The body is the key. A philosophy of limbs. A weaponless hand, a clear mind, and nothing more than natural power. Or so heroic fantasies would tell you. Yellow-paper fighting manuals with still-wet ink hawked by guttersnipes and lowly scavengers on street corners and outside circuses boast of a physical philosophy. Something that can be accomplished without magic, without technology, and without selling your soul. Fools and children dream that an unaided humanity is capable of impossible acts of energy and motion, that there are composers of hidden body forces, themselves hidden in a shadow network of superlative combatants of unearthly power. These fictional heroes of back-alley myth have the power to punch a raindrop through a tree trunk, shatter blades with fingertips, run across still water, hurl falling leaves like flesh-slicing knives, bind opponents with a single hair, to climb smoke as if it was stone, and to pass through stone as if it was smoke. Tall tales and cheap imaginings say they are out there somewhere, defending ancient knowledge from before the Fall, embarked on secret paths, and fighting in secret wars. Reasonable people do not believe such things. Yes, there are probably a handful of buff mystics and sigilites hanging around on mountaintops somewhere, deceiving the credulous few for a crust of bread, or the occasional charlatan or strongman postulating an incredible new technique. But the powers of humanity are known; blade, spell, faith, and fire. There is little need to invent such shallow self-deluding dreams. And if they do exist, where are they? .................................................... It's all true. Shame has hidden them. A subculture of body-masters hidden for a millennia, hiding in the ruins of great temples and in the shadow of old hierarchies. This is the art of a failed hope, a relic of a culture of human optimization that failed to save the world. Things were not always as they are now. Uud was larger once, and there were many people and many kinds whose shapes are seen no more. And in that brighter, older, more vibrant world, the idea, shared across cultures, refined and developed over time, that ordinary people could contain extraordinary capacities, released through nothing more than intensive training, self-knowledge, and philosophy did not seem so impossible. It was not wild than to think that mortal flesh could contend with immortal power. Yet, in the end, it could not. Most were thought to have died trying and failing, to stop Yggsrathaal. After the fall, many of the survivors felt deep shame and ate up the prejudice and anger of the world they failed to save. Of the few survivors, many forgot what they knew, and the rest hid themselves away. But time changes much. Even the core reasons for the secrecy, if not the habit itself, have been forgotten. Humanities anger at its failed heroes to has been lost, evolving into a kind of soft forgetting and mild disdain. Now, enough pain has been allowed to pass away. Figments of fiction, imagination, and heroic fantasy walk abroad. The misliked dream of an awoken humanity, self-comprehending and possessing magnificent abilities, may yet return, recast in a new age of heroes. .................................. HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS? Idiot Savant - You did the exercises in a woodcut manual handed to you by some guy in the street, and they work! Maybe they were copied by a fragment of some ancient text, or maybe you are just a natural, either way, time to find out what you can do! Body Scholar - You developed these principals of training, diet, and body mechanics yourself after experiment and deep thought, now you test yourself and your new concepts to discover the true range of human capacity. Delver of the Hidden History - Studying old records and legends of forgotten cultural contact, you unearthed partial inferences of these methods and abilities, descriptions, arguments, and even fragments of an old fighting manual, which you have tried to reconstruct. The Family Secret - An otherwise reserved parent, uncle, or ancient but mysteriously-preserved grandparent saw your potential and taught you the secret methods passed down your bloodline for a millennia. At the same time, they swore you to secrecy and a complex series of rules and proscriptions. Immortal Wanderer - In some solitary or out of the way place, you came upon a mysterious Aeth, or truly ancient Doeth or Somon. Perhaps they were badly wounded, surrounded by tens, even hundreds of monster corpses. Your help then may have saved their life, in return, they taught you the basics of this technique before disappearing. Hidden School - In the warren of a slum or the byzantine passages of a forgotten outer palace is a hidden school, almost a conspiracy, in which a small number practice a secret art, you were recruited, sought it out, or perhaps simply fell into it, discovering it by mistake. Distant Temple - Not a secret exactly, but a legend hidden by its mystical aura and generally believed to be fiction. Few believe it really exists. This place might be in the Mountains of Reality, or the margins of the Waste, or even deep in the Waste itself. Rumour claims that if you can make it there and pass the tests of its guardians, you can learn its secrets. ........................................ SOME OF THE STYLES OF WEAPONLESS WAR Fists of Renaissance These are reconstructed, rediscovered or even entirely-invented martial styles, often deeply idiosyncratic. The practitioner may believe they are accurately reconstructing an ancient method while in fact, creating something entirely new, or believe they are inventing an entirely new fighting technique while in reality, mimicking methods and techniques laid down thousands of years ago. Every practitioner names their own technique and they are often alarmingly confident of their abilities, despite the extremely mixed results produced by these unique fighting styles. The Art of the Animal Masters The legendary origins of body-arts are said to have come from interaction with intelligent animals who taught Humanity their own secrets of movement, focus, and philosophy. Each of these styles is a relic, closely guarded, sometimes only a single school, family, or lone master knows the style. Many must have been lost over the millennia. In the past, the schools have always been rivals, dueling with each other in both serious and sporting ways, in this fallen world though, such rivalries may have been forgotten along with so much else, or simply ignored out of solidarity considering the singular threat which faces all dreaming beings. Traditionally, anyone capable of learning all ten of the prime animal styles opens the gateway to unlimited power. In Blackwater, as it is, it might be as difficult to find masters who know these styles, as it would be to learn them. The Ontological Hand The reality-sustaining rituals of the Holy Aeth Emperors hidden in the depths of the Grey Cities are said to include some elements in which the natural flows of body-energy are channeled and focused. The Ontological Hand is a partial derivation of those methods. It has the power to shape and sustain reality itself. Due to its potentially terrifying capacities, its users are placed under complex strictures and only taught partial methods and techniques, as well as being carefully watched. In practice, this form focuses mainly on incredible resistance to damage and superb and overwhelming strength. Followers of the Ontological Hand loath, absolutely, those who pursue the Cinerous Fist. The Cinerous Fist An utterly feared and possibly completely evil-fighting style. Practitioners either study in hidden temples out in the Waste or just wander about out there fighting stuff until they are either masters, or dead. The Cinereous Fist is said to mimic the energy flow of the Children of Yggsrathaal in the same way the animal styles match the energy of natural beasts. Masters can punch the identity out of people, steal memories, snatch faces or names, and perhaps even decay reality at a basic level. They claim they are using this power for 'good' and that only by understanding Yggsrathaal can she be defeated. ....................................... The body and the mind are one. There can be no growth in the body's power without simultaneous growth in self-knowledge, now you journey in the world to journey within the self. Those around you are the small group to whom you can freely reveal your true capacities and your true journey. People you can rely on to keep your secret. Each of them, good and bad, are reflections of some part of yourself. Sometimes guides, sometimes warnings. Learning about them, learning from them, is like learning about yourself. You see the ripples of your actions in their reactions. Perhaps you are a hidden defender of the people, protecting them from monsters, corrupt authorities, and the Children of Yggsrathaal. Or you may be a master of self. You seek out challenges, from creatures, from people, from nature, to test yourself and grow, every failure and success adding to your awareness of self. Or perhaps you fight only to win. To prove yourself the undisputed best. Whatever your reasons, despite the glib delusion in which the world conspires to ignore or marginalize your powers and abilities, things are going to change. Uud is waking up and humanity along with it.