Super hero stories are full of all-powerful Maguffins that can’t be allowed to fall into the wrong hands … and inevitably do. It’s not much fun to say, “the bad guy got the thing, game over” in a roleplaying game, so it might be fun to have some rules for the thing. And while we’re at it, some history and some ways to deal with the Worst Case Scenario.
In the Adventure Destroyer of Worlds, in the Dauntless sourcebook, the heroes encounter one powerful artifact, the enchanted brazier called the Flames of Fate. Here we will learn about another, the interstellar artifact known as the Cosmic Thimble.
The Cosmic Thimble was produced approximately a thousand years ago by the order of Ajara’kuan sorcerer-priest-king Nashuug the Vile. The Ajara’kuans call him Nashuug the Victor, and it was he who produced the Strictures, the long set of political-social tracts that form the basis of their Empire today.
The Cosmic Thimble looks like a tiny machine the size of a human’s thumb, a gunmetal black hollow cylinder covered with glowing amber circuitry that constantly shifts and changes. This is only its physical projection, however. The actual devices comprises an entire Realm of its own. To power the Thimble, Nashuug tricked a Cosmic Entity named Iustrion into sacrificing itself to form its power source. The official religion of the Ajara’kuans (not particularly interested in historical accuracy) states that the universe was dominated by peace and justice, weakness and boredom, until Nashuug trapped this god-being in his masterpiece, causing the universe to fall into chaos and uncertainty, a field ripe for battle and conquest by Ajara’kuan warriors.
Most of the changes that the Thimble enforces on reality are immediately undone. Most of them. Nashuug used the Thimble’s powers to conquer around 10% of the Milky Way Galaxy, until it was stolen from them by an unknown species. This species obliterated most of the Ajara’Kuan Empire in anger, before their rage burned itself out and they turned their attention to ruling the Ajara’Kuans from within, pulling the strings on what is still one of the mightiest polities to border on Convocation space. Indeed, the Convocation traces its origins to an alliance of worlds that rebelled against the Ajara’Kuans and their hidden masters, known only as the Astromancers.
The Cosmic Thimble is completely indestructible. It does not emit any energy other than visible light and a small amount of heat; destructive energies are reflected back to their source.
The Thimble has four main Powers.
Immortality. The current owner of the Thimble cannot be killed or seriously injured. They may spend 1 DET to restore themselves to full Health after any injury, or to undo any Affliction or other negative effect. The owner can even return from the dead, if they died with even 1 DET remaining. This is a completely passive Power; no Action needs to be spent to become Immortal.
Near-Omnipotence. The Thimble grants the user every Power at Level 10, with all Power Enhancements. Using these Powers never costs the owner VIG, DET, or anything else, and the owner’s AWE is treated as 10 for any calculation for Powers. Using any such Power requires a Transform Action.
Loyalty. The Thimble cannot be forcibly removed for long from its current owner. If the Thimble is removed from its owner, it will return 1d6 Rounds later, or 1d6 minutes after it’s moved to another Realm. During this time the wearer loses the Thimble’s gifts of Immortality and Near-Omnipotence. The owner doesn’t need to do anything for the Thimble to return. The owner can sense where the Thimble is (direction, and a dim glimpse of its surroundings), and can will the Thimble to inflict 1 LIF damage per Round to its thief.
Utopia. The Thimble owner can impose their worldview on the world around them. Within a radius of (owner’s DET) miles, anyone that acts against the hero’s Motivations instantly suffers 1d3 LIF damage and loses 1 DET. It requires only a single Transform Action to initiate Utopia.
The gifts of Immortality and only remain while the owner maintains physical contact with the Thimble. If the Thimble is removed from the owner for longer than an hour, the Thimble considers itself to be owner-less. The wielder cannot use the Near-Omnipotence and Utopia powers simultaneously. Since this is the case, owners of the Cosmic Thimble often become paranoid, refusing to sleep and hiding in a safe place.
Most of these limitations are well-known. What isn’t well-known is that the Cosmic Thimble still retains a fragment of Iustrion’s consciousness. Iustrion was, in fact, a Cosmic Entity of justice, and it objects to petty, selfish, and cruel uses of his cosmic power. Any owner that uses the Cosmic Thimble in such a way for an extended period will gradually find it harder and harder to act in a quick, decisive, and ruthless manner. Gradually they will spend more and more time dithering and laying elaborate deathtraps and delivering grand monologues, and less time simply refurbishing the universe in their own image. No game mechanics are attached to this tendency, since there’s no way to measure how it works exactly, but a stronger-willed villain might remain effective and proactive for a noticeably longer period.
The exact limitations of the Utopia power are not well-known. The wielder of the Thimble is made aware of the Thimble’s Utopia power, but what they don’t realize is that the Thimble will not punish those who have the same Motivation and obey it. For example, a villain Motivated by Greed might create a Utopia where people suffer unless they surrender all their worldly possessions to the villain. A “reformed” villain from Task Force Tantalus is trapped in the area of effect, and among her less endearing qualities, she’s also Motivated by Greed. She hoards her Wealth, and the Thimble doesn’t cause her to suffer; after all, she’s obedient to the villain’s wishes, in her own way.
Only one thing in the universe can permanently destroy the Cosmic Thimble: the Freedom Soul, which empowered Captain Freedom I and II. The fact that Captain Freedom III doesn’t have the Freedom Soul is a definite concern to C.H.I.M.E.R.A., who worry that some Ajara’kuan warlord might find the Cosmic Thimble and come to conquer Earth-Omega, and find nothing to stop them.
Finally, one of the major goals of the Defenders of Mind (detailed in the Dauntless sourcebook) is to protect the universe from the Cosmic Thimble’s evil. The Defenders of Mind traditionally keep the Thimble hidden in a safe, secret location, and the Convocation works with the semi-monastic Defenders to ensure that the artifact is kept out of the hands of the Astromancers, and others who would inevitably misuse its endless power.
… Deal with it
More specifically, how do the heroes deal with the Bad Guy getting this monstrosity?
The first, best, quickest way to deal with the Thimble is to take it from its owner. The owner of the Thimble will be almost overwhelmingly powerful, though! You need to distract the owner, overwhelm them with numbers, or attack when they’re off guard.
Truly courageous heroes, with a gift for words, may try to erode the villain’s Determination, and then defeat them when they can no longer will themselves back to full Health, but that’s an extremely risky maneuver.
Of course, the heroes are unlikely to know about Iustrion and how it manipulates the Thimble’s owners into madness and laxity. They are likely to realize, however, how much worse the situation could have become, and wonder at how the villain fell apart toward the end.
Even if you take the Thimble, you need to move fast, because you’ve got a very pissed-off Archvillain who will stop at nothing to get the Thimble back, and you’re playing hot potato with the thing as it literally burns away your life energy.
What do the heroes do with the Cosmic Thimble when they defeat its current owner? As discussed in Destroyer of Worlds, there are no easy right answers, but there are lots of easy wrong answers. The heroes can use the artifact, pledging to use it only when needed and in the best possible manner, but eventually they’ll use it poorly. The Cosmic Thimble is too powerful for anyone to be entrusted with, and eventually the Defenders of Mind will learn about the item and come asking for it, emphatically. While they’ve lost the thing to conqerors and madmen, no one (except maybe the Convocation’s Star Brigade) is really equipped to handle such incredible power, and keep it safe and secret in the depths of space. Regardless, Player Character heroes will do what PCs always do, get into trouble; GM, it’s your job to let them, and make sure they have fun doing so.
The ultimate goal, of course, may even be to discover the hiding place of the Freedom Soul, the key to destroying the Cosmic Thimble forever, but its current disposition is one of Earth-Omega’s greatest mysteries!