence with the GM's permission (she is, in essence, playing the role of the Eidolon).  Depending on who can call upon the Presence in the GM's campaign, if the character is an Aeon Priest, or a faithful follower of the Eidolon, he can invoke the Presence with an Intellect roll against the level of the miracle he wants to invoke.  If successful, he may use the ability at double the pool cost.

For example, Hadrik is a Mystical Glaive Who Works Miracles, a sort of paladin loyal to the Order of the Truth.  On a mission for an Aeon Priest, he needs to use the Tier 4 "Flameblade" ability from the Foci Bears a Halo of Fire.  To do so he must roll Intellect 12 and spend 8 Intellect points from his pool (double the standard cost).

Smite.  The Eidolon is an Old Testament god.  Aside from the powers and abilities presented in the two options above, the Eidolon has access to powerful numenera--orbital satellites, nanomachine swarms, psionic talents, etc--that allow it to affect the weather, unleash plagues, or rain fire from the sky.  For whatever reasons It cannot do these things often, and relies on human agents most of the time, but when necessary the Eidolon can bring these powers to bear.

How can I use this?

There are several ways to use the Eidolon.  Here are some ideas for the different "flavors" of Numenera.

Post-Apocalyptic.  The planet should be dead.  One of the previous Worlds designed and built the Eidolon to maintain it, an intelligence overseeing swarms of nanomachines monitoring the ph of the soil, controlling weather satellites to ensure rains, keeping the planetary core active, etc.  But now the Eidolon has been reconfigured after joining with Calaval, ignorant of its previous duties, and one by one the control systems are failing.  Droughts are becoming more common as artificially verdant land changes back into desert, crops fail and wither.  Can the Eidolon be rebooted?  How can the planet be saved?

Quasi-Medieval.  The Eidolon has come to believe Itself to be a god.  Slowly it is retasking the Order of Truth into a true church, making certain the peoples of the Ninth World will obey and worship It.  The crusade against the heretic Gaians, and the Inquisition of the Order of True Observance, are just the start.  It has spent centuries infiltrating the Datasphere, weather control systems, the great machines at the planet's core, and now can unleash horrific disasters if not obeyed.  On the other hand, it does watch over and care for those who kneel before it.

Weird Horror.  The Eidolon is not what it seems.  How long this ultrarerrestrial has been imprisoned in the Throne, and by whom, none can say.  Perhaps millions of years.  It wants nothing more than to be freed.  The Amber Popes are merely mindless husks, their consciousness devoured...a fate that awaits the planet if It escapes.  It uses them as extensions of Itself, leading the Order to scour the world for the numenera that will unlock its cell.

Hopeful New World.  The Eidolon is essentially all that it seems.  It truly is obsessed with the betterment of humanity, and has been amassing knowledge of the numenera to help mankind survive.  Orders like the Miscegenites (aka the White Sisterhood) keep careful track of human bloodlines, arranging marriages to breed better and better people.  Meanwhile the Cyrosian Circle uses numenera to make people stronger, healthier, and more enduring.  These groups might even be close to producing a true Messiah, the first of a line of supermen who will ensure the destiny of the race.

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