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nyarlathotep, the Black Pharaoh, seeks to enter the realm of Earth to rule over mankind. Unfortunately, he is prevented from doing so by a barrier that blocks eldritch deities from crossing over. To get around this, he breaks his soul up into thousands of pieces and seeds them into thousands unborn children. These kids become immortal avatars of Nyarlathotep called Nylanders, who do battle with each other over the centuries through one-on-one engagements to the death. When one is killed, the other "eats" the loser and gains their power and memories, absorbing them into themselves. When all pieces of the deity have joined, Nyarlathotep will become whole within one body and would be reborn on the mortal plane. In the end, there can be only one.

However, even though a Nylander can kill another of his kind and take his soul, he doesn't benefit personally. While he has gained the power and memories of the fallen, he is unable to gain access to any of it. The winner remains completely unchanged, making everyone on an even level when they do battle. This slows down the assembly process, stretching it out to centuries instead of a short period of time, and making it more difficult for the deity to unite its pieces.

What would be preventing these warriors from gaining the abilities of others after defeating them?

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    $\begingroup$ Question in title is different than question in body. Which one are you trying to have answered? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 22 '20 at 18:47
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    $\begingroup$ Why is this a problem you need to solve? Or, to put it another way, why would the winner gain the knowledge and abilities of the vanguished, even if they absorb their soul? $\endgroup$ – hyde Oct 23 '20 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ @hyde ultimately I imagine Nyarlathotep wants all xyr powers and knowledge back into a single vessel. Explaining why the winner only had a fraction of that power before it all becomes available to the reborn Black Pharaoh seems sensible. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 9:58
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    $\begingroup$ @hyde Also, OP is putting a twist on the Highlander plot, where they actually are absorbing the "power" of the other immortals. I've never understood what kind of upgrades they got from all that lightning but OP might just be trying to get rid of that plothole before integrating it in his own story. $\endgroup$ – Echox Oct 23 '20 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like you read Master of Chaos $\endgroup$ – David Hambling Oct 23 '20 at 17:26
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The Nylanders are not a part of Nyarlathotep, they are just carrying a part of him. In fact, they are just humans with some special powers given to them by a fragment of the deity within them. They grew up with this fragment and are used to it. Absorbing someones fragment is not that special. But absorbing someone elses psyche is somehing absolutely different. The human mind is not made for fusing two psyches to one. Different memories collide with each other, different attitudes contradict each other... It would break the human part of the Nylander, make him weaker and weaker with every victory. The last few surviving Nylanders would be babbling madmans, not even able to find each other... So Nyarlathotep would never be reborn.

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    $\begingroup$ You absorb the raw power, but not the manifestation of that power. I like that. Lets say, as an example, that I grew up able to move things with my mind (telekinesis) and you grew up able to throw electricity from your finger tips (electrokinesis and electric generator). You kill me, you don't get the ability to move things with your mind. Your lightning bolts get longer or stronger or more precise instead. And if I killed you, the range and carrying capacity of my telekinesis would increase but I won't get your electrical powers. $\endgroup$ – jo1storm Oct 23 '20 at 6:44
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As each child is killed/destroyed, the deity's powers are absorbed, but since all these children are of the same soul, they gain that power equally. There is no benefit to being the one who made the kill. So each child does gain in power, but equally, so there is no shift in power balance. A benefit of this is a child could be killed in any manner, not just by a Nylander, and no power would be lost.

A side effect would be that as children are killed, the rate of power absorption would increase each time. This might be an interesting thread, and it would give the remaining children an indication of the state of the game. The final two would know they are the final two, the drama escalates every kill for all.

Then at the final duel, each participant is at 50% (still equal). Then there will be "only one" at 100%.

You can use this gradual increasing of powers to add random elements. Each child could respond equally, or maybe different children have variant reactions? Equal in power, but different in expression?

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    $\begingroup$ you can watch Jet Li's 'The One' for a version of how this works, without the Eldritch deity part $\endgroup$ – mgh42 Oct 23 '20 at 4:37
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    $\begingroup$ It would even be possible to use the idea from "The One" that although there isn't a superior benefit for the being the one who made the kill, knowing that the extra power is there is useful. You are able to tap reserves you know exist that others aren't reaching for. $\endgroup$ – Jontia Oct 23 '20 at 8:28
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. All the more interesting that if Joe Random kills a Nylander -- say, the head of the neighborhood satanic church -- Joe doesn't gain any benefit and just hastens the process. In fact... Nylanders may very well choose to build cults and send their cultists to kill the others, rather than involve themselves. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Oct 23 '20 at 13:47
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Somewhat similarly to the other answer, make a crucial part of gaining power be childhood development, whether before and/or after birth. You could perhaps say that the implanted piece of Nyarlathotep bonds to the new soul, or makes change to their developing mind, or even physical changes during embryonic development. Or some mix of all that. So people who have grown from conception/before-birth to adulthood in this situation are in some way considerably different than a normal grown human.

But acquiring a new piece of Nyarlathotep long after childhood development doesn't add to the development that has already been done - because an adult isn't going to suddenly re-experience embryonic development or childhood growth. So ones who acquire additional pieces don't directly benefit from them but can be carriers of them.

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Perhaps It Has Something to Do With How the Barrier is Bypassed

Could be the Nylanders' avatar spirits are like enriched uranium to a fission core, or helium to a fusing star -- there's a certain critical amount (in this case 100%) that is required for the avatar material to fuse (or fission) into the deity.

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They absorb the Power and Soul, but not the connection to it. In other words, they gain capacity, but not flux.

This means that the only benefit they gain is being able to use their powers longer, rather than stronger — they gain their victim's 'water tank', but not their 'hose', so their output remains unchanged.

Of course, with the limits on how much power each mortal can channel at a time, versus how fast they 'recharge', this may eventually hit a point of diminishing returns; if you are unable to use up your entire 'capacity' before you would keep over from exhaustion and lack of sleep, increasing it further has little meaningful benefit .

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