Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

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Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Wed Jul 13, 2016 7:40 am

Nuime is the name of a country, not the name of the world. I may rename the thread when I think of a name for the world. But Nuime will do for now.

In this world, every person can create an artifact that represents/embodies their own personal soul. Here are some things about soul artifacts:

You can only make your own artifact, and only of your own uncoerced will. Attempts at coercion (or mind control, fairy orders, whatever) won't necessarily stop you from making your artifact if you already wanted to, but you won't be able to make the artifact if you don't truly want to. In general, if someone has an artifact, you can assume they genuinely wanted one.

Once your artifact exists, you can't go back to not having one. There are various available methods for destroying an artifact, but they all kill the person attached.

Touching someone's artifact is an overwhelmingly intimate experience akin to touching their daemon. Having your artifact touched is normally incapacitating. Even when you have the right kind of closeness and trust with the person touching your artifact such that it's a pleasant experience, you're still not likely to be in a state to get much done that way.

Artifacts take the form of objects which are about the right size and shape to be held comfortably in one or at most two hands, relative to the person whose artifact they are. Exact details of their appearance vary with personality of associated soul, and may change over time as said personality changes. It's always possible to recognize artifacts, because they radiate a subtle sense of who they are as a person, in a specific and inimitable way.

Artifacts have magical powers. The details of what the powers can do are related to the soul's personality, and may change over time, like the artifact's appearance. You usually have a few fundamental themes, and a broader range of abilities branching out from those themes. Everyone can use their artifact's power while they're touching it, but it's common to also be able to use it from a distance, sometimes from any distance.

The power level of the artifact is proportional to the extent to which the soul-haver is being their best self, the person they aspire to be, in terms of their habits of thought and behaviour, their skills, generally what sort of a person they are. This is called 'exalting your soul' in the setting. An ordinary person who is in an ordinary position relative to their personal aspirations, not particularly exalted or particularly debased, will tend to have an overall power level on about the scale of Aurum witches, except spread out over more different things so no individual theme or ability of the artifact is quite that powerful. A shining beacon of virtue can get much more powerful than that. There is theoretically no upper limit on how exalted your soul can get, but in practice it's hard to flawlessly uphold your own ideals and even harder to come up with more of them to flawlessly uphold after you run out.

There is a noticeable difference in power level between people whose personal ideals are more more prosocial and people whose personal ideals are more destructive to the people around them. It's not that big a difference at the 'ordinary person' level, but at the 'shining beacon of virtue' level, shining beacons of virtue almost universally outmatch shining beacons of being a dick.

However, if you're willing to shoulder the associated costs, there is a way for a sufficiently evil person to get ahead in this game despite the inherent unfairness of the universe: a person with a soul artifact can 'eat' another person's soul artifact, gaining a permanent boost to their power level and a collection of secondary themes corresponding with the eaten soul's powers at the moment of consumption. It's fatal to the victim, of course. Everyone who looks at your soul artifact can immediately tell if you are a horrifying soul cannibal, because the sense-of-who-this-person-is feature advertises the presence of all your victims and the fact that you ate their souls and they're dead now. It's also a lossy process: the power you gain is around half of the power that person had. It is not generally worth it unless you have at minimum a few dozen victims available and are planning to become a Dark Lord.

Upcoming: history, geography, examples of soul artifacts.
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Wed Jul 13, 2016 9:30 am

I don't have the history fully worked out, but I have some thoughts.

The difficulty of creating a soul artifact has changed over time. It's approximately proportional to how much soul artifact power there is in your universe, and also to how much soul artifact power you have personally interacted with, and there might be a factor for how long there has been soul artifact power in your universe, and in the intermediate stages between 'strictly impossible' and 'trivially easy', soul artifact creation is best thought of as a teachable skill rather than an innate capacity that anyone can access at will.

So for a really long time, the artifact creation process was a closely guarded secret. There weren't many people with soul artifacts, and they taught the skill only to people they knew and trusted, and not all of those people chose to make artifacts of their own, and they generally agreed to pass on the knowledge of how to do it only to people they knew and trusted - and the farther you are from someone with an artifact of their own, the harder it is to do it even if you know how. But over time, artifact creation slowly got easier. Eventually, someone decided that everyone should be able to make an artifact, and they leaked the secret of artifact creation, and in the space of a few months, suddenly half the people in that country had artifacts.

Unfortunately for everyone, that country happened to be at war at the time, and they were very excited to turn their new weapons on the enemy. So then someone in the enemy country also leaked the secret, and almost every adult in that country made their artifacts, because they were getting wiped out and needed to fight back. Things escalated. No one was prepared to fight a war in which every participant had an artifact. You couldn't predict your enemy's capabilities - you could barely predict your own capabilities - the stress of war tended to induce personality changes, so even if you carefully catalogued all the artifact-wielders on both sides, a bunch of them would spontaneously develop new powers and throw off your estimates. And there were hundreds of thousands of artifact-wielders, all frantically inventing increasingly creative ways to kill each other in order to avoid being killed first.

Two years after the secret got out, that war ended in mutual genocide. Some refugees from both sides survived, but their history and culture was effectively gone. The rest of the world was horrified. Everyone agreed very firmly that nobody should ever do anything like that again. They were a little wary about even going so far as to let artifacts become widespread even in countries at peace, but artifacts are really useful in countries at peace, and by that point the artifact creation process was easy enough that anyone who'd so much as heard of the idea could figure it out from scratch within a few hours of trying.

Think of that incident as 'World War I'. It wasn't technically a world war as such, but it had a broadly similar historical impact.

'World War II' happened a while later - longer than a few decades; maybe as much as fifty or sixty years, probably not as much as a century - when the memory of the first incident was starting to fade from the public consciousness. A larger, more powerful country invaded a smaller, less powerful country. The population of the smaller country was getting slaughtered and they had no other recourse. So they all took up their artifacts and went guerrilla. It got even nastier than the first round. Both sides called for outside help, and at first nobody wanted to get involved in an artifact-heavy war, but then the invading country started conquering its other neighbours in order to get more resources to support the ongoing conflict, and after the first few of those went down, the fourth or fifth victim decided they didn't care that much about staying out of artifact wars. They armed up and fought back.

It lasted a while. Refugees fled into neighbouring countries and then some of them snuck back out to launch counterattacks and the host countries retaliated against their innocent fellow refugees, or the host countries didn't do anything and so the people being counterattacked tried to conquer them to get at the people they were 'harbouring'. It was not an atmosphere conducive to deescalation. Entire cultures were getting wiped out left and right and there seemed to be no way to avoid being one of them.

Eventually it got to the point where instead of kingdom against kingdom it was warlord against warlord, because there were no more kingdoms left. Think of this period as analogous to the Time of Isolation, although there was no one to be isolated from so it was really more like the Time of Having Just Narrowly Escaped Total Human Extinction. Some people tried to empire-build and failed. Some subsequent people tried a little harder and succeeded, briefly, before being deposed or assassinated or conquered by an even more successful neighbouring empire-builder.

Mind you, this was generally considered an improvement, because no one was fielding armies of artifact-users against each other and no one was trying to eradicate anyone's culture and people, it was all just petty violent squabbling. The world population grew slowly back to something approaching pre-Soul Wars levels. Someone managed to establish a dynasty of emperors not immediately swallowed up by the churn of ongoing conflict. The ongoing conflict continued to churn, but brief local interludes of peace got more frequent and more stable.

Eventually, one of the emperors managed to get everyone to sit down, shut up, and stop killing each other. For the first time in a thousand years, the world was at peace.

I have to go do a thing, I'll be back later to explain how that went horribly wrong.
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Wed Jul 13, 2016 4:43 pm

So: Tezru Zierni Diakor, alt of Dorca the Just, unites the continent (there's only one continent) under his banner. Everyone is deeply, deeply relieved about the lack of war. He ushers in a new age of prosperity and institutes and enforces a lot of laws designed to keep the peace.

Then he dies, and his son Alo-tentire Zierni Arime* inherits. Arime is this universe's Yuri. He does the Yuri thing, trying to kill all his relatives because they might threaten his power - but in this universe, the resulting civil war occurs in a very different context. Dekha-fanshel Zierni Esarkan (Ezar) and Indre-rithal Kazaryne Fariol (Piotr) conduct a short, exquisitely well-targeted campaign against Arime, and it's pretty bloody but it's over very fast, and Esarkan (whose soulname means 'all-enduring') says "all right folks, that's it, my soul artifact grants me immortality and I will be your emperor for the forseeable future".

He's very good at it! He builds on everything Diakor accomplished. Peace and prosperity settle in to become the new normal. Time passes. He has a kid.

Tekhesin Zierni Seofar (Serg) decides he doesn't like the idea of being a prince his whole life, waiting for a crown that will never pass to him. Egged on by his friend Den-aminde Rysher Nahira (Ges), he heads down to the big island off the south end of the continent and declares that he's taking over and seceding from the empire. The local lords accept his bribes and agree to join his new nation.

Now, Esarkan could reconquer the southern island - but if Seofar roused enough support from the locals, it would be the Soul Wars all over again, and even if not, it would be another war just when everyone was starting to think they were finally done with that shit. And he could have Seofar assassinated - but Arime is still fresh in everyone's memory and he's very reluctant to start down that road. And Seofar is really good at being not quite intolerably awful - he keeps managing not to provoke a revolt, even as the rumours of his exploits become steadily more horrible and the friends he invites to come hang out and terrorize the populace with him continue to arrive and terrorize successively more of the populace. So Esarkan, very reluctantly, leaves him be. The costs of doing something about him are just too high, no matter the method.

Seofar has a daughter, Zierni Kelora (Gregor) - no soulname because she has no artifact. And Fariol has a daughter, Linsi-kelen Kazaryne Aeleva (Aral), who in turn has a son, Kazaryne Taliar (Miles). Esarkan watches Taliar grow up and notices what kind of a person he is. He arranges a marriage between his granddaughter and his friend's grandson. Seofar sees this as legitimizing his political independence by asking for a marriage alliance, so he's all in favour. Taliar and Kelora are not consulted.

Young, idealistic Taliar figures that the worst that can happen is he and Kelora won't want to marry each other and one or both of them will have to run away before the wedding. Then he arrives and discovers how much worse than that it can get. Seofar is a sadistic tyrant. Nahira corners Taliar just outside his bedroom the night before the wedding, insinuates that she used to regularly sleep with his mother, insinuates that his mother was not always a consenting participant, and kisses him. He flees into his room and bars the door. She laughs. This, as far as he can tell, barely even rates on the scale of bad things that have happened to someone who caught the attention of Tekhesin Zierni Seofar And Friends. This place is fucked up. And he's young and idealistic and a Miles.

That night, he creates his soul artifact. The next morning, he goes to Kelora and asks if she would rather have a revolution than a wedding. She says that sounds great. And Elaneth-imire Kazaryne Taliar overthrows Seofar in a matter of weeks.

*Was briefly 'Orino' before I realized that I named the local Cordelia 'Corino' and that was Too Close.
Last edited by Kappa on Wed Jul 13, 2016 7:05 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Unbitwise » Wed Jul 13, 2016 5:04 pm

Explain soulnames?
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Wed Jul 13, 2016 5:18 pm

Soulnames!

When you create your soul artifact, you choose a soulname. You don't have to do it right that minute, but if you wait too long, someone else might pick one for you and start calling you by it. The soulname is a short descriptive phrase that relates to either your artifact's form or the nature of your soul. Here are translations of all the soulnames mentioned so far:

Tezru - true, strong, right, just
Alo-tentire - far-seeing
Dekha-fanshel - all-enduring
Indre-rithal - broad oak
Tekhesin - mighty
Linsi-kelen - bright flame
Elaneth-imire - dawn-shining

When moving between contexts where different languages are spoken, it's traditional to translate the soulname but leave the rest of the name intact. Soulnames can be freely used in place of all other titles for formal address: if you know someone's soulname and aren't sure of other protocols, "Dawn-shining Taliar" or "Bright Flame Aeleva" is always a safe choice. In cases where the translation is difficult, sometimes people choose to go with "Tezru Diakor" rather than pick a word with the wrong suite of connotations or an awkward double meaning ("Just Diakor", anyone?), and people might also choose to be influenced by aesthetics in deciding whether or not to translate, e.g. Indre-rithal just sounds nicer than Broad Oak.
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby DanielH » Wed Jul 13, 2016 8:02 pm

What happens to the artifacts when the people die? Do they vanish like daemons? Do they break but keep existing? Can you still cannibalize them?
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Thu Jul 14, 2016 5:03 am

That's one of the things I haven't figured out yet.
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Bluelantern » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:15 am

Does it make a difference if the eaten artifacts have similar or conflicting themes? Or if a person offered the artifact to be eaten?
Sorry for my bad english

"Yambe Akka take the stars, they’re zombies!" - Isabella Amariah
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:39 am

Consensual horrifying soul cannibalism is still horrifying soul cannibalism and will still leave you with a soul artifact that blatantly has a dead person's soul in it.

Eaten artifacts that have similar themes might end up giving you repetitive powersets, and depending on the exact themes and powers involved, that could either end up stacking (lots of self-healing abilities, say) or being redundant (lots of language comprehension abilities can still only add up to so much language comprehension).
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Re: Nuime (soul artifacts thing)

Postby Kappa » Thu Jul 14, 2016 6:40 am

Two of the remaining questions here are "so what are soul artifacts like, anyway?" and "how exactly did Taliar, however Dawn-shining he may be, overthrow a tyrant in weeks?"

Allow me to explain!

The central themes of Taliar's artifact are integrity, exaltation, and problem-solving.

Integrity is a useful one because it lets him do things like detect lies and make really well-enforced promises - everyone who has ever seen his artifact can tell that he would lose massive amounts of power if he broke his sworn word. Occasionally it also provides him with information that someone he trusts is withholding from him. Other than that, it doesn't come up a lot; it's a strong theme without a big accompanying power. That happens sometimes.

Exaltation is where the fun comes in. A lot of Taliar's personality is wrapped up in becoming his best self, helping other people become their best selves, giving strength to other people and drawing strength from them in turn - he's a Miles! And in his soul artifact, this manifests as the ability to draw extra power from the exaltation of souls besides his own. This is huge. This is game-breaking. He makes friends, he helps his friends become their best selves because that's what he does with people, he keeps doing that for a while, and then he's a hundred times more powerful than any other artifact user in history.

Oh, yeah, and that's also where he gets the aura of healing and protection that incidentally makes him immortal. When he's on his game, he can stretch it to cover an entire city. Ever since the Seofar incident, that's been most of what he does - tour the empire making friends and solving problems and helping people become their best selves and filling entire cities with the light of his soul to restore health and youth to everyone.

The problem-solving point of the triangle is the one that makes him a broadly useful powerhouse instead of a walking scalable-immortality hack. His problem-solving theme gives him, essentially, whatever power he needs. It has pretty slow turnaround for the more powerful stuff - you won't catch an artifact changing its major functions around in less than a few days, that's a fact about the system - but with a big enough power base and a three-day lead time, Dawn-shining Taliar can do basically anything as long as he feels strongly that it is a Problem which he needs to Solve and as long as there's a solution that doesn't go against the sort of person he is. So for example, his soul is never going to give him mind control powers, although it might give him mind control reversal powers.
Last edited by Kappa on Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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