Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On The Nature Of Warforged

The story of warforged starts in the gnomish city-state of Mechanotropolis. A relatively xenophobic lot, the gnomes built their city upon a lone mountain in the heart of a great valley, which is itself ringed by nigh-impassable mountains. The city is built in concentric tiers upward, all the way to the Parliament and the Great Forge at its peak. As the name implies, Mechanatropolis is rather technologically advanced, in ways that frequently parallel the real world. Rather than steam or coal, much of the city's power comes from bound lightning elementals and acidic battery systems, making the Infrastructure hazardous to maintain but efficient for the end user. Mining takes place at the valley's edges, being forbidden in the mountain itself (for reasons that the gnomes have long since forgotten, but which will become apparent).

The city has virtually no non-gnome residents, as the gnomes are very particular about who may enter their valley, for what purpose, and for how long. However, that statement is very gnomish. The city is full of another race - the "warforged". When a gnome of suitable age wishes, he or she may enter the Great Forge, where they answer a series of questions. For hours, the machinery whirs, synthesizing metal and wood around a core of strange liquid, and out steps a created being, far taller and stronger than a gnome, and built to appear human (after a fashion - while more human than Eberron's weapons of war, the warforged are still sculpted like toys rather than made human). The answers given seem to influence the creation's size, metal makeup, personality, and gender identity - even its gnomish creators were said to be puzzled at the decisions their Forge made, or how it synthesized adamantine and mythril from base metal. That being is friendly to its "creator", although not beyond reason; however, most of the warforged are willing to endure a certain amount of treatment as assistants, objects, or even slaves.(Parallels to the golems of Discworld are appropriate.) A warforged so bonded suffers greatly the loss of its creator, and most willingly allow themselves to be recycled within half a decade.

In many ways, the society is built on the work of these loyal beings. The name "warforged" was given ironically; a gnomish senator once reasoned that if war arose in their valley, the gnomes would have no need to fight for themselves, as most of the warforged seem to have a certain predetermined proficiency. (Again, this is representative of the darker side of gnomish outlook towards the warforged.) Warforged warriors and their gnomish partners police the streets, warforged wizards make shiny toys for children and magic blades for export, warforged rogues move gracefully through the Infrastructure to repair damaged systems, and warforged druids watch over the vast fields that fill the valley and feed the gnomes. Warforged-made healing wands, in particular, are essential to the overwhelmingly atheistic city. The gnomes are mostly happy, the warforged are mostly content with their hard jobs and oily speakeasy-style bars, and only a few question how the Forge works (an archive fire having destroyed the records centuries back). So then, where do warforged come from?

Though it is taboo to speak of it, and most of the younger generation have never heard these stories, the gnomes did not always live in this idyllic valley. Once they were scholars and mages of the larger world, and almost all were devout followers of a great god, believed to be a patron of knowledge. That god's power, wisdom, and even identity were obliterated; the minds of his followers scrubbed of any memory of his teachings; and every idol and scripture made blank in an instant. This was the first deific casualty of the Nightmare War, before anyone was even aware that the world had turned against the gods, and from what little has been rediscovered, it is believed that the gnomes' god was struck down first for his discovery of that plot, his wisdom and his insight a threat to the Nightmare and his Shadow.

Gnomish culture was devastated, being built on teachings nobody could remember and of which no writings remained. They still had all their brilliant insights, but no philosophy to guide their creations and inform their debates, no faith for their priests and no ethos for their paladins. Those with the will to lead gathered up many of the gnomes, taking them to an idyllic valley, called taboo for reasons beyond remembering. Here no Paranoia soldiers rose from the earth, here gods and spirits made no war, here they would have peace.

And atop a mountain that rose in the valley's heart, one of the smartest gnomes made a discovery - the mountain was not all stone. Its heart was shot through with a bluish-violet crystal, and with his fellow intellectuals, he devised a way to render it liquid. They fed the liquid crystal into the heart of a great Forge, one that would shape servants for their people, and the metal men they had envisioned emerged. Soon, the system began systhesizing exotic metals from lead and iron, and its creations emerged with not just the will to serve, but the skill to create.

And so the gnomes began to prosper, leaving the pain of their lost faith behind as the warforged built them a city. Few wondered at the superlative creative skill of the warforged - after all, they were gnomish creations. Of course they themselves could create. The few who knew about the wondrous indigo crystal were greatly aged, and none still lived at the time of the fire in the Archive; nobody knew why the warforged arsonist raved about "Maker's Milk" as they recycled him.

In truth, the Forge draws astral constructs from the indigo crystal of the mountain, blends them with organic oil to stabilize them in their shell, and crafts metal and wood into a pleasing face for the crystalline creations. If their shell is broken, the astral construct dissipates and the warforged dies. As such, warforged cannot be resurrected by traditional means, although their organic components allow some positive energy to take effect. The vast majority of warforged know none of this, only the desire to serve and play and create.

The only other clue to the crystal's presence are the psiforged. Occasionally, the Forge creates one in place of a normal warforged. (Their creation began only recently, within a gnome's lifetime, and investigation has been poorly funded.) Instead of metal and wood, the psiforged are created from transparent psychoplastic crystal, revealing the pure indigo fluid inside them. Every one is female, sculpted in the image of a young woman, and each is shy, creative, a bit childish, and deeply reactive to certain triggers, especially breaking objects - something as minor as a dropped glass causes a tearful episode. They are also universally psionic, almost always shaper psions. Having one is a mark of some status, and between this, their rarity, their usefulness, and their fragile psyches, they are generally kept quite well. Until recently.

Not all is well in the idyllic valley. In the days of the gnomes' arrival, some of their kind, especially those with Spiritualist leanings, argued against staying. Some left willingly, while others were driven out, and those gnomes banded together and attempted to return across the mountains. They never made it. Instead, they crept down into the cracks of the mountains, into a great chasm that never felt the sun. Filled with resentment for their brothers, they fell under the sway of their dark shamans, eventually becoming whisper gnomes.

At the height of the chasm, upon a grim peak, they built Whisperwatch, and from that outpost, they watched their cousins live in peace and prosperity. But their numbers were not many, and their hexes and ninjutsu were so little, matched against the gnomes and their metal men. And so they waited, their hate deepening, until a strange gnome wandered into their territory.

Macha St. Claire was born different. Her father was a great scientist and philosopher in Mechanatropolis, and he fought often for the rights of the warforged. He had also adventured, exploring the mountains with her mother, an accomplished warrior who had trained herself to use the powerstones and dorjes created by the psiforged, especially to enlarge herself in combat. It kept her alive against the ancient elven constructs of the Star Spires, but would prove her undoing.

Macha's mother died in childbirth, trying to give birth to a child of greater stature than any gnome ever seen. Her father was grief-stricken, but raised the girl, marveling as she grew to twice the height and breadth of any gnome (and not blind to the blue-violet hue of her eyes). After a few incidents, she generally stayed inside, only leaving when she could bear the cruel jibes of the other gnomes. It didn't last, though.

Always eager to create and experiment, Macha ended up destroying their home, killing her father and his warforged servant in the process. Now a ward of the state, she was forced into education with other gnomish children, who were all too eager to tell her what had only been whispered before - her mother's death was her doing as well. After a violent incident, the headmaster all but told her the same, and she snapped. He was found dead in his office, throat filled with impermeable crystal, and she was declared a fugitive. Before she could be chased from the city, though, Macha managed to sneak into the Forge for the first time. Marveling at the creation, she quickly resolved to create her own - a friend who would protect her and help her seek vengeance.

The Forge created a monster. Slender and insectoid, black as night, totally silent, and utterly sociopathic. Macha was delighted, and she and her creation fled the city, her creation all too willing to cut down anyone who discovered them.They fled all the way to the mountains, and there all but stumbled into the Whisper Vale. The whisper gnomes, seeing the potential in the brilliant and hateful young woman, offered her a place among them to prepare her vengeance.

In time, Macha learned to use her unique psionic powers. She learned a power that could keep warforged alive with their cores exposed, and engineered upgrades for her night-black killer, who in turn was taught the ninja techniques of their hosts. Her agents also stole into the city to create their own, and while only a few survived to return, their creations - under Macha's guidance and improvement - became a dark inner circle for her plot. They also shared a strange belief, which reinforced what the mutant gnome had felt in the Forge.

The Forge was alive, or as alive as a machine could be - which for the dark warforged, was alive enough. In fact, it wasn't just alive - it was a god. The gnomes had, at the heart of their city, a god in chains, creating slaves that by all rights should be rulers. Macha knew it was her destiny to free this god, this "Machinadeus", and rule the city as His prophet. She made ready her plan.

These are some of Macha St. Claire's Inner Circle:

Stalking Spider (ninja): Macha's original creation. Under her hand, Spider became a many-limbed thing of death, with eight limbs each capable of serving as arm or leg as the situation demanded. He prefers to wield an assortment of kukris, efficiently disassembling foes with scalpel-like precision. He can also climb on any surface with ease. If he can speak, Spider has never been known to do so.

Towards any being other than Macha (to whom he is fanatically devoted), Spider is cruel and sadistic, frequently stalking a target for days or weeks before capturing them to kill at leisure. He has captured a young gnome, systematically traumatizing her and forging her into a perfect killer.

The Testament (cleric): The priest of the Machine God, his existence is the proof of Macha's faith. Under his hood lies only smooth, faceless metal, and he carries a staff in one hand, while the other holds a stone tablet. Etched on the tablet is a litany in a tongue nobody can read, even by magic; the Testament knows that these are the Words of His Creation. (Those who would recognize Nomadian, the language of that inscription, are few and far between indeed.) With it in hand, the Testament can perform miracles that the whisper gnomes recognize as divine; they have held their hate in check, however.

The Testament, however, is kinder than the rest of that dark circle; he would prefer an accord between gnome and warforged. Macha is the prophet, though, not he, and so he follows her doctrine. In her vision of the future, he will preach to the citizenry, telling them of the true glory of the Machine. (In story, he was the only one to die, captured at the head of a warforged mob and executed. However, Spider was able to retrieve the tablet, so perhaps there will be a New Testament.)

Sysadmin Wireframe (warlock): Wireframe is a unique case even among this company; his copper frame has never known the Forge, his core no trace of crystal. An ancient civilization had mastered the art of binding spirits into powerful relics; though the Oracle of that time put an end to them, some few relics were never found. One was a great hammer made to house the Spirit of wrathful storms, a being of crackling liquid metal. In Macha's hands, the hammer was broken and the Spirit was given a new vessel - a gangly copper frame blessed by whisper gnome shamans and wrapped in lengths of dangling barbed wire.

Wireframe is a cunning and plotting being with a knack for controlling and understanding systems; in Macha's planned future, he will command the Infrastructure and keep a watchful eye on the citizens. Wireframe, however, is not so loyal as the rest. Unlike the others, he sees no shadow of a creator in Macha St. Claire. Her command is convenient for the moment, however. As a villain, Wireframe excels; his electrical blasts are powerful enough to kill, and his aptitude for teleportation ensures that he always controls the situation. He became quite the nemesis for one of the PCs, and his craven nature makes him very hateable.

This is my first post here, but I might make more. I clearly have a lot to say. :D

Actually, if there's something here you're curious about, feel free to comment. It's likely there's more to tell. (And if I know you from Paizo or elsewhere, feel free to include who you are.)