Zerstörung: The Bargainer’s Art of Envy

Knacks: Disintegration, Distant Touch, Fast Application, Focused Effect, Indirect Touch

Apprentice Degree: Wood and Paper
Adept Degree: Metal and Stone
Master Degree: Flesh and Blood

Of all the Bargainers’ gifts, perhaps none was so terrible as Zerstörung: the power to corrode matter. Its practitioners were among the most feared men ever to walk Théah. They fled the Old Empire long before its fall, driven away by attacks from rival Sorcerers. By the early tenth century, they had been reduced to a single large family in a small Eisen territory. Die Kreuzritter (acting in the place of the Rilasciare) did the world a service by destroying their line forever.

It’s possible, however, that a few Zerstörung practitioners survived. Perhaps the von Drachen bloodline endured through the centuries, hidden away in the darkest corners of a broken country. A tiny handful of Sorcerers (perhaps no more than ten) may still walk the land, keeping their dark gift alive.

The Game Master has the final say on whether or not Zerstörung still exists in his or her campaign. Heroes should not normally be able to possess it (unless terrible secrets and relentless persecution are your thing). We’ve provided rules here for historical interest, and for the odd NPC (Villain? Or persecuted innocent?) who may still practice it.

Zerstörung essentially accelerates the ravages of time, causing materials to corrode and collapse in the span of a few seconds. The affected object literally rots before the Sorcerer’s eyes, becoming dry, wrinkled, and desiccated as if it had lain untouched for centuries. This is not aging (it won’t turn a baby into a man), but rather an increase in the natural entropy that causes wear and decay. At lower levels it affects wood, paper, and other perishable items. At higher levels it can affect stone, metal, and even flesh. Its effect on living things is devastating; at the height of their power, the von Drachens could turn a twelve-year-old boy into a withered mummy simply by brushing his cheek.

Typically, only Eisen characters would practice Zerstörung, and they would likely have roots in the southern part of the country, raised far from any civilized locale. Most have learned to keep their powers hidden from the rest of society. This feat has been complicated by the physical manifestation of Zerstörung: its practitioners seem to age prematurely, developing crow’s feet and wrinkles as early as their teenage years, and appearing as wizened old men and crones by the time they reach middle age.

Apprentice Degree
At the earliest stage, the Sorcerer learns to affect easily perishable objects: paper, foodstuffs, and the like. A simple Resolve Roll vs. a TN of five causes a single non-living item no firmer than wood and no greater than man-sized height to become brittle and unusable. It takes three Actions of contact for the corrosion to work. Raises can be used to affect additional items: one per Raise to a maximum equal to the Sorcerer’s Mastery Level in Zerstörung.

Adept Degree
The Adept understands the school well enough to affect more permanent things: metal, stone, and earth. Canny Sorcerers can use this to crumble the foundations of a castle or rust a suit of armor. A simple Resolve Roll vs. a TN of 5 causes one cubic foot of material, or a single object no greater than three feet high, to become pitted and rusted. A single piece of armor can be affected in this manner (a breastplate, a panzerhand, etc.). Each Raise allows an additional cubic foot or additional object to be corroded, up to a maximum equal to the Sorcerer’s Mastery Level in Zerstörung.

Master Degree
The final stage of Zerstörung opens the very essence of life to the Sorcerer’s corroding touch. Trees, animals, and even human beings can be aged in this manner. By making a simple Resolve roll against a TN of 5, the Sorcerer causes one Dramatic Wound to a single living subject. Every two Raises allows the Sorcerer to cause an additional Dramatic Wound, up to a maximum equal to the Sorcerer’s Mastery Level in Zerstörung. It takes three Actions of unbroken contact in order for the power to work. The subject won’t feel anything until the corrosion takes effect, but contact must be maintained for at least three Actions. See “Limitations” below for more details.

The effects can be seen in the subject as a drying of the skin, a loss of body fat, an increase in wrinkles, and a generally skeletal appearance. It takes one month of complete rest (bedridden, without traveling anywhere) to heal a single Dramatic Wound inflicted in this fashion. The visible effects fade during this time, but the subject will always feel a certain tightness in the joints.

Zerstörung may only affect creatures of horse-size or smaller. Drachen, leviathans, and the like simply have too much mass for the Sorcery to work on them.

Zerstörung requires the Sorcerer’s touch to take effect: bare skin contacting the object in question (note that as they increase in power, Zerstörung Sorcerers find ways to work around this). It takes three continuous Actions of unbroken contact in order to work. If contact is broken for any reason, the Sorcerer must start again.

If the Sorcerer wishes to affect a moving object (such as a carriage or a human being), he must make a successful Finesse + Grapple roll. If he succeeds, he causes no damage, but may corrode the object as normal (provided he can maintain contact for three Actions or has the Fast Application Knack).

Dracheneisen, Syrneth artifacts, and Sidhe equipment are immune to Zerstörung. Water cannot be affected by it either, and and ageless supernatural creatures such as ghosts or Sidhe simply shrug off its power. The rumored Immortality Potion mentioned in the Sophia’s Daughters sourcebook may render those who drink it immune to Zerstörung, as well.

Sorcerous Knacks

Disintegration. Zerstörung tends to leave evidence in its wake (the pitted remains of a suit of armor, a skeletal mummy, etc.). Masters of the art can corrode an object until it is nothing but dust. For every Rank in Disintegration, the user may reduce one cubic foot of affected material to powder, which will blow away in a stiff breeze. Masters (Rank 5) can disintegrate anything they have corroded, no matter how large.

Distant Touch. You must have the Indirect Touch Knack in order to take Distant Touch. Your Rank in Distant Touch may never be higher than your Rank in Indirect Touch. This Knack allows the Sorcerer to corrode objects from a distance, without having to touch them even indirectly. For every Rank in Distant Touch, you can affect items farther away:

Rank Oneone foot
Rank Twotwo feet
Rank Threefive feet
Rank Fourten feet
Rank Fivetwenty feet

Fast Application. Zerstörung takes time to work: three Actions of continuous contact, which can be quite difficult. Sorcerers with Fast Application, however, have learned to focus their powers much more quickly. It takes only a single touch (one Action) to use their power: quite handy during combat or when time is of the essence. Using Fast Application requires a simple Resolve check. Success indicates that the effect takes only a single Action; failure means that the Sorcerer must maintain contact for two more Actions (although he can try again next action). The TN for success depends upon the user’s Rank in Fast Application:

Rank OneTN 30
Rank TwoTN 25
Rank ThreeTN 20
Rank FourTN 15
Rank FiveTN 10

Focused Effect. This Knack allows a Sorcerer to corrode only a single part of the object in question: just one page out of a book, for example, or a man’s hand instead of his entire body. The Sorcerer must meet all the conditions for corroding the object normally, then make a simple Resolve check in order to limit the effect to the desired location. The TN depends upon the Sorcerer’s Rank in Focused Effect:

Rank One35
Rank Two30
Rank Three25
Rank Four20
Rank Five15

Success means the desired area (and only the desired area) is affected. Failure indicates the object completely rots or corrodes as usual.

Indirect Touch. Most of the time, the Sorcerer must touch an object with his bare flesh in order to affect it. With practice, however, he can learn how to corrode something which he isn’t touching: flesh through a shirt, for example, or a table through the floor it stands on. The Sorcerer rolls Resolve + Indirect Touch; the base TN is 10, plus 5 for every additional piece of material between the Sorcerer’s flesh and the target object. For thicker material (walls, floors, etc.) add 5 to the TN for every foot of solid matter between the Sorcerer’s flesh and the target object.

Game Master’s Secrets
Whether conscious or not, the Sorcerer is constantly emitting an aura of decay. This aura is responsible for the premature aging (in appearance only) of the Sorcerer, but it also has a deleterious effect on the Barrier. This aura is constantly seeping through the shadows to erode the Barrier, and a Zerstörung Sorcerer with direct access to the Barrier could wreak untold havoc by dissolving actual holes in the membrane itself.