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Note: A fair bit of setting-lore is laid out in the more subtle magic question, so it might be worth paying that a visit, if you haven't already.


The sky is dark and gloomy in the swamplands, the trees stunted and twisted, and the wretched and diseased inhabitants of village after village you pass by repeatedly warn you against visiting 'that cursed place'. The name 'Rynn' reaches your ears again and again, whispered in fear. Nonetheless, you are undaunted, and you finally reach the town where this Rynn lives. To your surprise, and in sharp contrast to the gloomy lands all around, it is bright and green, with blooming trees, laughing children, tall men and happy wives going about their business.

You walk around the town for over an hour before you even try talking to anyone. Indeed, the locals seem to avoid making eye contact. Aside from that, there are few signs that anything is wrong: next to a brand-new house you see the foundations of a ruined home, with a stone cairn indicating that a brewer's wife died there, and you notice two boys sit by a fence, staring into the distance with strangely blank stares and empty eyes, before their mother sees you and herds them into the house.

The local tavern is called "The Thief's Reward," and in front of it, you notice a strange dark red patch on the ground. The pavement stones are blood red, the earth between them is stained, and no grass or even moss seems to grow there. As you study the stones, you can almost swear that there is something in the air you hadn't noticed before, and a certain weariness envelops you.

"Get a grip, Alice!" you tell yourself. You suddenly decide to head into the tavern, a drink ought to clear your head of these dark thoughts.


"There is a cost to everything under the sun, and nothing can be had for nothing."

This type of Magick works by (rather inefficiently) transferring luck from one or more individuals to another. Nothing overtly supernatural can be seen to happen, but amazing 'coincidences' can line up, such as a previously well-functioning fermentation vat suddenly exploding, with a heavy cauldron flying 1000 paces through the air and landing on top of one of three thieves, literally turning him to mush.

The range of abilities I have in mind includes:

  • Telekinesis of the type described above
  • Divination (a limited, willed ability to see aspects of the future and guide it towards a more preferred outcome)
  • Headology (powerful persuasion and suggestion abilities that might be perfectly natural)
  • Evocation (freak storms, strange weather patterns etc)
  • Rynn is also unnaturally lucky, as you might expect. This doesn't seem to require any effort on her part.

Assuming that this range of abilities came to be suspected, how could a regular person in any way improve her odds against a witch wielding such magic?

Any sort of solution (ambush, poison) is acceptable. I don't want (and, given the circumstances, I don't think I can have) a fair fight. Remember, Alice is nice, so she would prefer to try and capture/disable Rynn, but I don't even know if such a thing is possible, as this situation might call for drastic measures.

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    $\begingroup$ Again, beautiful, if tragic. $\endgroup$ – Aaru Mar 29 '15 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ What are you trying to accomplish with your encounter? Capture and detainment? Injury? Death? Answers may be more useful if you provide a desired outcome. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 29 '15 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Can she only act on things she is aware of, or does her luck-shifting magic protect her without her conscious thought? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 29 '15 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ Removed from body text due to length, but still canon: The largest building in town, larger than merchants' homes and larger than the mayor's house even, is a walled compound, that seems to have once been a church or temple but appears to have been converted into an orphanage. For such a small town and considering the wretched villages around it, it seems remarkably well-populated. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Mar 30 '15 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ Have you ever written any Rynn stories? I want to read some! $\endgroup$ – Fabby Jan 29 '17 at 20:46
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I am presuming that the object of neutralising Rynn is to prevent the harm that her luck transference is causing to the area around her village.

I am also presuming that Rynn is also nice, in that she wants to help the people she lives with, and punish the people that hurt her friends. Her founding an orphanage would support this conclusion. It would also follow that Rynn is aware that she can help her friends and harm enemies, but that she is only marginally aware at best that her actions have unfortunate consequences.

Finally, I am presuming that Rynn is something of a homebody, and like most people in any world, let alone a stereotypical magical world, doesn't travel far from home.

Take the soft approach. Have Alice become Rynn's new best friend, and then using that friendship, take Rynn out of her village to see the surrounding blighted areas. If Rynn can be convinced that the misery of the people in the areas she isn't aware of is the consequence of her aid to her friends, it may be possible to get her to stop, or at least take advantage of Rynn's distress at realising that she has been harming at least as many people as she has been helping to get close enough to incapacitate her. At the moment that Rynn realises that she has made many other people's lives an utter misery, her guilt may lead to self-destructive impulses that Alice could take advantage of to neutralise her in whatever way seems appropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't remember any canon concerning Rynn actually being a nice person. Everything that I have read about her has been presented as the opinions of others about her. We have not been insider her head. For all we know, the orphanage might just be her pantry, after all some witches eat children. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 1 '15 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor, that Rynn is also nice is an educated guess based on the description of her in this and the linked question. Even if she is not nice, she is acting as if she was, and that habit would influence her actions. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Apr 2 '15 at 14:02
  • $\begingroup$ it was an educated guess up to this question when the OP gave stronger clues as to where she stands (on the dark side). Rynn is his antagonist and I am crestfallen that he decided to go that way with her. On the other hand, it leaves me free to borrow the character concept and put a more positive spin on her motives. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 2 '15 at 14:27
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Alice walks into the tavern and sits down, choosing a rather inconspicuous seat relatively near the door, and rather far from the foreboding yet beautiful Mahogany bar. When the waitress comes over asking if she's like anything to drink, Alice politely says no. She shivers just thinking about drinks in that bar, but smiles at the waitress and explains that she's been doing a lot of traveling and would like to rest her feet a few minutes before drowning her sorrows. The waitress looks back at her like she's crazy, but falls back on the old wait-staff policy of letting the clientele be a little crazy if they want and smiles back; it's usually better for tips that way.

Alice looks around, and sees many of the same blank stares inside the tavern as she did outside of it. In the corner four men, farm laborers by their strong upper body and tan necks, play poker with a aire of listlessness that is quite abnormal for a game so dependent on reading your opponent's mind.

After one particularly lucky hand, only winning thanks to a queen as the "river card," the winner tries to surreptitiously look around the bar like he's looking for one individual in particular. Satisfied, he quietly states in a near whisper, "I think I'm going to head home while my luck is still with me." Alice can barely hear him, but the rest of the table responds as though he had leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms over his head and loudly proclaimed in a Texas drawl that lady luck was on his side tonight, and he was going to take advantage of it by going home and trying to get lucky with the misses. Done whispering, the man nervously collects his winnings, stands up, and makes a direct path towards the door. He doesn't run, but he certainly moves in a hurry.

Along the way he runs into someone who stops him in a friendly manner and starts trying to chat with him. The winner politely returns the conversation, but his eyes are wild, darting around looking for how to get out of the door with his earnings intact. He succeeds in dodging the conversation within the span of a minute and resumes his procession towards the door.

Rynn walks in right as reaches the door. She looks directly at him and greets him while smiling. Alice swears Rynn was smiling at everyone. The raw feel from it permeated every corner of the bar, affecting everyone who could see it. Maintaining eye contact the entire time, Rynn offers to buy the man a drink. Without waiting for the answer, she puts an arm around his shoulder and takes off towards the Mahogany bar asking him about how his wife is doing and so forth. After a few minutes of drinking, she lets him take his leave. As he walks back towards the door, he no longer looks like a winner. Even though his pockets are full of earnings, his faces shows a man who feels that he just broke even today.

Rynn doesn't make an introduction that night, or the next night. Eventually, under the warm tones of a local minstrel's lute, she walks over to Alice in the tavern and makes an official introduction. Alice makes her own introduction as well and begins to make polite conversation. She tries to keep the conversation open and aloof, but it seems like the best luck she has in steering the conversation takes it right along a path Rynn has been preparing for.

A man walks up and tapps Rynn on the shoulder. It's the minstrel. When did the music stop playing? I didn't even notice! He begs an introduction to Alice, and upon receiving one, turns to Rynn and offers her one last song before he retires. Rynn smiles at the man now properly introduced to Alice as Del, saying it would be lovely. He goes back to the stage and tunes the lute once again before proceeding. Rynn turns back to Alice, and politely declares that she has much to do, thanks Alice for her time, and tells her that she can come by anytime if she wants to chat. Rynn takes her leave, and her smile with her.

Afterwards, Del comes off stage and talks to Alice. With surprisingly little small talk, he invites her to spend some time at his place. Thankful for a valid reason to get out of the bar, she accepts his invitation.

Back at his house he puts a tea kettle on the stove. The tea kettle is an immaculate treasure of inlay work and other fine craftsmanship. In fact, nearly everything in Del's house is exquisite. She comments on the tea kettle. Del explains that it was a gift from a governor in Teran. He never buys anything nice; everything nice in his possession has been a gift given freely by a patron.

As they talk, Del admits that he often gets really lucky. He doesn't know why, but when he goes where wind takes him, it just works out. Later in the evening he admits to Alice, over puffs of tobacco from a pipe given by a businessman in Elar, that he comes to this town often but muses that he never seems to arrive from the same direction. He explains that the music has a tendency to lead him in a clockwise circle around the swamp, playing in towns along the way, cycling from east to south to west to north as the seasons play out their tune. He comes to this swamp bound town in the center of his great cycle before it keeps things interesting. "There's never a dull moment for me in this town," he explains.

Before Alice can retire for the night, the room goes cold. Del looks up, and you swear you could see a grin on his face but the lighting is too poor to be certain. He reaches over and grasps Alice's arm in a civil but strong grip and looks her dead in the eye.

"Never stand still in this place; never walk in a straight line. Always be polite. Never make a trade for anything; instead always give a gift freely and if they want, they will honor it with a gift given freely back in return. Smile."

He reaches for the nearest immaculate treasure given freely, the tea kettle sitting next to him, without breaking eye contact with Alice. Through some trick of the light, it seems like the kettle is the only thing in the room with brilliant colors; the rest are all drab and grey. He pours two more cups of tea and offers one of them to her. As the warmth of the tea fills her body, her mind seems to warm and, by the time she is done with the cup, the color has entered the world once more.

Del moves forward with their conversation as though the event never happened. Eventually Alice politely thanks him for the tea, and takes her leave to go back to where she left her travel gear. She'll go pitch a tent tonight rather than go find an inn room. After all, she doesn't think an innkeeper will give her the gift of a night's stay freely.

Rynn turns her back on the small hovel Del rented a few weeks ago and begins walking back towards the tavern. Her smile is now a thin drawn line like an earth worm stretched across her face instead of its usual joyful fullness. Either of these fate-lines were manageable, but their interactions are proving frustratingly hard to shape, twisting and pressing in so many frustrating ways. She will need to sleep to recover energy and face Del tomorrow.

But will her dreams be safe if she does? No, she thinks, better to deal with Del tomorrow unrested than risk facing Alice on the dream fields of battle that Alice has so much more experience dealing with. Rynn's dreams frighten her. She has no intention of letting Alice get an opportunity to see that. A dreamless sleep, the endless void, scares her even more. She'll just have to wait this one out.


In this, I have chosen to set a new hero, Del. Del's style of "combat" is along the lines of my interpretation of baugua, a martial art where you always circle just out of range of the opponent, until you find a weakness and strike. He also leverages one of my favorite rules, "a gift given freely." Rynn can't use any trades to weasel him into giving up any more luck/fate than he wants to, because everything she gets from him is given freely, not as a trade. (Although he can't stay very long, because he will also give up luck/fate freely, and eventually he'd run out. However, the sort of luck he builds up on his grand circles seems to be particularly hard for Rynn to straighten out before he gives it freely. Rynn is still more powerful of the two by far, if you put them in a cage match where he can't run away when it suits him).

Somewhere along the way, I'd like to make it clear through repeated occurrences that Del couldn't just tell Alice all of that advice on a whim without Rynn intercepting it and twisting it to her own purposes. He had to wait for Rynn to try to influence them at his home, where he had several gifts freely given to use, before she gave him the opportunity to warn Alice properly. Whenever you attack, its harder to observe the actions of others. Rynn's own attacks should be her undoing.

Del and Alice come from very different paths, and that seems to be the key to making it harder for Rynn to deal with them. Techniques that are strong against one are weak against the other. She has to split them before taking one of them on. However, it turns out to be remarkably hard to split two individuals when one of them moves with the wind.

Over time, Rynn is going to have a harder time dealing with Del if she doesn't sleep. However, every time she sleeps, she has to fear Alice taking over her dreams. That fear is the final prison I would use to capture her. Fear is one of the strongest prisons of all, and in the world of fear, Alice has Rynn's number.

I think its reasonably fair to bring in another "hero" in this situation. Rynn is on her home turf, it'd be rude to let Alice just walk right over her. However, if one is trying to harness luck/fate for one's own use without giving back to the world, eventually the world will strike back. However, because it's so big, it won't strike with a sharp blow like another hero might... it will strike with slow steady advancing tides of luck/fate, both smooth and subtle. One of the easiest ways to contain Rynn (and possibly turn her from a bad guy in this scenario into a hero) is to use theses slow streams of fate to drag together multiple individuals of strong fortune from different lines of fate. That way, when Rynn finally does lose, it's not because Alice is stronger or Del is stronger, but rather because the world was behind Alice and Del and worked hard to put them in the right place at the right time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Alice is not a dream-magic user though; she is just very disciplined to the point of being able to defeat a dream-trap. $\endgroup$ – AJMansfield Mar 30 '15 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @AJMansfield I must have misread that when I was perusing Alice's previous questions. Though this leads to possibly even a more interesting alternative: what if Rynn was misinformed herself? What if the stories of Alice's adventures had taken a life of their own? This would add a third hero: the illusion of who Alice is as told by storytellers and minstrels. I almost like that better than the one I wrote up before you corrected me =) It means Rynn starts "off balance" because she's working with the wrong set of information. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Mar 30 '15 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Impressive work! $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Mar 31 '15 at 23:06
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Rynn's magic is basically powered through a transference of luck. So to detain Rynn you need to remove her from the source of her power. Perhaps you could:

  • Drain the luck of everybody nearby. (How is luck built up in your universe? Does Rynn have to move on every few years to keep up a steady supply?)
  • Give everybody "protective charms" that make their luck stick to their person.
  • Get her somewhere where there is nothing to drain luck from - and throw enough things at her that she has to use up her luck. When she runs out she should be easy pickings.

Alice will also have to consider how to stop Rynn from absorbing more luck after she is captured. This will be exceptionally difficult if she has to be transferred to or through a town or city.

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The premise is that the magic is relatively subtle and mostly relies upon shifting luck.

So the solution is to approach the problem in a way that is extremely reliable--not really a matter of luck!--and would require dramatic magic to prevent it.

In particular, a protagonist can use attention to counteract any of the bad-luck effects, just like anyone can when sleep-deprived, on a ladder, whatever. She can initially pay attention to where possible dangers are: where is a chimney that might fall down? what might explode? are there water tanks that would flood the town?

And then the protagonist simply (if, alas, it is necessary) walks straight up to the magician and runs them right through with a sword. With adequate training, attention to footing, focus on where the blade strikes, and as free as possible from disturbances (e.g. a flock of pigeons suddenly deciding to fly between them).

And this needs to happen fast. The protagonist needs to realize what must happen, how he or she must do it, and act all in a short space of time so that concentration can be maintained and the chances for bad luck do not add up to an insurmountable barrier.

(Or you could get a second, possibly much weaker magician, to specifically counter any bad luck directed your way.)

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    $\begingroup$ The thing with luck is that it can be really hard to beat. Your swordsman just happens to cut off his own thumb when drawing (don't laugh, it has happened to kenjutsu masters), or the sword hangs up on a small object in the target's pocket and snaps, or the swordsman trips on a stray marble that went astray from a kids' marbles game around the corner. The only way this might work is to include Rynn in the area of effect of an explosive - if it goes off, Rynn might prefer to be injured rather than allow her friends to come to harm. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 30 '15 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - These things happen when the swordsman is not focusing on every detail. A swordsman focusing on not cutting him or herself while drawing the sword will essentially never do it. It's when attention is elsewhere--on striking the swift, lethal blow to the enemy before they're even aware that a blade has been drawn against them--that little accidents crop up. Not doing that is the whole point of my answer. The key is mindfulness in every action. $\endgroup$ – Rex Kerr Mar 30 '15 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ As a martial artist, I can say that paying full attention to everything is an impossibility even before a witch is making you unlucky enough to have overlooked something small, unlikely but ultimately very important. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 30 '15 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - Is that also true if you have a lethal weapon and you need to deal with someone not trained in combat? This is supposed to be very unlike any sort of normal combat where you must focus on your opponent to the exclusion of many other things. Obviously if the witch is powerful enough, you'll be hit by a meteor before you even realize that you will plan to kill her (or otherwise neutralize her--tasers, anyone?), but you can shift the odds by several orders of magnitude. $\endgroup$ – Rex Kerr Mar 30 '15 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ This approach is not impossible, just - given that the target can shift probabilities without conscious thought - quite unlikely in my opinion. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 30 '15 at 4:13
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Alice vs. Rynn. Wow, I have to admit I've never been in a situation where I've had two crowd-sourced powerful figures (both of whom I had liked and previously thought to be quite nice) pitted against each other quite so starkly. I've been mostly quietly following Alice's unfolding saga through your questions, (some seem hard-science, others magic, some both at the same time), so I was used to surprises, but I literally winced when I saw Rynn's name. So I guess I'm into the story.

After using Worldbuilding to power Rynn up, we have to tear her down. I'd say you have two paths:

  • gather a mob, with pitchforks and torches, and head to the gingerbread house, with the full expectation that you'll lose most of your force, or
  • go face Rynn alone, not putting anyone else in danger, but subjecting yourself to headology (to which Alice is quite vulnerable to, judging by the previous Rynn question, despite her martial arts-based mental training). Presumably, now that she's aware that magic is at work, Alice will be wary of suggestion attempts.

It's unclear what the full extent of Rynn's abilities is, so perhaps it's better not to test it (a freak lightning bolt or a heavy hailstorm can make short work of your pitchfork mob). So better to go alone.

Now should Alice go at night, like a Ninja assassin, or knock at the orphanage's gate (or wherever the witch is) in broad daylight? Odds are, the lucky witch will be wakened by a rat, or falling vase, or something if subterfuge is attempted. So perhaps better to go in broad daylight, since your mention that the divination ability is willed suggests she must make a conscious effort at it. If it's just a small, smiling stranger, perhaps the lucky witch won't be as suspicious, so won't consult her oracular powers.

How to disable her? Obviously, luck must have nothing to do with it. Luckily, Alice has something that mere luck cannot thwart: skill and a well-organized mind. She can prepare, be ready for a lot of things. Perhaps there's a limit to just how much luck the witch can divert in a given time, and once she's out, Alice can make quick work of her.

An alternative is for Alice to have some powerful probability-stabilizing artifact, that reinforces the normal odds of reality. Perhaps that's what she stole from the temple. Imagine the look on the witch's face if suddenly, all of her usual tricks stop working.

PS: Now that we're getting so meta, do we even know that Alice is actually good? We know she's a thief and a trickster, after all.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was going to write an alternate answer about working WITH Rynn, but @MontyWild already did it better than I could. $\endgroup$ – Aaru Mar 30 '15 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Re Alice's goodness: Who can say? One man's hero is often another's villain. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Mar 30 '15 at 1:18
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Trick Rynn into doing something that drains her of her magic, or in this case her luck. We all know that breaking mirrors, walking under ladders, stepping on sidewalk cracks, putting shoes on a table, opening umbrellas inside, hanging horseshoes upside down, spilling salt, something involving black cats, etc. all cause bad luck for the person who does those things. Even if these are just superstitions for normal people, for a luck-magic-user they might be very real.

Assuming that in your setting luck is in fact affected by such things, Alice might be able to trick Rynn into performing a luck-depleting act.

Here is one possible way to accomplish this:

Each day, Alice sends Rynn an identical package (e.g. via mail, or a private courier). Use a different courier every day, or ensure that Rynn doesn't know how the packages are being delivered, so that she can't prevent the deliveries of the package via luck-magic, and ensure the package is from a non-existent entity (to prevent Rynn from causing an accident at the package's fictional origin).

Rynn eventually adopts some routine method to dispose of the packages, hopefully without examining their contents. When she does, Alice then replaces the next package with some luck-sensitive item that Rynn's package handling procedure would trigger.

The payload would not be something intrinsically dangerous; if you were sending a mail bomb, you would inevitably end up blowing yourself up putting it together.

If Rynn, for instance, always throws them out the window, or chucks them somewhere, add a sheet of mirrored glass to the package. If Rynn burns them, put a (insert appropriate holy book here) in the package.

Once the payload has been delivered and activated, Alice should be able to easily defeat Rynn.

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The important thing for Alice to do is to set up the environment such that there is no way luck can help Rynn. In a direct and unprepared confrontation this would be very difficult to do, but if she can organise things in such a way that Rynn has no safe outcome then she has a chance, so perhaps we need a political solution.

One strategy would be to set up a series of traps over time, if possible with a few trustworthy accomplices. Rynn would, of course, not fall into them. In fact she would never be affected by them at all. Which would be lucky. In fact, after a while it would be suspiciously lucky. If rumours begin to spread that Rynn is a witch then people are going to start paying closer attention to what she is up to. The local priests begin to eye her suspiciously. At this point being improbably lucky could be very unlucky indeed for her so her own powers begin to be self-neutralising.

This is not a game that is played out as a flash confrontation, it is a game of chess that must lead towards an inexorable checkmate- if your opponent is very lucky then you must an extraordinary player of the game to be able to beat them, but that is not impossible.

There is always the risk, of course, that overwhelming someone blessed with the luck of the gods might result in your being afflicted by its dark reflection, a curse of ill luck that might last the rest of your days. I guess that's just a chance you have to take.

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