We have two sample characters for this game. The first, Crystal Nekranne van Riss was focused on role-playing notes and her necromantic spells. This second character is focused on a distinctive part of the game lore instead.
This profile was mostly done before update 3.0 of the game (“Fall of Oriath”). I haven’t fully mined the new lore yet. Maybe the next time I go on a PoE kick.
- This profile features a sample or customized Player Character. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
- This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
- This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
- Real Name: Tu Pai Kohini.
- Note: “Kohini” is actually his father’s nickname. It means “the marauder” in te reo Karui (“the language of the Karui people”). But this was mistakenly listed as a last name in Oriath.
- Other Aliases: “Not-A-Cockroach”.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: He’s once addressed as “son of Ngakuramakoi”, but it likely is a specific island on Karui turf rather than the name of a parent.
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base of Operations: Mobile on Wraeclast.
- Height: 6’4″ Weight: 230 lbs.
- Eyes: Brown Hair: Black.
- Other distinguishing features: Tā moko-like tattoos.
Powers & Abilities
A powerful, tall, highly muscular, hardened fighter. He uses a maul as a weapon.
This marauder is very much a Conan-like figure. He may look like a muscle man in a loincloth but he’s actually fast, cunning, agile, smart. He has no problem using heavy armour and other “high tech” equipment of his time.
From the narration (particularly in Act IV), the protagonist of a Path of Exile playthrough is an epic hero. They’re at least the equal of the great hero of past legend, and likely even mightier. Our game stats thus assume something akin to Marvel Comics’ portrayals of the aforementioned Conan the Barbarian.
Gems of power
Tu Pai is a gemling (more about that later). His implants have to do with drawing power from magma deep beneath the earth. Lava also symbolizes the afterlife and his ancestors.
Applications include the likes of :
- Wreathing himself in magical magma that protects him and harms everything nearby.
- Striking the ground with his hammer, with the earth then returning and magnifying the force of the blow. That means a large explosion of fire and force that doesn’t harm Tu Pai.
- As a variant, stomping the soil which then returns the force to propel him in a large leap. When he lands, the force of that is also returned as an explosion.
- Summoning an ancestral totem that emerges from the soil. This is then possessed by an ancestor to fight along with Tu Pai. Howbeit, this lasts but a little while and the ancestor’s soul manifestation is tethered to the totem.
- Summoning a minor warrior spirit made of lava to accompany him.
- Minor healing factor .
- The ability to keep advancing even when magic and bonds should stop him. It’s not unlike a small-scale Juggernaut power.
The gemlings mysteries
Every single PoE character uses magic gems. Yet we know remarkably little about how they work in-universe as of this writing. The lore fits into mere bullet points :
- They are actual gems. An expert describes them as “crystals”.
- However, they are also parasitic/symbiotic living things. They reportedly seem to pulse or breathe. But one suspects that what circulates isn’t fluids or gasses but magical energy.
- The term “thaumaturgy” employed by several experts seems to refer to harnessing this magical energy.
- They can be surgically implanted into a living being. The gem is deposited into a prepared wound. However, the operation requires volatile and corrosive alchemical compounds (apparently to “prime” the gem). And it must be done in a swift, assured manner lest both the gem and implantee die.
- Other ways to infuse people with thaumaturgic powers were researched due to these limitations. It didn’t work well enough.
- A person implanted with one or more gem is called a “gemling”.
Gemlings have superhuman powers, which depend upon the type(s), number and puissance of the gems within themselves. Typical examples include short-range teleportation (a dozen metres), hurling lethal pulses of piercing cold from one’s hands, running at slightly superhuman speed, regeneration, night vision…
Furthermore, all or most gemlings cannot die of old age. Whether they age is unclear.
Still, gemling aren’t invincible. A large gemling population can be vanquished by normal people. But one assumes that said normal people greatly outnumbered the gemlings when that happened.
Various in-universe experts have compared heavy gems implantation to making mankind into godlings, perhaps even gods. This dream of exaltation has justified thousands of deaths in ghastly (and not particularly successful) experimentations to perfect the process.
Gemling Player Characters
In PoE, the gems are slotted into pieces of equipment. This follows a traditional action-adventure computer RPG game mechanic. Thaumaturgy gems grow in power along with the “wearer” as long as they are “equipped”. A core game mechanism is to combine them on a piece of equipment so they synergise.
Here we will assume that the “slotted onto equipment” is entirely a gameplay convention. We assume that what happens in-universe is surgical implantation, as described by in-universe texts.
One can easily imagine that the Player Character in the story has an exceptional robustness when it comes to being implanted with gems. The window of time to do the implantation is longer than for weaker subjects. And they and the new gem heal quickly and cleanly afterwards.
In this hypothesis the in-game gem vendors are, in-universe, also skilled surgeons doing implantation. This holds fairly well – the first is a doctor taught by her adventurous father, the second is a shaman with magical perception.
Furthermore, the dialogues and lore imply that the distances and spans of time in-universe are much bigger than what is depicted in-game. That the Player takes about two weeks to have the full implantation and recovery done isn’t absurd given the apparent time and space compression in the game.
The way of the Karui
The Karui people in the PoE setting are a rough equivalent of the real-world Māori (the game is made in Auckland). But they can more or less be played heroic fantasy barbarian types, à la Conan.
They do not use actual Māori language words in-game. Instead they use made-up terms evoking Polynesian languages. For instance the names of some gods are those of minor Pacific islands (or not so minor if you live on them, I suppose). And “tala moana” (“a bright day to you” or something like that) evokes an old Polynesian greeting but with the consonants flipped around.
The Karui come from the Ngamakanui archipelago. Their main religion is a pervasive ancestors cult. It is terribly important to honour the ancestors by behaving honourably and bravely. Their spirits must also be protected against magical assault.
There is a strong connection between the ancestors and volcanism. Ancestral magic often involves rock, fire and magma. Perhaps the Karui believes that their ancestors live beneath the earth. Perhaps volcanos are the interface between the living and the dead.
Divinites that get mentioned include Tukohama (father of war), Ramakaho (father of light), Hinekora (mother of the dead) and Kitava the all-devouring spirit of corruption.
The Karui are headhunters. They carry the severed and preserved heads of their most respected enemies on their belt.
It’s the same old song
The Karui were apparently low-tech island raiders. They used swift canoes and weapons of hard wood and sharp stone. They were outmatched by the legions of the Eternal Empire, the great power of the setting. These legionnaires use fine steel armour and weapons.
The Empire being big on slavery, many Karui over the generations were taken as slaves. Mercenaries raided them to take prisoners, though in many cases the mercenaries met their match in Karui warriors. Missionaries also strove to “save the souls” of the Karui by teaching them to worship their one God. Albeit there too success seems to have been uneven.
Apparently the Karui weren’t conquered per se. Rather, they were kept as a reservoir of slaves at the periphery of the Eternal Empire. They occasionally allied with other peoples in a similar situation. One successful effort against the Eternals was thus conducted in coordination with Maraketh raiders – another non-Imperial culture.
When the Eternal Empire fell, the Karui played an important role. A war party led by a mighty warrior named Kaom attacked Wraeclast, the Empire’s mainland.
Beyond Kaom’s great strength, an important asset was his sister Hyrri. It was taboo for the Karui warriors to use ranged weaponry, which the Eternal Empire leveraged in many of their victories. However the women were barred from being warriors, and the taboo thus didn’t apply to them.
Kaom used this as his secret masterstroke, and the unexpected deluge of arrows took the Eternal troops cold during the battle of Lioneye.
After Lioneye, more Karui came and settled the area. Though the complacent Empire didn’t believe that “mere savages” could threaten them, measures were taken to lock the accesses to the coast so the Karui couldn’t get far inland.
However, not too long after this invasion, Wraeclast was hit by a cataclysm.
Wraeclast is a continent or at least a large island. It was the birthplace of multiple civilisations. The first were apparently the Vaal, about whom little is known. They experimented extensively with thaumaturgical gems. But much of what is left is ruined temples and their strangely lifelike, undying guardian constructs.
Some events are known. For instance Queen Gruthkul the White-Haired was, in the distant past, cruelly overthrown by fertility cultists worshipping an arachnid goddess. Upon seeing her children massacred by the cultists she apotheosised to become the Mother of Despair, a monstrous ursine divinity who massacred her foes.
The Vaal were apparently destroyed by their mad queen Atziri. She sacrificed untold number of her subjects. This carnage was to reconstruct an immortality procedure (likely based on thaumaturgy) used by a famous serial killer.
Apparently, a major sacrifice meant to unlock eternal youth and beauty for the Queen backfired and killed everyone. The exact events are unknown. But it seems very similar to what happened later to the Eternal Empire colonials.
Howbeit, Queen Atziri lived on as a sort of otherdimensional demon, influencing dreams to turn vulnerable people into blood murderers. These Vaal cultists are usually well-hidden, but their small bases have Vaal-style guardians.
Another culture of humans, the much more low-tech Azmeri, then settled the ruins. Howbeit, many were careful not to touch anything having to do with thaumaturgy. They maintained their animist faiths. Even in modern days, many Azmeri on Wraeclast remain loincloth-and-stone-tipped-spear tribals.
A present-day Azmeri shaman worshipped a nature god simply called The Spirit. The Spirit would provide her with visions of the present and future, knowledge of the natural world, and some level of magic. The latter seems distinct from thaumaturgy.
Other Azmeri people decided to occupy the ruins of the Vaal Empire, and investigate its dark secrets. These became the Eternal Empire, a prosperous and powerful civilisation.
The Empire had broadly Classical Roman trappings, particularly in architecture and names. Of course, they developed a passion for grotesque gladiatorial games.
Early in the Empire’s history, there were brothers named Innocence and Sin. Seeing Sin’s amoral nature evoked so much righteous anger in Innocence that he exalted into a god. Innocence became the titular divinity of the Empire, driving its development. He was served by the Templars, turning the Empire into a totalitarian theocracy.
The passion of Innocence and his Templars for purity turned the Empire into self-righteous, totalitarian imperialists and slavers. Among other things this empire enslaved the Karui, the Maraketh and other peoples. Eternals also established the colony of Oriath. Furthermore, the power of Innocence kept other gods at bay.
Over time, many Karui slaves came to worship Kitava. Though Kitava was an evil power of unbridled carnage, he could potentially give them the power to kill every last Eternal master in an orgy of blood.
A dark, dark beast in a dark, dark place
As to Sin, he had long been banished. But like his brother, he apotheosised into a god. Ironically, over the centuries Sin became more benign as Innocence became un unchecked authoritarian. Sin was particularly interested in bringing freedom, whereas Innocence revelled in order.
Over time, Sin “built” something called the Beast. This ginormous thaumaturgic creation is what is powering gems. Sin’s goal was apparently to make it possible for Humans to have the powers of gods. In this way they wouldn’t be under the yoke of divine rulers such as Innocence. Or have to ascend out of madness and trauma like Gruthkul and many other ancient gods.
But contact with Humans slowly corrupted the Beast, who became known as Nightmare as it tried to defend itself. Humans couldn’t handle the promise of great thaumaturgical power. The ones who most interacted with the Beast tended to be the most power-hungry, megalomaniac, unstable, fanatical specimens. Most such persons destroyed untold lives to harness the Beast’ power.
This reportedly started a long, long series of cycles on Wraeclast. Civilisations arose, discovered thaumaturgy, and horribly destroyed themselves over it. The Vaal were apparently the first, and the Eternal Empire would become the latest.
Can I play with madness
Emperor Chitus of the Eternal Empire dreamed of immortal power through thaumaturgy. He surrounded himself with gemlings. He had great thaumaturgists, and particularly the brilliant Malachai, research tapping ever-greater power through gems.
Malachai is the one who deduced then proved the existence of the Beast. The Beast was by then an impossibly large organism hidden underground. It occupied most of the volume within a mountain.
Malachai developed a magical machine that could bore through the “skin” of the Beast to enter it. From there he would reshape reality, far beyond even Chitus’ ambitions. The machine was to be powered by the sacrifice of his lover and associate, the Gemling Queen. The Queen was Malachai’s other masterwork, implanted with a vast number of highly charged gems.
However at the last moment she got cold feet. The Queen realized that Malachai loved power far more than he loved her. Thus, the hesitant Gemling Queen took a single step back at the critical moment.
Fall of the Eternal Empire
But by this point the Empire had been in turmoil for several years. The Purity Rebellions were raging, led by priests, generals, politicians and poets. They denounced the use of thaumaturgy. They wanted the gemlings down and out.
It was during the rebellions that the raids of the Karui, Maraketh and probably other peoples were most successful. This is also when the fort at Lioneye’s Gate fell.
The Purity Rebellions succeeded. But their hold on power was weak, and the empire was rapidly falling apart. In particular the new, poorly supported rulers couldn’t stop the works of Malachai and the Gemling Queen.
Malachai’s machine briefly allowed access to the Nightmare. Malachai rushed within, but in the next split second the Gemling Queen’s hesitation threw the boring process out of whack.
As a result, Wraeclast was swept by dark thaumaturgy, with horrific and catastrophic consequences. The Empire completely fell apart, except for the distant colony of Oriath.
Cut off, the Oriathan doubled down on purity and the worship of Innocence. They continued to develop their technology and culture. Their clothes came to evoke the Rinascimento and their devices to evoke da Vinci (but in a magical world).
But they also doubled down on totalitarianism and slavery. The Templars routinely slaughtered unruly slaves. All sorts of malcontents were summarily banished to the nightmarish ruins of Wraeclast. The Templars of Oriath also developed Nazi-like trappings.
The gladiatorial games evolved beyond blood sports. They became grandiose, ghastly spectacles of carnage. Untold thousands died in the arenas of Theopolis.
The Karui raiders/settlers withstood the horrors a bit better than most. But their warchief Kaom eventually received a vision. He rounded up his 500 best fighters for a weird expedition deep under the earth.
Sensing that this was all bullshit, his cunning sister rebelled. She took the families of the expedition members with her, returning to Ngamakanui.
Hyrri was right – Kaom’s vision had actually been sent by Kitava. Kaom sacrificed all his followers to Kitava’s insatiable hunger in an orgy of madness.
Atmosphere and aesthetics
The setting draws from three distinct genre :
- Sword & Sorcery.
It must have been something in the water. The leading ARPGs of the 2010s — Diablo III, Grim Dawn, Path of Exile and more minorly Victor Vran — offer similar cocktails in varying proportions. Mayhap more diverse teams would avoid such convergences.
1/ Sword & Sorcery
There isn’t quite “sorcery”, since all thaumaturgy is done using gems. But generally the setting is low-tech, with wilderness and monsters. The highest tech level is Oriath, whose soldiers carry high-quality steel broadswords, plate armour and shields.
The most advanced technology employed by Oriath is borderline “clockwork punk”. But it is not widespread. And the most advanced aspects seem done using low-key gems rather than steampunk tech.
There are references to ballistae that are able to move, aim, fire and reload by themselves. Some laboratories are not unlike what you’d expect a mad scientist to have in a Hammer Horror movie set in XVIIIth Transylvania.
Various fantasy archetypes are present – necromancers, barbarian warriors, witches, shadowy assassins, paladins … But they have a more 1920s, pulpish, E.R. Burroughs feel than usual.
Wraeclast has been hit really hard by the corruption. Most settlements are but ragged survivors. They scrape together meagre food while maintaining fortifications against zombies and the like. There isn’t a monetary system anymore, and the wilderness is extremely dangerous.
There isn’t an apparent chance of rebuilding civilisation as long as the darkness endures. That everybody will end up dying and joining the undead hordes is definitely a possibility.
Even a strong power like Oriath, with its disciplined and well-equipped armies backed by gemlings, had no chance of retaking Wraeclast. Its leaders were fascinated and corrupted by thaumaturgy just like their predecessors. But it took mere months since they weren’t the most savoury individuals to start with.
Wraeclast is a combination of :
- Zombie apocalypse.
- Supernatural, high-tempo horror movie (à la Evil Dead).
- Charnel house.
- Death camp.
- Psychological horror through supernatural corruption.
The story has a backdrop of endless mutilated corpses, the undead, patched-together experimental abominations, tyrannical madmen backed by armies, undying twisted psychos with super-powers, an artificial lake of human blood, reality decay, horrible curses, Things Man Was Not Meant To Know , demonic nightmares sent from other dimensions, many flavours of murder cults, etc.
Tu Pai is a Karui man who was born to slaves in Oriath. For an unclear crime (likely rebellion), he was condemned to be exiled to Wraeclast, a place of many deaths and horrors.
The ship he was on sunk a short distance away from the coast. They were few survivors, and soon there were fewer. The corpses of the drowned exiles and sailors promptly animated as flesh-eating zombies after washing up ashore.
But it would take more than that to kill the towering, hard-boiled Karui fighter.
Seems to be an old-school fantasy barbarian, gruff and hardened.
Tu Pai is very religious. He dedicates most everything he does to the ancestors. He always acting in a way he thinks would please his ancestors. Apparently an animist, he sees the hand of his people’s gods everywhere. Tu Pai explains the entire world through their actions.
In this mindset, Kitava the dark spirit plays a major role. Tu Pai is pretty sure that Kitava is behind the corruption. He seemingly thinks that Kitava and the Beast are the same entity (they’re not).
He’s also *obsessed* with slavery. He was a slave for his entire life. His people were widely degraded and put in chains. The horrors of slavery shape his entire worldview, often in a way that makes little sense for somebody from a slavery-free society.
(Saluting fellow Karui fighters) “Tala moana, warriors.”
(As a zombie creeps behind him to attack, an unarmed Tu Pai calmly picks up a piece of driftwood on the beach. He then whirls around at a startling speed, pulverizing the zombie’s head into a spray of gore)
(Gruffly) “The dead should know their place.”
(Looking at his opponents with contempt and hefting his war maul) “I will give you a warrior’s death. This is more than you deserve.”
“Your empire is dead. Join it.” (schtoom !)
“The Karui remember you, Fairgraves. Your death will be much celebrated.”
(Reading ancient Karui stone carvings) “This… this is not what the eldest taught us. Kaom betrayed us !”
(Looking at the intimidating, huge Tower of God monument of the Eternal Empire) “The Karui do not hide in towers made of fear.”
DC Universe History
Wraeclast could easily exist in the distant past of DC’s Earth. Numerous civilisations of man have risen and fell there, even in eras where that is absurd according to mainstream science.
See our profile for the Shining Knight (Ystina) for more about this.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tu Pai Kohini
|Dex: 08||Str: 05||Bod: 06||Motivation: Uphold the Ancestors|
|Int: 05||Wil: 04||Min: 06||Occupation: Ex-slave|
|Inf: 06||Aur: 05||Spi: 07||Wealth: 004|
|Init: 016||HP: 065|
Bomb: 07, Damage Capacity: 06, Flame being: 03, Jumping: 02, Mental blast: 03, Regeneration: 02, Running: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Bomb has No Range and requires striking the ground at full force with a large melee weapon. It can only be used during odd-numbered Phases.
- Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery Bonus (it’s done by drinking self-renewing health potions).
- Mental Blast has No Range, an Explosive Radius, and it can only be performed when landing after using Jumping. Though it is a Dice Action, it consumes an Automatic Action instead (on top of the Automatic Action consumed by Jumping).
- Running is Form Function, and is usually used when his DEX and/or land speed have been reduced below 03 APs (Glue, Snare, Flash, etc.).
Occultist (Occult knowledge): 03, Weaponry (Melee): 08
Language (Te reo Karui), Lightning Reflexes, Pet (Warchief totem), Pet (Fire spirit).
Survivors in Lioneye’s Watch (Low), survivors at the Forest Encampment (Low), survivors at the edge of Sarn (Low), Oyun of Highgate (Low), Lady Dialla the Gemling Queen (Low).
Mistrust (forces of Oriath), MIH (slavers and Eternals).
- Sculpted Karui Maul [BODY 06, EV 05 (06 w/STR), Rec. STR 04].
- SCROUNGED PLATE ARMOUR w/GLADIATOR HELM [BODY 04, Blunting: 02, Damage capacity: 03, Enhance (Bludgeoning, Piercing, Slashing, Unarmed RV): 02 (cap is 09), Enhance (Laser, cold, ballistic, heat/flame, Acid RV): 01 (cap is 08), Enhance (RV against Critical, Devastation and doubles): 03 (cap is 08), Stealth penalty 4/4, Drawback: Audial Perception rolls have +2CS to their OV/RV, visual Perception rolls have a +1CS to their OV/RV. Bonuses & Limitations:
- Damage capacity has the Instant Recovery Bonus.
- Damage capacity is Slashing and Piercing only.]
Pet: Warchief totem
STR 06 BODY 07, Dispersal (Partial): 02, Stretching: 01, Weaponry (Melee): 10
This totem cannot move (no DEX). It only lasts two Phases, and has a 9 APs cooldown time before it can be conjured again (arbitrarily based on estimated time compression in the game and my personal usage pattern). It is automatically armed with the same weapon as Tu Pai.
It manifests as the ghost of a big Karui warrior, tethered to a rock totem that bursts from the ground for a while before getting swallowed again.
Pet: Fire spirit
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: N.A..|
|Int: 01||Wil: 01||Min: 01||Occupation: N.A..|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 00||Spi: 02||Wealth: 004|
|Init: 006||HP: ////|
Air walking: 00, Enchantment: 01, Flame being: 03, Flame project: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
Enchantment only to increase Physical EV.
In-game and as of late 2016, these creatures (called golems) are a tad bland, likely for game balance reasons. In-universe a fire spirit could have various small abilities making it more like a “wonder dog”-type animal companion.
Source of Character: Inspired by the Path of Exile video game.
Writeup updated on the 16th of November, 2017.