Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ten For Tzitzimine

Tzitzimine Star Demon by Juan Ochoa

The Tzitzimine Star Demons love Eyes and other technological devices that use other-planar energy. So let's give 'em some Eyes! There are actually twelve of them below, not ten. So feel free to roll a D12 and pick a few for your Tzitzimine!

"Things to gather, things to grasp, spheres in a halo, treasures to grant."

What are Eyes, you ask? They are “Devices surviving from the ancient and glorious days of high technology” is according to their creator, Professor M.A.R. Barker.[1]  They are a hallmark of his world of Tekumel, which is perhaps the most elaborate fantasy setting ever created for gaming. According to Barker, Eyes are “so named because they are shaped like small, dull gems, with an eye-like aperture on one side and a protruding stud on the other, which activates the device.”

Eyes are handheld superscience artifacts that use other-planar energy. Each one is like a printed circuit with a specific function. Eyes are a perfect embodiment of Clarke’s Law, which states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” For this reason, they are often found in temple treasuries, in tombs and hoards within the Underworld, and in the hands of the powerful.

They are also very useful to adventurers, who often search for them in the Underworld and within the ruins of the temples, bases, and other facilities of the star-spanning Ancients. Each Eye has a specific power and effect. There is no way to discern an Eye’s power without using it. Each Eye has 1d100 charges, after which an ancient device must be used to restore their charges.

The Eyes below are non-canonical and were inspired by a number of authors including M.A.R. Barker and Cordwainer Smith. (In fact, Cordwainer Smith was undoubtedly an influence on Barker, since Tekumel has its own constellation of species called "Underpeople".) These Eyes may be used in any setting which includes ancient space empires and superscience in its background. 

[1] Quotes in this section are from M.A.R. Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR 1975), p. 75.


The Eye of Friendship with Underpeople: Every world touched by the Lords of the Instrumentality had certain abject hybrid species who were created as laborers by the Instrumentality's cruel and inventive Gene Masters. Most of these creatures long ago broke their bonds to the ancient masters. Today they are retiring and resentful of Mankind. This Eye creates a temporary bond of friendship with one of these creatures. The bond lasts one Scene. Only creatures whose apex Skill/Approach is greater than +1 may resist the effect of this device. The Eye's user rolls CHA/Flashy +2  vs. the target's WIS; if the Eye's user rolls higher, the bond of friendship takes effect and a suitable temporary Aspect is created on the target, such as "Friend of Man".   The Underperson might take any action that is reasonable for a true friend to take (such as fighting alongside the Eye user) but will not take suicidal actions.

The Eye of Lord Tezcatlipoca: This Eye can activate any gate in the network of Smoking Mirror Engines that string disparate places and worlds together like black pearls in the shining void. These gates are one way portals (at least using the Eye), so an activated gate will open only to the next available egress from the Smoking Mirror Engine network - whether that is on the same world, another world, or even on an entirely different plane. The gate remains open for one Scene. Once opened, anyone may pass through the gate and will arrive at the next junction in the network.

The Eye of Adopting the Mien of a Lord of the Instrumentality: This Eye surrounds its target with the data cloud of one of the star-spanning Lords of the Instrumentality of Mankind. In ancient times, this Eye was a favorite tool of the assassins that these Lords (and the Guilds) used to settle their conflicts. Today it is mainly used to gain access to secure complexes in space, as well as to comparable planetside facilities, and certain long-forgotten areas of the Underworld defended by ancient superscience. The Mien created by this Eye is a temporary Aspect (for example, The Mantle of Lord Vex) that lasts for one Scene. The automated defenses of the Instrumentality’s ancient facilities will grant the target and their entourage unrestricted access to all but the most sensitive installations. Once the target gains access, they must act quickly. Reactivating the Eye within such an installation will awaken terrifying automated defenses.

The Eye of the Banishers of Gloom: The Banishers of Gloom are today one of the Legions of the Imperial Sovereign. In ancient times, they were an elite military unit of the Instrumentality dedicated to exploring dead planets and space hulks. They garnered a reputation as fearless hunters of the undead and of abominations from the planes beyond. On many worlds, they remain active within religious orders dedicated to Law and the destruction of the undead. This Eye is their signature weapon. The Eye unleashes a miniature hypernova beam upon its target, a 1’ in diameter beam of coalesced visible light, x-rays, and gamma rays. The Eye’s range is three Zones. All combustibles touched by the beam burst into flame.If an attack by this Eye hits its target, stress inflicted automatically bypasses the target's Stress Track and causes one or more Consequences of equivalent effect.

The Eye of the Dutiful Corvee: While the Instrumentality was an advanced interstellar civilization, social relations under the Lords of the Instrumentality often took on a semifeudal character. The ancient Lords used this Eye to compel corvee labor on many worlds. The device only works on humans, as other species were by definition suitable for enslavement rather than beings subject to a labor tax, This device works infallably on beings whose apex skill is +1 or less. With each use, a total of 1D20 such beings may be commanded to work indefinitely on some major project. Legends tell of isolated worlds where nearly immortal humans continue to labor on great works for the Instrumentality even today.

The Eye of the Beshadowed Labyrinth: This Eye opens a gate to ruined planet. The gate itself is entirely invisible. An individual might pass through it quite unwittingly.  The ruined planet's lifeless, airless surface is constantly abraded by the deadly energy beams emitted by the magnetar - a species of neutron star with intense magnetic fields - which the world orbits. Below the surface is a world-labyrinth inhabited by innumerable inimical species. Vast subterranean machines maintain a barely breathable atmosphere tainted with a thousand exotic chemicals. The entire labyrinth is shrouded in shifting dim light which projects shadows everywhere. Adventurers who survive in this deadly realm will need to find another way home: the gate opened by this Eye only offers a one way trip.

The Eye of the Glorious Instrumentality of Mankind: A favorite of galactic tomb raiders everywhere, this Eye projects a 3-D holographic representation of the regions of space ruled by Instrumentality of Mankind, showing the location and disposition of all Instrumentality resources including fleets, legions, bases, and nodes in the Smoking Mirror Engine network, as well as protected trade routes. Points of interest may be zoomed in upon by using physical gestures; this reveals planetary maps and additional data such as day length, climate levels, etc. The projection lasts for one Scene.  It automatically updates once daily within Instrumentality facilities that remain connected to the Smoking Mirror Engine network. But few do.

The Eye of the Lady of the Jade Skirt: This Eye will summon the nearest minion of a god or goddess of rivers, lakes, seas, rain, or storms. The ahuizotl is an example of one of these, as are anaconda, crocodiles, and hippos. Caution must be taken when using this Eye in open seas, as it can summon particularly nasty creatures such as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, killer whales, kraken, akho, and avanc. This Eye has even reportedly summoned a 'Zotl. The creature remains for one Scene.

The Mystic Eye of the Hexagonal Chamber: Zealously sought by scholar priests, archaeologists, and obsessive antiquarian biblophiles, this Eye confers upon the target the ability to read, comprehend, and memorize any religious, mystical, or sorcerous manuscript, no matter the language in which the text was written. The user fires the Eye at the head of the person desiring to read the text in question (this is often none other than the user of the Eye). The effect lasts for one session. But that's not all. A degree of harmful other-planar informational decay is associated with the use of this device. With each use, the reader must make a Clever/WIS roll to defend against a mental Attack with an insanity trigger of +2.

The Majestic Eye of Lord Pacal: This Eye allows its user to pilot telepathically a Pacal-class Vimana - one of the ancient chariots of the gods - for an entire Session.

The Eye of Petty Theogony: The target upon which this Eye is used selects a temporary Aspect reflecting a minor deity, or a lesser avatar of a great deity. The target selects a suitable temporary Aspect to reflect this. Their CHA/Flashy Approach also increases by +2 for the remainder of the Scene. Intelligent beings who are friendly or devoted to that deity will be favorably disposed; those intelligent beings who are opposed or hostile to that deity will be more likely to attack or flee. Any Consequence will completely dispel the effect of this Eye. No one likes a god that bleeds.

The Eye of Vague Auguries: When this Eye is pointed at an object such as a door, secret panel, or other portal (including interdimensional gates) the Eye will issue two vague-but-true telepathic auguries about persons, items, and conditions on the other side of the threshold. The auguries become scene Aspects as determined by the GM.  For example, if a PC uses the Eye at the threshold of a doorway in the Underworld, the auguries might be “reptile god” and “priests”. The resulting scene aspects might be:
  • Threshold of the Temple of the Snake Demon Ysxthici. 
  • A high priest, unwilling sacrifices and numerous cultists.

  • The devices above are copyright 2013 by John Everett Till.


    1. Excellent stuff! Any one of these could drive some interesting adventures...or add some interesting complications to a mission that appeared to be fairly simple when the player-characters first accepted it...always nice to see Vimanas getting mentioned as well.

      1. Thanks, Jim! I was kind of amused when I was reading through EPT some time in the last year and discovered that Barker put vimanas right in there as an artifact type.

      2. Yep. That's another one of those 'lost bits of lore' that never seem to get mentioned by the usual suspects.

    2. Cool devices--and great art.