The Inkscribe

as found in the pages of the Zd10 Wiki

Summary
Type
Source of Capabilities Living Ink
Concept Role Support, Skill Focus, Crafting
Focuses Enhancing Allies and Diminishing Foes, Creating Artistry Pets, Combat Manipulation
Planar Rarity Rare


This world is filled with beauty and wonder. Recreating that in some measure is a relentless, tireless journey that can often become obsessive. It is a craft that must suffice for whom the whole world is not sufficient.

My choice is with inks. The ink that I use however is different. It is alive. It has needs. Desires. Cravings. Through me, it can see the world and experience it. Through the ink, I can reshape the world. It is a darker world that I envision and with my brush, I'll paint this world as I see fit.

Yishen of Parandam, the Grim Illustrator

Across the planes artists of all types and masteries can be found. Some of them may dream of adventuring or living a more carefree lifestyle, but typically this is only done for inspiration or to find the next target of their works. Whether they end up as exiles or just to appease their wanderlust, there is a type of artist that can be found adventuring across the planes — the Inkscribes.

The living ink they use comes with a steep cost however, as it permanently stains their soul and desires even more. An Inkscribe finds themselves fighting against their source of changing the world while simultaneously letting it take control to create true masterpieces.

The art of an Inkscribe is capable of changing reality to match the whim of the artist and the ink. This allows them to manipulate people, places and things to their desire and even grants them some ability to create ink-based imitations of life.

Background

The Inkscribe is a newer profession, rare to find with adventuring Inkscribes being even rarer still. Becoming an Inkscribe often involves obsession for art as tracking down someone who possesses some of the living ink is a fairly difficult task. It is not unusual for an Inkscribe to have an apprentice or two, as learning to master the living ink on ones own can be very taxing and dangerous.

On Asnonad, the Xhimelech Elves who first experimented with the ink vital to their craft did so during a time of immense turmoil and confusion for their kind. During a period of uncertainty, the ability to reshape reality was embraced with open arms. It wasn't until the corrupting power of the ink began to manifest that the true cost became apparent; their physical forms began to take on new shapes, their minds began to break and their souls tainted. The ink was no longer welcomed or accepted and the remaining Inkscribes needing to go into hiding.

Like all sources of power though, the living ink has hidden away and spread across Asnocad and the other planes with time. There is, after all, always an artist willing to sacrifice everything to be able to create their ultimate masterpiece.

The Living Ink

The ink that an Inkscribe uses is alive, but what it is exactly isn't entirely known. It doesn't seem to need to eat, breathe or sleep but exhibits signs of having needs and desires. The Selenehelion caused a lot of things on Asnocad to change, and the living ink was one of them. It now exhibits intelligence and beyond simply staining things black physically, seems to also do so in both a mental and spiritual nature.

To use the living ink, an individual offers up themselves to it. The viscid fluid will rush over the individual, attempting to encase them in its dark tide. A battle of wills commences, with the hopeful Inkscribe pushing against the ink. The engagement does not always end well for the neophyte; those who lose or surrender are never seen again. If they manage to prove they can work with it however, the living ink will retreat inside of the Inkscribe. There it will remain, lurking and waiting for opportunities to contest the Inkscribe.

Abilities

Lore

From a lore standpoint, an Inkscribe's abilities are based on altering reality based on their whims through extensive use of the living ink that now resides in their body. This allows them to assume several different roles.

Mechanics

Notes

  • Inkscribe abilities can be referred to as strokes, portraits, compositions or sketches.
  • An Inkscribe's abilities must be purchased as individual powers and not be part of a power pool.
  • To mechanically simulate the fact that the Inkscribe must concentrate and complete painting-like strokes of a specialized brush to use his powers, all powers must take the following Disadvantages:
    • Concentration (½ DCV) [-¼]
    • Focus (Obvious & Accessible) [-1]
    • Gestures [-¼]
    • Extra Time (Full Phase, Only to Activate) [-¼]
    • Requires a Roll: Requires "Ink" Luck Roll (Dice Total vs AP/3 Target Number) [-¾]
    • Side Effect: Suffer Side Effect equal to -¼ per Matching Die Of Luck Roll [-¾]

Manifesting Inkscribe Abilities

An Inkscribe has access to a variety of abilities, and an individual Inkscribe can attempt to manifest any of his abilities at will. However, each ability has a target number that the Inkscribe must achieve by rolling their Ink dice. The number of Ink dice available to an Inkscribe is determined by their Artistry Rating, and is the true measure of an Inkscribe's talent; the more dice they can roll the more likely they will succeed when using their abilities. An Inkscribe can theoretically attempt to manifest any of their abilities, but some abilities have sufficiently high target numbers that they are effectively impossible to cast unless a character has multiple Ink dice.

The Living Ink

To replicate the cost the living ink has on the Inkscribe, rolling more dice incurs more danger. When the Ink dice are rolled, if more than two of them are the same number, some sort of side effect occurs. The nature of the side effect ranges from an annoyance (for a pair) to ruinous (with five or more matches). This side effect is known as the Hungering Ink. The more dice one rolls, the more likely some unforeseen side effect will result; this adds a compelling potential risk to every single Ink roll, and means an Inkscribe is always struggling with the dilemma to manifest or not to manifest, as well as how many dice to roll if they do. It is important to note that if the target number of the ability is reached, it is still successfully manifested even if the Hungering Ink is invoked.

Artistry Rating

Each point of Artistry a character has is translated into a single die of a special form of the Luck Power. This form of Luck is not used in either the normal fashion of Luck in the HERO System or any of the optional uses.

Instead, whenever an Inkscribe wants to manifest an ability they must roll one or more of their "Ink" Luck dice and add the face of the dice together. If the total equals or exceeds the Active Points divided by 3 (AP/3) of the ability being manifest, then they successfully manifest the ability; if not then they fail to manifest the ability.

There is no limit per day on how often an Inkscribe may use their "Ink" Luck dice in this fashion, but they may not use it for any other purpose.

The number of "Ink" Luck dice an Inkscribe can have is directly constrained by the size the points put into a custom talent called "Living Ink Artistry". Each "rank" of this costs 15 points, so an Inkscribe with 30 points spent would be considered to have Living Ink Artistry Rank 2. In summary, a character with a Living Ink Artistry Rank 1 talent must have exactly 1d6 "Ink" Luck (no more, no less), while a character with a Living Ink Artistry Rank 3 Talent must have exactly 3d6 "Ink" Luck, and so on.

It is a good idea to keep abilities with an Active Point cost a little higher than the current total of points put into the Artistry of the Ink talent, otherwise, it may be incredibly difficult to succeed in using it.

  • Artistry of the Ink: Custom Talent ; One Rank per 15 Points, Real Cost: 15 points per rank
  • Ink Die: 1d6 "Ink" Luck ; Partially Limited (Suffers -1 per 2 PD/ED of Armor Currently Worn, [-½]), Real Cost: 3.33 points per d6

Armored Manifesting

As indicated, when an Inkscribe is wearing armor, it is much more difficult to manifest their abilities fluidly. When they roll their "Ink" Luck dice, an Inkscribe must subtract one (-1) from the face of each die rolled for every 2 PD/ED of Armor they are wearing (rounded in their favor).

This is where the Armored Artistry ability comes in handy. Defined as Penalty Skill Levels to Offset Armor Casting Penalty for All Powers at the 3 points per +1 level, the ability can be purchased multiple times. However, while the penalty is applied to each die, the PSL's are not; they are applied one for one to individual penalties. Thus if a character is suffering -2 to each die for wearing Armor with 4 PD/4 ED and had +2 PSL vs Armor Casting Penalty, then they would essentially ignore the penalty altogether on one of the dice they roll.

Example: Yishen of Parandam is wearing a leather cuirass (2 PD/2 ED) and tries to manifest an ability with a 30 Active Point spell with a target number of 10 (30/3). Yishen has three "Ink" Luck dice at his disposal and decides to roll all three. They come up 6,4,2 for a total of 12. Normally Yishen would have succeeded, but since he is wearing 2 PD/2 ED armor each die suffers a -1, which means he only rolled a 9 and thus the manifestation fails. If Yishen had the Armored Casting ability he would have offset two points of the penalty for a total of 11 and thus succeeded.

  • Armored Casting: +2 Penalty Skill Levels to Offset Armor Casting Penalty, Real Cost: 6 Points

The Hungering Ink

The ink always hungers for more. For each matching die rolled with Ink "Luck", the spell suffers -¼ worth of a random Side Effect as per the Power Limitation Side Effect. Thus if doubles are rolled, then the spell has a "Minor Side Effect", which is worth -¼. If triples are rolled, then the spell has a "Major Side Effect", which is worth -½. If quadruples are rolled, then the spell has a "Major Side Effect" that also affects the character and the environment, which is worth -¾. If quintuplets are rolled, then the spell has an "Extreme Side Effect", which is worth -1. And so on and so forth.

The actual effect that a given Side Effect takes is up to the GM. As a GM, feel free to use material from other source material but changed to fit HERO System terms, play things by ear or be diabolical and devise your own Hungering Ink effects.

Whichever way a GM decides to handle it, they should be aware that the Hungering Ink will occur a lot and the nuances of how the GM handles it will have a big impact on the performance of Magic and how it is perceived by the players. If the GM is heavy-handed with it, few will be eager to play an Inkscribe, those that do will manifest few powers, and the working of their craft will be seen as a very dangerous thing to be around even for bystanders. If the GM is lenient, then Inkscribes will be much more common and abilities will be manifested more often. Either way or something in between, the GM should be sure that they are sending the message they want to send to portray using the living ink as they think appropriate to the kind of story they are trying to tell.

Channeling

Channeling is the means by which an Inkscribe steadies their hands, focuses their will and attempts to use the ink without drawing its ire. When manifesting an ability, an Inkscribe may take a -½ Phase action to make a Channeling Skill Roll. If the roll succeeds, they may roll an extra "Ink" Luck die to determine if they successfully manifest the ability. This die does count for purposes of resolving the Hungering Ink, so this process is not without danger.

To model this in the HERO System, all Inkscribes must also take the following two abilities together when they get their first "Ink" Luck die.

  • Channeling Skill (EGO): Real Cost: 5 Points
  • Channeling Die: +1d6 "Ink" Luck ; Requires a Roll: Channeling [-½], Real Cost: 3 Points

Non-Living Ink

While not the source of their power, other inks have their uses to an Inkscribe. When using other inks to supplement his abilities, an Inkscribe can add an additional Ink die to roll when attempting to manifest an ability.

It is up to the GM as to what qualifies as a suitable ink or paint, but as a general rule of thumb since the material component is expended by the casting the GM should be careful to not allow players to get a free "disintegrate" effect out of the bargain.

To model this in the HERO System, all Inkscribes must also take the following ability when they get their first "Ink" Luck die.

  • Component Die: +1d6 "Ink" Luck ; Focus (Obvious & Inaccessible) [-¾], Real Cost: 2 Points

The Math

Example Ability

  • A Portrait of Crows, Feasting: Killing Attack - Ranged 1d6, Penetrating [+½], Area Of Effect Nonselective (20m Radius) [+¾] (34 Active Points); OAF [-1], Requires A Roll ("Ink" Luck Roll (Dice Total vs AP/3 Target Number)) [-¾], Side Effect: Suffer Side Effect equal to -¼ per Matching Die Of Luck Roll [-¾], Concentration (½ DCV) [-¼], Gestures [-¼], Extra Time (Full Phase, Only to Activate) [-¼], Real Cost: 8 points — 3 Endurance | Target Number: 11

The math savvy have probably already figured out that if an Inkscribe is always trying to manifest abilities with the maximum amount of Active Points available to their rating then they will always be a little behind the power curve, however for the non-math folks this state of affairs is explicitly called out here.

At Artistry of the Ink Rank 1 an Inkscribe's abilities should typically be around 20 Active Points, and they have 1d6 "Ink" Luck available to them. Considering the AP/3 target number requirement against an AP of 20, it breaks down as 20/3 = 6.667, which rounds to 7. Thus it is impossible for the Inkscribe to successfully cast a spell with the full 20 AP with their lone 1d6 "Ink" Luck die. It's also pretty unlikely that they'll succeed at casting anything with more than 13 Active Points with any kind of consistency since (14/3) = 5, which is not reliably achievable on 1d6.

As the Inkscribes's abilities typically go up in 10 point increments per Artistry of the Ink Rank, the Inkscribe only get one more d6 of "Ink" Luck to roll against a maximum target number that has gone up (10/3) = 3.33 points, and the average on 1d6 = 3.5. It's not enough to change the fact that they are always lagging behind and they will always be grasping at straws when they try to cast spells at the top of their range.

It is important to understand that this situation is by design. Using the living ink is supposed to be risky and difficult practice in Trigate, and this is reinforced by making sure that if a character wants to push their limits and manifest their abilities at the outer edge of their capacity, then they are going to have to work for it.

This is where Channeling and Material Components come into play. Having just one more d6 of "Ink" Luck can make all the difference to an Inkscribe, turning the nearly impossible to fairly good odds.

Consider the Inkscribe with Artistry of the Ink Rank 2 trying to manifest a 30 AP ability with 2d6 vs a target number of (30/3) = 10. Normally they would need a really good roll on 2d6 to get a 10 or better. If the Inkscribe can make a Channeling Roll first or has an appropriate Material Component, however, that extra d6 changes the odds significantly; instead of making the roll very rarely, they will make the roll on average. This progression of one extra dice shifting a roll from difficult to average should continue all the way through 60 AP and 6d6 (60/3 = 20, 6*3.5 = 21, 7*3.5 = 24.5), though it is less marked.

In short, Inkscribes will need to use Channeling and/or Material Components to reliably use their Magic at its fullest potential, particularly in the lower Artistry of the Ink Ranks. Also, note that neither die has the Armor Casting Limitation on them; they are not affected by wearing Armor. Finally, an Inkscribe must always roll at least one die of normal "Ink" Luck dice in conjunction with their Material Component or Channeling die.

Archetypes

History

During the Third Age on the Plane of Asnocad, the previous form of the Xhimelech Elves had discovered a living, viscous fluid that seemed to possess an intelligence of its own. It could escape from containers, permanently stain things black, crawl uphill and seemingly create more of itself. It was used for a variety of minor things on Asnocad but more often than not was seen as a novelty.

When the Selenehelion occurred and brought forth the Reunion which merged their ethereal forms with their lost physical forms, other things on the world experienced transformations as well. One of which was the ink-like fluid, now seemingly sentient and driven with purpose. Though the Reunion caused chaos, the now malevolent living ink wasn't able to cause any substantial harm, but it had clearly become something more than a novelty.

The years after the Reunion saw a substantial period of inner strife and turmoil for the Xhimelech Elves as they once again found themselves with physical forms. It is unknown what caused them to attempt to control the living ink, but in doing so found a new capability of expression, though at a seemingly great cost. The living ink now left stains beyond its physical existence, staining the soul of the artist attempting to use it.

As the living ink artists spread across Asnocad, the practice of its use began to become refined. It was only a matter of time until it left through a Trigate, only for the living ink to end up being found on other planes.

Amongst the Planes

Summary
Type
Source of Capabilities Living Ink
Concept Role Support, Skill Focus, Crafting
Focuses Enhancing Allies and Diminishing Foes, Creating Artistry Pets, Combat Manipulation
Planar Rarity Rare