Project Eternity Post-funding Update #65: Ciphers

Today's update for Project Eternity, courtesy of one J.E. Sawyer, brings us all of the details about the Cipher class and their powers that one might expect from a project director. Great information incoming:
Many classes have abilities that allow the user to channel the power of their own soul or ambient soul fragments to produce incredible effects. Paladins ignite their souls to produce auras, wizards draw soul fragments into grimoires to shape and cast spells, and monks use personal suffering to focus energy through their bodies. While these classes often develop abilities that allow them to affect the minds and souls of others, the power is always generated by the user.

In the field of animancy, which focuses on the study of souls, researchers wondered for centuries if they could develop a discipline or technology that would allow people to connect with the soul of another living thing -- not just reach or strike out toward it. Wizards and priests had developed abilities to overwhelm or inspire the mind, but not to connect with it. Animancers theorized that it could be possible for one soul to reach out and connect to another, but they had no proof. Animancers studied folk legends about figures called Watchers who reportedly were able to see lost souls and perceive an individual's ancestral lives, but claimants to that title were typically charlatans at best or mentally unstable and violent at worst. A few intrepid animancers attempted to communicate with the reclusive spider-like race known as the vithrack. The creatures, obviously of advanced intelligence and extraordinary capabilities, seemed to possess the ability to connect to an individual's soul -- albeit with horrifying consequences. The dangerous nature and rarity of the vithrack combined with their inhuman physiology have still proven to be insurmountable obstacles in understanding how their powers work. Still, the animancers had a few other leads to follow.

Over a century ago, during the Broken Stone War, soldiers in the Dyrwood reported wild tales of having their minds invaded, of seeing comrades lose control of themselves, of orlan and elven Glanfathan warriors wielding knives engulfed in purple flames that "cut away" the souls of their victims. The war was a new experience for everyone involved, so many Dyrwoodans dismissed many of the more outlandish tales over time. But over the decades that followed, more settlers reported similar violent encounters with Glanfathan guerilla fighters. In the War of Black Trees, Dyrwoodan animancers confirmed many of these experiences across a wide number of soldiers and settlers. However, with Dyrwoodan settlers in a state of war with the population of Eir Glanfath, the researchers couldn't find many Glanfathans who were willing to talk about it.

After the Dyrwoodan revolution for independence, the Dyrwood officially stopped the Aedyr Empire's practice of exploring and plundering Eir Glanfath's sacred ruins -- the practice that had ignited the earlier wars between Dyrwoodan settlers and Glanfathans. In the years that followed, the tribal princes of Eir Glanfath allowed Dyrwoodan animancers to speak with some of their brîshalgwin ("mind hunters"), the elite warriors that had terrorized Aedyrans and Dyrwoodans in past wars. From the brîshalgwin, the animancers learned that Glanfathans had developed mental abilities that allowed them to perceive and contact what animancers categorized as "housed" souls, i.e., souls held within a physical vessel. They initially developed these talents in an attempt to communicate with souls held in the Engwithan ruins they were sworn to protect. When the tribal princes outlawed this practice as disrespectful and dangerous, their councilors advised the princes to turn the efforts of the brîshalgwin towards protecting the ruins and developing new methods of warfare.