Undoubtedly the main and most important aspect of the Spirits of Eden campaign setting is the ecology, personality and powers of the Spirits themselves. Spirits behave in certain ways that people may not always understand (and when they do understand, they only believe they do). They are bound by mystical rules crafted before our time or theirs, forbidden to perform certain acts by their own gut instincts or by the unseen balance of the world that tugs at their essences and causes them discomfort if they disobey.
But some spirits are so powerful they can break the rules. Others don’t need that power – they can just break the rules. Or perhaps the rules bend for them. The mystery of spirits and the culture surrounding them in Eden makes for extremely colorful opponents and battles. This article will help you with putting together an encounter with an Eden-styled Spirit, as well as understanding spirit’s motives, personalities, the honor they are bound to and the power they possess.
The Great Taboo
In Eden’s societies, it is held as incredibly bad luck to have to fight a spirit, and an irreparable scar upon one’s karma to have to kill one with the ungainly weapons man has manufactured out of the dirt. Spirits are signs of holy power radiating throughout Eden. Though at times they may behave like animals or monsters, the majority of spirits have some humanoid characteristics to them that make them less easy on the stomach to have to butcher. For most monsters, a fight is as easy as finding out the creature is evil and tangling with it. With a spirit, it should not be so.
Emphasize the Great Taboo inherent with fighting a spirit. Villagers shiver with awe and pity at stories of spiritkillers, and give nicknames to these people. Though they are not feared and not immediately turned away just on this reputation alone (except in the more tightly religious areas) they are treated visibly different from others except by most kind of souls. Having somebody who treats the PCs normally is important as well, as it gives a greater insight into that character. However, most people will be uneasy around them, wondering when Karma will strike them down for their sin.
As well, there are a number of spirits that are considered reasonable to kill. A rampaging Chikuni cannot be reasoned with, and a swarm of Pekor is not intelligent enough to understand the concept of diplomacy. Ghostly spirits and spirit-undead that haunt unsavory places are routinely exorcised by Clerics, and the taboo rarely applies to them. The more monstrous a Spirit is, the less a mortal has to fear of killing them. But as with all Spirit rules, this one is not always so.
Humanoid Spirits that show personality and intelligence can be spared – this is always an option, though not a savory one. Leaving the Spirit alive spares the PCs bad luck later on, but the Spirit could continue its mischief once it recovers from its wounds (especially the wounds to its ego). However, killing it could prove much deadlier. If the PCs treat a Spirit as any other monster and slay it without thinking, a terrible fate may befall them. A family member might die; their home may burn down; or they may face the revenge of an even stronger spirit.
If outright killing is necessary (or that is to say, you have made it necessary), then the karmic punishment should either be much lighter or none at all. If the PCs consider the option and yet fearfully kill the spirit, give them a lighter punishment – they understand how things work even if they chose to go ahead regardless. As with all things, the punishment need not come immediately, and the PC might even die before it comes (the punishment is rarely ever something so simple as physical harm upon him). But it will come. The spirit world’s least gentlemanly rule is the one most commonly invoked – an eye for an eye.
The Primal Fear
At the beginning of the new world, after the Last Cataclysm, there was a period of lifelessness in Eden, where the world was bleeding to death and knocked almost wholly unconscious of its own state. By the time it recovered, it had to take drastic measures to ensure its survival. The Spirits are that drastic measure, thousands upon thousands or perhaps even millions upon millions of creatures bound to a single world-soul, yet have differing personalities, goals, ideas, powers and beliefs, all of which maintain a delicate balance in the world that, through Karma, stretches to keep mankind in check as well.
Man and Spirit have only really met rather recently in Eden’s history. In the beginning, the Spirits were busy in secret places in the world, laboring and toiling endlessly to repair the damage done during the Last Cataclysm and make the world habitable again. Meanwhile, Man was trudging through a harsh world of violence and hardship. But Man saw his situation better, as the Spirits repaired the world, and he attributed this to the hand of the Divine. Man learned to revere nature and its processes, and grew respectful of the Divine. He remained removed from it, knowing he should not meddle in those affairs.
However, as all things do, Man grew. Through the wars that created the Aptoas Empire, man grew bolder, stronger and more intelligent. Superstitions and taboos became only dim tales in the collective memory of a people now hungry for greater riches, greater joys and beauties, for more bountiful harvests in more fertile lands, more exotic metals in deeper caves, more powerful magic in ancient shrines.
It was inevitable. Man and Spirit would then meet, and an ancient mechanism would become active once again.
The Primal Fear occurs when a mortal first lays eyes on a true Spirit (player races with the Spirit keyword are not “True” spirits). Because, as you will read later, Spirits usually cannot or will not utilize their whole power in a battle, and because Man is not bound by the same rules as a Spirit is in regards to combat, the Spirits long ago developed a method to aid them in driving off Man should they need to, without breaking their own rules.
In the beginning years, when the world was repaired and Man formed the three societies mentioned in Eden’s historical timeline in the Spirits of Eden Player’s Guide, the Spirits heard tell of the mortals who had begun to gain power. Many of them, jealous that another species existed to rival them, the children of the world, and also afraid that Man may reach great power someday, these Spirits gave man Fear.
Weather phenomena, monsters stealing children, harmful magic, plagues, these unruly spirits did everything in their power to instill in man a Fear of his surroundings and of things he cannot understand, a fear that exists to this day. The Primal Fear of Spirits and the unknown is one of the key weapons in a Spirit’s arsenal against an opponent that is not a True Spirit and it comes in many forms depending on the perceived disparity in power between the two opponents.
Holding Back The Storm
Characters that fight Spirits will generally never fight a Spirit using the entirety of its powers. Spirits pick a repertoire of spells and abilities they like and use those, over and over, even if a battle is turning grim. These are typically its least destructive abilities. The reasoning for this is that if all Spirits used their entire potential in every battle, they would very likely destroy the world by bringing forth a new Cataclysm.
The hubris of Man has created Cataclysms before – subconsciously, the Spirits know this, and they check themselves. The majority of their essence is sealed. Only as much as is necessary to produce and maintain their flesh and blood shell, as well as their repertoire of abilities, is there for them to use. Even should they risk death, they will only push themselves as far as they feel is safe.
But snatches of their true power can be evoked, almost mindlessly and without warning. A muikara might produce a strong and stiff breeze with a sneeze while talking to a person. A Remuko may freeze a human lover in the middle of a passionate kiss, either killing or greatly harming the person without their being able to defend against it at all. An Apekar may burn so strongly that an entire forest could be threatened. These are very rare instances of carelessness on the Spirit’s part, but they are possible. It is said that storms do not merely come – Spirits make them.
Spirits have rules for combat. They do not use their strongest powers and refrain from using Ancient or Forbidden magic abilities. When fighting other Spirits, they must first outwit each other before causing actual harm. For Greater Spirits, this outwitting phase may last thousands of years and the combat may even be forgotten before any blows are actually dealt. When fighting Humans, they must use only their least destructive abilities and refrain from altering the natural environment too much to suit them. A Muikara fighting in a thick forest could conjure a tornado to clear the area and make more room to fly, but it will not do so no matter in how much danger it is. When two muikara fight, such as over a mate, they are allowed to so – but rarely do they go so far. Spirits also have a final rule – all combats between Spirits and between Spirits and “intelligent mortals” are duels, and not meant to be bloody murder.
But a Spirit will break these rules. If it is too angry (such as some spirits of volatile elements), too unintelligent (such as a Chikuni or Pekor swarm) or if it feels the opponent is so far beneath them that it is insulting to extend any courtesy (such as most Ashura), a Spirit will use all of its power to kill the opponent. Such a spirit is typically headed for misfortune – Karma is a hunter and we are all its prey – but if it has sinister goals to accomplish, such a moment of unsealing is all that it could need to wreak major havoc.
The strange thing is that despite all of their powers, the majority of Spirits will not use them, even to the point of death. A spirit would rather be murdered by a human and inflict a curse upon it than summon the flames of Acheros to easily scorch the human and the surrounding area. Their ideas of honor and the poetic justice that can befall a mortal, as well as their own internal rhythms in tune with those of the world, prevent them from bringing all of their powers to bear. It would be quite a terrifying sight to see a Spirit using all of its Forbidden or Ancient Magic repeatedly – and quite a rare sight as well. The rules are structured so the duel has some way for the mortal to at least survive, or back off – the Primal Fear can easily act as a deterrent, for example.
However, choosing to fight a Spirit should be somewhat different than barging into a goblin lair and taking their stuff. These are divine beings revered by mortals, who helped save the world they now share and who have a deep spiritual connection with any and all things mortals consider holy. The odds should seem overwhelming.