Thorns and Brambles

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Common Contract
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Swords at Dawn 49-53
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The Lost have a tumultuous relationship with the Hedge. They fear what lurks in the darkened twists of that labyrinth, yet they hide among the Thorns and use gates into the Hedge to escape pursuit. In times of war, the Hedge becomes a series of supply lines, escape routes and battlegrounds.

The connection between the Hedge and the Contracts of Thorns and Brambles remains a mystery to most of the Lost. The Contract grants no additional ability to a changeling to manipulate the Hedge, instead granting them power over hedges and thorns of the mortal world. Yet some of the Contracts seem to function better in the Hedge than they do elsewhere. This dichotomy leads some savants among the changelings to suspect that the Contracts of Thorns and Brambles may have originated as some Faustian bar- gain between the Contracts’ creator and the Hedge itself. Whatever the truth of the matter, use of the Contracts of Thorns and Brambles has become widespread among the Lost, and few Contracts are so valued during times of war.

Contract Levels

Bite of the Wooden Fang (•)

The most basic expression of the changeling’s power to mimic the terrible maze through which they first fled their captors, Bite of the Wooden Fang demands the user tithe a fraction of his power to a blunt weapon made of wood, vine, or other plant matter. The weapon must inflict bashing damage for this Contract to take effect. An enemy struck by a weapon empowered by this Contract is slashed and bit- ten by dozens of thorns that rise invisibly from the weapon at the instant of contact.

  • Cost: 1 Glamour
  • Dice Pool: Dexterity + Wyrd
  • Action: Reflexive
  • Catch: The changeling uses a whip made of plant materials, such as a hemp rope or even a thick vine.

Roll Results

  • Dramatic Failure: The thorns bite back, causing the character to drop her weapon. Her instant action for the turn is lost.
  • Failure: The weapon does not grant any additional bonus.
  • Success: Invisible thorns appear along the length of the weapon, granting the weapon a bonus on the character’s next attack equal to the number of successes rolled. This bonus stacks with the weapon’s usual bonus.
  • Exceptional Success: As per success, and the weapon’s damage is converted to lethal.

Leechweed (••)

This clause empowers an area of hedge growth or brambles, causing it to drain Glamour from those bitten by its thorns. Though this Contract is used almost solely in the material world, it can be used in the Hedge. When used in the Hedge, this clause manipulates only growth created by way of the other clauses of this Contract; it cannot alter the Hedge walls in any way. The use of Leechweed in the Hedge can be profoundly dangerous.

  • Cost: 2 Glamour
  • Dice Pool: Wyrd + Occult Skill
  • Action: Instant
  • Catch: The Contract is used against someone in service to the character’s Keeper or against the Keeper itself.

Roll Results

  • Dramatic Failure: The brambles cling to the changeling, draining her of one point of her own Glamour in addition to any other effects determined by the type of bramble. Rolling a dramatic failure on this clause in the Hedge causes the Hedge wall to open up and swallow the changeling. The changeling loses one point of Glamour and is considered off the path (p. 220, Changeling: The Lost). She is separated from her companions and must navigate her way out of the Hedge in the usual manner.
  • Failure: The clause fails to take power. If used in the Hedge, a failure on this clause counts as a dramatic failure.
  • Success: When used on pre-existing (natural) brambles or thorns, this power causes all thorns within Wyrd yards to drain a point of Glamour from anyone pricked by them. This enchantment remains for the scene’s duration, but can only drain a point of Glamour from any given changeling per turn and can only leech a maximum number of points of Glamour from a given changeling equal to the user’s successes on the activation roll. A character can avoid being pricked by the thorns by moving at Speed 2 or less. Glamour taken this way does not transfer to the user, instead remaining within the plant. Rumor has it that such plants occasionally grow goblin fruit, and changelings have been known to use this clause (before sacrificing their own Glamour to the plants) in an attempt to cultivate such succulent treats without the dangers of entering the Hedge. There have been, to date, no reliable tales of success in this endeavor.

When used to enchant thorns created by another clause of this Contract, the enchantment spreads to the whole of the brambles and remains until the other clause ends. The details of the leeching power remain the same, save that the Glamour taken will be used to fuel the continuation of the effect. Empowered thorns may store an amount of Glamour for use in this manner equal to the character’s Wyrd, and the thorns cannot choose not to spend the Glamour.

  • Exceptional Success: Additional successes are their own reward.

Briarpath (•••)

Often times a changeling must evade pursuit from a stronger, faster adversary. This clause helps a character do just that. Long, vicious thorns erupt from the enchanted surface, slowing pursuers and making vertical surfaces almost impossible to climb.

  • Cost: 2 Glamour
  • Dice Pool: Wits + Wyrd
  • Action: Instant
  • Catch: The character litters a handful of Hedge thorns behind her.

Roll Results

  • Dramatic Failure: The enchantment hounds the character rather than her adversary, painfully lacerating her hands and forearms. She suffers a –1 penalty to all rolls requiring the use of her hands for the remainder of the scene.
  • Failure: The Contract fails to take effect.
  • Success: The changeling leaves a trail behind her of thorns and brambles that impede her enemies. The trail has a width equal to the changeling’s Wyrd in yards and grows in her wake (across any surface, vertical or horizontal) for a number of turns equal to the successes she rolled. A character that moves through the area suffers the following hindrances: her Speed is reduced by one for each success garnered by the changeling, and she suffers a penalty equal to the number of successes rolled by the changeling on all Athletics rolls (such as those to run, jump, and climb) made while in the area of effect. The trail fades at the end of the scene.
  • Exceptional Success: As per success, save that characters moving through the trail find their Speed reduced to 1 and all Athletics dice pools reduced to a chance roll.

Shield of Thorns (••••)

The changeling learns to summon forth brambles from even the driest of earth, creating an almost impenetrable defensive barrier that lashes at any enemy who comes near. While this Contract is occasionally used in the Hedge, a changeling does so at her own risk.

  • Cost: 3 Glamour
  • Dice Pool: Manipulation + Wyrd
  • Action: Instant
  • Catch: The changeling cuts open her own flesh (inflicting 1 lethal damage in the process) and pours her blood across the area to be shielded.

Roll Results

  • 'Dramatic Failure: In most situations, a dramatic failure on this roll results in the user being struck by her own briars, suffering an immediate attack that inflicts a dice pool equal to her Wyrd in bashing damage. If this Contract was used in the Hedge, however, the damage is lethal and the changeling loses a point of Glamour per Health Level lost.
  • Failure: The Contract fails to take effect, and the ground remains unbroken. If the Contract was used in the Hedge, however, a failure counts as a Dramatic Failure.
  • Success: The earth splits, sprouting dozens of tangled brambles about the changeling in a circle with a radius equal to her Wyrd. Any character that moves more than two yards in a single turn within the tangled area suffers an immediate attack with a dice pool equal to the changeling’s Wyrd. The attack inflicts lethal damage and ignores Defense (Armor still applies), but the brambles can only attack any given character once per turn. The briars die and rot to dust after a number of turns equal to the character’s success on the activation roll, though the character may choose to spend a point of Glamour for the briars to remain for an additional period of equal length (and may continue to do so until she runs out of Glamour or chooses to end the effect). The field of briars does not move with the character, and she may leave it behind to attempt to make an escape.
  • Exceptional Success: Additional successes are their own reward.

Hedgewall (•••••)

With a bellowing howl, the changeling calls forth a series of massive fortifications or hedges and brambles. Young changeling soldiers, fear of their flight through the Hedge still fresh in their minds, have been known to rout in fear at the sudden sight of towering hedgerows in the midst of a freehold. Clever changelings use this clause to hem in and trap enemies or funnel an advancing force into the waiting arms of a Court’s defenses. Few fae magics are as blatant and impressive as this clause, and its use has been known to violate freehold oaths that put a particularly heavy emphasis on secrecy.

  • Cost: 4 Glamour or 4 Glamour + 1 Willpower
  • Dice Pool: Presence + Wyrd
  • Action: Extended (5 successes necessary; each roll represents 1 turn)
  • Catch: The character transplants a small hedge bush from a rural locale to the location where the Contract is to be used immediately prior (within the scene) to using the Contract. While the bush obviously need not be taken from the ground in the same scene, it must still be alive when planted.

Roll Results

  • Dramatic Failure: The hedge fortification grows wildly in a manner that benefits the character’s enemies, whether by separating the character’s motley or cutting off his retreat. If a dramatic failure of this clause occurs in the Hedge, the walls of that maze suddenly open a trod that leads directly to Arcadia and alerts the Gentry to the character’s presence.
  • Failure: The fortifications fail to appear. If used in the Hedge, failure on this clause counts as a dramatic failure.
  • Success: Hedge walls erupt around the character, forming a maze. The character has a huge amount of control over the growth of the hedges, allowing for a great deal of versatility, but the following rules apply:

The walls summoned forth are two feet thick and too tightly grown to allow someone to pass through without using a machete or other tool. The walls provide substantial concealment (–3) against firearms attacks (and only firearms — other ranged attacks can’t penetrate) and prevent close combat attacks. This Contract cannot be used inside the bounds of a human building, even one open to the sky (like a stadium). Whatever design the changeling gives the walls, they are always vertical, meaning that someone within the maze can always climb out (though a clever changeling might use this clause under an overpass, effectively cutting off the escape route above). The walls can be climbed, but the plants shift to prevent individuals from walking across the top of them. A character attempting to do so rolls Dexterity + Athletics each turn; she may move at a Speed equal to her successes on the roll, which counts as an instant action. Failure on the roll means the character makes no progress, while dramatic failure sends her plummeting back to the maze floor. The changeling determines the height of the walls, which can range from the changeling’s Wyrd to 10 + the changeling’s Wyrd in feet. If the height of the walls is obstructed, they stop at that height (rather than spreading outward or punching their way through barriers). The length of the barrier can be as small as Wyrd yards and as long as Wyrd times 10 yards. Furthermore, the barrier must be a single unbroken wall and must touch the changeling at least one single point when created (in other words, it cannot be created at range, but the changeling can put the whole of the barrier between himself and his enemies). Finally, the walls of the hedge maze must allow room for those within to move; no wall surface can be closer than three yards to another (and circular structures must have a diameter of three yards). Otherwise, the changeling’s imagination determines the layout of the fortifications. He might create a confusing maze, a simple barrier, a wall to funnel enemies down one side of an alleyway, or even a circular fortification to trap enemies within. The barriers last for a number of turns equal to the successes rolled on the activation roll. By spending one Willpower point, the changeling can extend this duration to the end of the scene. At the end of the duration (whether in turns or at the end of the scene), the changeling may expend two points of Glamour to maintain the hedge maze for another duration of the same length. The power ends, however, at dawn or sunset, whichever comes first. These hedges can be empowered by the other clauses of this Contract. Using Briarpath on the maze hedge applies that clause across all of the walls (as well as the top of the walls), but not across the ground within the maze. Leechweed results in any contact with the hedge walls seeping Glamour from the changeling who did so. The Shield of Thorns clause results in the appearance of small tendrils along the walls that strike at anyone who touches the wall. The changeling can sense when such an attack is being made and can enhance it with the Bite of the Wooden Fang clause as a reflexive action. Such enchantments last until the end of the scene or the end of this power, whichever comes first.

  • Exceptional Success: As per success, save the walls automatically benefit from the effects of Briarpath and Leechweed.
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