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The Test of Rthak'aai

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eldersphinx's picture

Nope, it's not a "The lich-queen is dead!..." piece, but hopefully it works for Rrakkma regardless. Fun little possibility for dungeoneering in Limbo, or a truly odd solo adventure. Enjoy...The chaos-shapers of the alien githzerai of Limbo maintain many secretive traditions in the practice of their craft. One of the most ancient and important of their customs is the test of Rthak'aai, a formal demonstration of a student's skill and ability to survive in the wildness of deepest Limbo. Most githzerai live out their entire lives without being tested in Rthak'aai; even many chaos-shapers never undergo the challenges. But it remains, a way to determine which among the githzerai are truly able to master their adopted home, and a person who has passed its challenges is respected by all who live within Shrat'klor.Each rthak'aai test takes place within a specially constructed island of stability within the depths of Limbo. For reasons that will become obvious later, each such island is unique and used only once; as a result, any rthak'aai testing requires the participation of at least one master chaos-shaper, and a not inconsiderable investment of time and willpower. Overseeing a student's rthak'aai is often as much a rite of passage for the master as the test itself is for the student.The goal of rthak'aai is to find and claim a key item, located within a maze of challenges and dangers, to be returned to the master shapers. This key item is described in general terms, but never mentioned exactly - this prevents an unscrupulous student from simply shaping their own copy of the key from raw chaos and making a quick escape. The student can make as many preparations beforehand as desired, but in the end will go in with only their chaos-shaping skills to sustain them - all items are taken away, all enchantments are dispelled and all psionic resevoirs are drained to nothing. In the process of claiming the key, the student will face several challenges, each designed to test some aspect of the student's chaos-shaping skills and general worthiness.The tests are broadly described as follows:Test of Stamina - This is often the first test of rthak'aai, a straightforward obstacle to be overcome. The student is confronted with an impassable barrier of hazardous material, such as a wall of flame or tunnel filled with water or acid, and must ward themselves from the danger in order to pass. Shaping a space through the substance is allowed, but is more strenuous and less likely to succeed.Test of Perception - Another early test, the Test of Perception offers the student a tool or important clue that will be vital later in the challenge - but disguised or hidden, so that the student must work to uncover it. Sometimes, the tool is a mass of raw matter, easily shaped into whatever form the student might need - but at a casual glance nothing more than unremarkable earth or water. In another case, information in written or glamered form is provided, then obscured so that a student must shape the obstruction away. In all cases, though, bypassing the assistance makes later tests difficult if not impossible to overcome.Test of Wits - This test challenges the student to use her chaos-shaping abilities in an innovative and unexpected way. The challenge is obvious, the solution is not - and be it by extruding nearby earth as a bridge over a trapped region, imposing traits of elemental air to blow away a choking fog, or shaping nearby matter into the form of a shield or other barrier, the safest way past will never be an obvious one. It's not uncommon for a rthak'aai creator to set up a Test of Wits with one form of solution in mind - and then for the student to find a different but equally innovative way past the challenge.Test of Mettle - Possibly the most dangerous of all the tests, this challenge pits the student against another living creature, hostile and determined to cripple or kill the student. Lesser slaadi are the most common creatures to appear in this situation, but any sort of dangerous creature native to Limbo may appear. The student may use any method that works to pass the opponent, be it combat, evasion, intimidation or trickery, but should be sure that the chosen method will work. The danger in this test is very real.Test of Mastery - This last to final test involves claiming the key item from where it lies in the rthak'aai maze. There is always some trick involved in this test - a guardian animate or inanimate, a choice between a true key and one or more false ones, the possibility of deception or similar failure. Claiming the key is the only way out of the rthak'aai maze - once a student enters, the entrance is sealed and cannot again be opened. A student who fails to find the rthak'aai key is condemned to a slow death of starvation and madness.Test of Survival - A student who claims the key, on the other hand, finds that the rthak'aai maze and all within it dissolves immediately into chaos. The student is then stranded alone in deep Limbo, with only the claimed key and any other tools they have found in their possession. The student's mentor will not arrive for a period of several hours at least; until that time, the student must survive on their own, mastering the primal chaos tides and hiding from or frightening off any creatures that come across the place.The test of rthak'aai can enter a campaign in either of two ways. The obvious method is to have an experienced chaos-shaper PC face the test as a solo adventure, perhaps in order to impress an important NPC or gain a needed ally for a larger quest. Such a test would be run as a standard dungeon, with special attention to how chaos-shaping might be used to deal with encounters.The other possibility is for PCs to find themselves thrown into a rthak'aai maze by a transient portal - intruders into a very strange and unnerving environment. Such characters would have items, numbers, magic and combat skills to deal with challenges scaled for a lone chaos-shaper - but would also have very little idea of what they were dealing with, and probably no skill at all in the best tool for dealing with the threats they face. The student the maze was designed for might be already dead, or might be very alive indeed - and determined to destroy any evidence that might exist of his test having been 'tainted' by outsiders.

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